Summer Music Series: Green Heron Delivers Homespun Bluegrass
As the weather is heating up, so is our Summer Music Series with some bluegrass music from right here in the Granite State. Scott and Betsy Heron of Green Heron aren't just musical partners. They're married and bonded initially over their love for music.
They stopped by the NHPR studio to talk with All Things Considered host Peter Biello about their music. Below is a transcript of their conversation.
Peter Biello: This is All Things Considered on NHPR. I'm Peter Biello. And it's time for some music. Throughout the summer, we've been bringing you local music in our Summer Music Series. Scott and Betsy Heron are here. They're the New Hampshire-based band Green Heron, and their music calls to mind New England Old Home Days, county fairs and the kind of summer nights that feel downright magical. Scott, Betsy, thank you very much for speaking with me. I really appreciate it.
Scott and Betsy Heron: Thanks so much for having us.
Peter Biello: So the song we're hearing right now, "The Drunken Gosling/Stone's Rag," is one of many instrumental tracks on your brand new album, Feet on the Floorboards that came out in May. How does it feel to have this album out in the world?
Scott Heron: It's great. You know, we wanted an album that kind of really represents us, which, we love that old-time string band sound, the real old blues and bluegrass. So we just decided to finally put it on record.
Peter Biello: Well, let's establish off the bat that you are a married couple and your relationship has a musical origin. Would you like to tell us about it?
Betsy Heron: Sure. Yeah. We met when Scott's band, which was a trio, had a gig, and me and my sisters' band, I have a band with my three sisters, also had a gig at the same place at the same time. So we were sharing it and we met there. And then after the show, we kind of just jammed together as both groups combined and really hit it off with those guys. So, soon after that, they invited us to another gig, and then I ended up actually joining their band because, you know, why not? So kind of went from there.
Peter Biello: And your band name, Green Heron, comes from your last names pre-marriage.
Betsy Heron: Yeah, exactly. My maiden name is Green and our married name is Heron, but it's also a bird. We love birds, we love birding and nature, so it was kind of perfect.
Scott Heron: And actually the first time we met, I said, oh, your last name is Green. My last name is Heron. If we ever start a band together, it's going to be called Green Heron, which is the kind of a perfect fit.
Peter Biello: And here you are, Green Heron, putting out albums. That's great. Well, given that you were in a relationship, I just had to ask about the opening track on this album, "Sad 'Cuz I'm Blue," which recounts, male and female parts here recounting their first date and their memories don't quite align. Let's listen to it for a little bit.
Scott Heron: I was thinking of the day we met. We had a picnic on a hill.
Betsy Heron: Well excuse me, you seem to forget you left me with the bill.
Peter Biello: OK, so that's not your origin story...
Scott Heron: This is not autobiographical.
Betsy Heron: Yeah, that's what we usually say when we play it live. It's not autobiographical, but it's kind of a play on just a lot of those types of old bluegrass songs where they're basically talking about how sad they are because someone left them.
Scott Heron: We figured it's fun to write a song that isn't quite representative of ourselves.
Peter Biello: Well, it's great to listen to. I really like this one. What appeals to you about this type of music?
Scott Heron: I think it's so, kind of, primal. You know, when we play this music live, there are people who've never really heard it. They may have heard a banjo or watched The Beverly Hillbillies, but they've never really heard a lot of this live and they find that they actually like it. It's toe-tapping music. It's very simple music. And it's really just a blast to play.
Scott and Betsy Heron: I'm lonesome 'cuz I'm alone without you.
Scott Heron: On the night I gave to you a ring as we strolled on down the lane.
Betsy Heron: Well that piece of junk ain't worth a thing, 'cuz you gave Cindy, Sue and Sally all the same.
Peter Biello: That's great. Well, I wanted to ask you about another one of these songs. Let's listen to the song "Working Girl Blues."
Betsy Heron: Well, I got the early Monday morning working blues and I put on my worn-out working shoes. Well, the weekend was too short and I can't choose. 'Cause when the Lord made the working girl, he made the blues.
Peter Biello: What better sentiment to throw out to the world on a Friday evening, right?
Betsy Heron: Very true.
Peter Biello: Can you tell us about the origins of this one?
Betsy Heron: Yeah, that's a song written by Hazel Dickens, who's a huge influence on me as a singer. She was a big name in the bluegrass world in the 70s, and from there on as a woman musician. She grew up in West Virginia, she wrote a lot of coal mining songs and kind of union songs about the politics of the unfairness of the working conditions.
Scott Heron: And really what better song to release during a pandemic when you're an essential employee and you have to work.
Peter Biello: Let me give you the floor and choose a song for us to listen to. Is there a song that you think our audience should really hear?
Scott Heron: Yeah, there's a particularly sappy song that we wrote that may be more autobiographical. That one is called "Song I Sing With You."
Betsy Heron: Yeah. To make up for the other one that was not so sappy.
Peter Biello: All right. Well, let's listen to it. This is "Song I Sing With You."
Scott and Betsy Heron: Won't you sing me a song as the day grows long, I swear I'll hum along, too. Though the sun soon will set, I won't soon forget this song I sing with you.
Peter Biello: I'm getting just a beautiful image of young love there. But you tell me, what are the origins of the song?
Scott Heron: I think that's just about accurate, I suppose.
Betsy Heron: Yeah, it's just, it's a love song.
Scott and Betsy Heron: ...we will be with the birds in trees to find what each morning brings.
Peter Biello: I'll choose one more and then ask our listeners that if they want to hear more of this, definitely check you out on Spotify. And is there a better place for people to check you out as well?
Peter Biello: Awesome. OK, well, I wanted to ask you about another really upbeat, fun song. It's called "Ragged But Right."
Scott Heron: I'm ragged but I'm right... I get drunk every night. I eat a Porterhouse steak three times a day for board. That's more than any loafer in this whole world can afford.
Peter Biello: Scott. This must be fun to sing.
Scott and Betsy Heron: This is a blast to sing. Real old song. Real good time vibes. How good
Peter Biello: Is that what appeals to you? The good time vibes?
Scott Heron: I think so.
Peter Biello: I mean, that's what I like about it. It's just got this upbeat...you know, I can picture a dance hall full of people on a summer night just really having a good time.
Scott Heron: Totally. Yeah. High energy, just so fun.
Scott Heron: I go from town to town and I ramble all around...
Peter Biello: Scott and Betsy Heron are the New Hampshire-based band Green Heron. Their new album is called Feet on the Floorboards, and it's available on Spotify, Apple Music at their website, greenheronmusic.com. Thank you both very much for speaking with me. This has been great.
Scott and Betsy Heron: Thank you so much. We appreciate it.