IF YOU GO
* What: Ron Block Trio featuring Sierra Hull.
* When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7.
* Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.
* Admission: $19.
* Phone: 423-624-5347.
* Website: www.barkinglegs.org.
2001: “Faraway Land”
2013: “Walking Song”
The problem with being a member of an all-star musical ensemble is that getting out from under its shadow can be a trial.
About a decade ago, guitarist and banjoist Ron Block struck out on his own to pursue a solo career parallel to his longtime association with Alison Krauss’ band, Union Station, with whom he has played since 1991.
At first, it wasn’t an easy transition.
“I had some struggle with that [association to Union Station], especially in my own creativity,” he says. “I’m realizing that that struggle — that concept — is largely illusory; it’s not real.
“What matters is that I continue to play with the band when we play and make my own music when we’re not.”
In 2001, Block released his debut album, “Faraway Land,” which featured guest performances by several current and former Union Station bandmates, including Krauss, Jerry Douglas, Adam Steffey and Dan Tyminski. The album was well-received, but a follow-up, “DoorWay,” was six years in the making, thanks in part to the band’s packed touring schedule.
After years of having precious little time to devote to developing an independent career, Block says Union Station’s increasingly infrequent tours have given him a boon of free time. That breathing room and a newfound partnership with poet and lyricist Rebecca Reynolds resulted in a prolific writing spree.
Reynolds, whose thesis was on creativity in the art of storytelling, helped Block to shrug off his self-doubt and refocus on his craft. It was a fruitful partnership. For his third album, “Walking Song,” he wrote the melodies and she penned the evocative lyrics. “Walking Song” was released July 30, but the two have already finished writing for a fourth album that should be available by next spring.
Block will pull songs from all three released albums, as well as the upcoming project, when he performs at Barking Legs Theater on Saturday, Dec. 7. He’ll be joined by young mandolin phenom Sierra Hull and bassist Mark Fain, formerly of Ricky Skaggs’ band, Kentucky Thunder.
At the moment, Block says, the creative awakening he’s experiencing has reinvigorated every aspect of his career, from writing and recording to playing. That should be in evidence Saturday, he says.
“I really believe that I was prepared for that time,” he says. “God prepared me with all of the lack and the struggle and said, ‘OK, you’ve been praying for the answer. Here’s the answer. Now, I’m going to unlock your creativity.’
“I feel really excited about the future, musically.”
Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.
Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...