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Charles Sawtelle

Charles Sawtelle played for about a dozen years with the bluegrass band he helped found in the 1970s, Hot Rize. Called "the Bluegrass Mystery," the guitarist and producer was working on his own solo album before he passed away in 1999 after a long battle against leukemia. Friend Laurie Lewis, a vocalist and fiddler, acted as producer for his first solo work. She continued to work on the project and helped piece the album together after Sawtelle's passing, calling on the truckload of talent evident in his loyal friends, a large group that included musicians such as Peter Rowan, Michael Doucet, and David Grisman. The album was released in 2001 by Acoustic Disc as Music From Rancho DeVille, a reference to Sawtelle's fondness for Cadillacs, especially his 1958 Coupe deVille, as well as to his studio near Boulder, CO, a stone structure that once was the site of a house of ill repute. The posthumous release includes songs made famous by Ralph Stanley, Lefty Frizzell, and Woody Guthrie, as well as such Cajun-flavored tunes as "Jolie Faye" and "Chez Seychelles." The liner notes are a small but powerful homage to Sawtelle from those who loved him, and they feature memories and photos, as well as a biography of Sawtelle penned by Pete Wernick of Hot Rize. Sawtelle, Wernick, and fellow Hot Rizers Nick Forster and Tim O'Brien also performed together under the name Red Knuckles & the Trail Blazers, with Sawtelle adopting the persona of a hard-core country musician named Slade. After Hot Rize split, Sawtelle pulled together and led a band called the Whippets. He also toured and recorded with Rowan. He started out in 1976 with the Drifting Ramblers. Linda Seida

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