ith the release of their 10th album, "The Best Durn Ride," IIIrd Tyme Out's lead vocalist and guitarist, 40-year old Russell Moore, reflects from his Georgia home that the 13 years since the band's formation in 1991 have been a pretty good ride as well.
Though he and bassist Ray Deaton, 50, are the sole remaining members of the original quintet, the band's remarkable stability through the years has allowed them to achieve and maintain a distinctive vocal and instrumental sound that has garnered numerous individual and group awards.PMoore himself is a multiple-time IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year, and the band is almost perennial Vocal Group of the Year winners. Where some bands are driven by the personal vision of a single, central person, Moore says the success of IIIrd Tyme Out relates directly to a philosophy of letting each band member contribute in their own best way.
We've never asked anybody in the group to play a certain way or to emulate anybody. We want the individual talent of everybody in the band to come through as they see fit. We want them to create something from inside themselves, instead of trying to emulate or be just like somebody else. I think you have parameters that you work through, and you can work with all of that without having to sound exactly like somebody else. Be an individual, but at the same time, within the group sense, play within the song, within whatever's going on within the song. I think everybody who's ever been here has done a really good job with that."
After spending most of the '80s learning the trade under the tutelage of master bluegrass showman Doyle Lawson, Moore, Deaton and a fellow band mate, fiddler Mike Hartgrove decided to strike out on their own.
Rounding out that original lineup was banjo player Terry Baucom (yet another Lawson alum) and mandolinist Alan Bibey.
Choosing a name for the new band turned out to be one of the hardest parts.
"We really didn't want to put anybody's name out in front, because we all wanted to be equals in the partnership. We were looking at road signs, we were looking in dictionaries, we were doing anything we could to try and come up with a name for the band. I asked Ray, 'What do you think about the name 'Third Time Out'? He said, 'Where'd that come from?' I said, 'You know, this is your third professional bluegrass group to be associated with. It's my third professional bluegrass group, and it's also Mike Hartgrove's. So, this is kind of our third time to venture out in the bluegrass world, maybe the third time will be a charm. He said, 'Man, I like that,' so basically, that's where that came from."
The Roman numeral and substitution of 'y' for 'i' in 'Tyme' was, he admits, "just something to catch your eye, and make you look, and hopefully the name would stick in your mind."
Leaving the relative safety of working for a high-profile, legendary figure like Lawson was daunting, at first.
"There's a security (consideration) when you're working for somebody else, when they're telling you what you need to do and how you need to do it and what songs you're gonna sing, and you make a living doing it, and that's well and good too. But as an artist, you need to be creative, and I think that has come into play quite a bit since 1991, when we started this group."
"We've been able to search inside of ourselves more and bring those kinds of talents to the forefront. I don't think that I'd change anything that we've done thus far. I really don't. We try to find the material for the band that best represents what we're trying to do and present it to the fans and the people in the best way that we can...it's a fun thing for all of us, I think, to be able to expand on individual talents and bring it all together as a unit and present it to everybody. It's a lot of fun. It really is."
The prime lesson they soon discovered that Lawson had ingrained in them was that, while the woods are full of talented musicians and performers, the successful ones are the ones who work the hardest.
"Doyle is a wonderful teacher, a really hard worker, a wonderful musician, arranger...I mean, you have no doubt when you go watch one of his shows, what you're gonna get. It's always top-notch. And those things were passed on along to us, whether he was really trying to pass them down or it just came second nature from being there so long."
"Those things were definitely passed down - the good work habits. They're wonderful. You can't do without them. If you want to compete in today's bluegrass, you gotta work hard. You have to put your time and effort into it...That's the root of a big tree. You've got to have the hard work. You've got to have great roots. He definitely does, and those things were passed on along to us while we were there, just the work ethic and the work habits."
Baucom and Bibey eventually moved on, their spots seamlessly filled for several years by Steve Dilling (banjo) and Wayne Benson (mandolin, who has departed since the release of "Best Durn Ride," replaced by Alan Perdue).