Blues/Folk Beat: Bill Monroe, Robert Johnson, Grateful Dead ...

Bluegrass tribute album due this summer; Johnson songs in dispute; album of Dead covers on the way.

Ricky Skaggs' Skaggs Family Records label is compiling an all-star tribute to the late "father of bluegrass," Bill Monroe for release Aug. 29. Artists contributing their versions of Monroe material to the Skaggs-produced, 13-song Big Mon include the Dixie Chicks, Bruce Hornsby, John Fogerty, Joan Osborne, Travis Tritt, Dolly Parton and others. ...

On Monday (June 26), a court in San Francisco ruled against ABKCO Music Inc. in a dispute over the copyrights to the Robert Johnson songs "Love in Vain" and "Stop Breaking Down," authorship of which it had falsely attributed to the Rolling Stones. ABKCO lawyer Donald S. Zakarin argued that the band, which was recording for ABKCO at the time the songs were set to vinyl, believed the songs were in the public domain, the Associated Press reported. The tunes had been issued long before and never formally copyrighted. The case was returned to the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles for further hearings. ...

Grateful Dead Records is preparing to offer a compilation of artists doing material associated with the psychedelic roots-rock band. Among the contributors are Bob Dylan, who does a previously unreleased live rendition of "Friend of the Devil" and Elvis Costello, who does a medley of "Ship of Fools" and "It Must Have Been the Roses." Patti Smith weighs in with "Black Peter," the Persuasions do "Black Muddy River" and the David Grisman Quintet offers a version of "Dark Star." Other songs on the album include "Ripple" (Sex Mob), "Franklin's Tower" (Wartime featuring Henry Rollins), "Creampuff War" (Widespread Panic) and "Uncle John's Band" by the Stanford Marching Band. The Cache Valley Drifters contribute "Cumberland Blues" and the Pontiac Brothers offer "Brown-Eyed Women." The album, dubbed Stolen Roses, is due Aug. 8. ...

Jesse Winchester, Nickle Creek, Natalie MacMaster, Judith Edelman, the Lonesome River Band, Tim O'Brien and Darryl Scott, and the Tony Furtado Band have free downloads of live performances recorded at the just-completed Telluride (Colo.) Bluegrass Festival, available at the CDNow Web site. ...

Stacey Earle reports on her official Web site that she'll join Joan Baez on the folk legend's fall tour. The outing will take them throughout the Midwest and the Northeast in October, with more dates to be announced. Baez, who is touring in Europe, also will webcast her April 1 concert at the Theater of Living Arts in Philadelphia. It will be shown from July 9–15, with a link from Baez's home page, http://baez.woz.org/#news. ...

The indefatigable blues legend B.B. King is relaxing at his Las Vegas home for a couple of days before his next adventure, a European tour. King — who just completed a stint opening his new club, the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, in New York — kicks off the tour Thursday in London, to be followed by 20 more dates on the continent and in Scandinavia, concluding with a July 27 set at the San Sebastian Jazz Festival, in Spain. Four days later, in Las Vegas, he kicks off the 46-date B.B. King Festival tour at the House of Blues. That jaunt — which also will feature Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi and, on some dates, Tommy Castro — winds up Oct. 1 in Dallas. ...

A recording of the late Lonnie Johnson taped in a living room concert not long before his death at age 70 in 1970 is being released July 11 on the Blues Magnet label. The Unsung Blues Legend includes the songs "Careless Love," "Solitude" and "I'm Confessin'." In "Blues All Around Me," his 1996 "as told to" autobiography, B.B. King describes Johnson as a key influence and as a musician whom he listens to on a regular basis. Elvis Presley and Robert Johnson also described being inspired by Lonnie Johnson's recordings. Besides his solo career, Johnson appeared at different times with Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. ...

Following their current tour, which runs into late July, the Indigo Girls will play four shows in August as an acoustic duo. They'll take the stage at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival in Walhalla, Mich., on Aug. 9, then play in Pittsburgh, Albany, N.Y., and Cleveland on Aug. 11, 12 and 13, respectively. They'll also appear in the acoustic duo format on their subsequent Honor the Earth tour at the end of September. ...

The House of Blues will cybercast from Milwaukee's 13-stage Summerfest beginning June 29 and running through July 9. Among the acts appearing during the 11-day festival are Taj Mahal, C.J. Chenier, Blues Traveler, Susan Tedeschi, Brian Setzer and Ben Folds Five. ...

Through his Ray Charles Robinson Foundation for Hearing Disorders, legendary pianist and singer Ray Charles has given $2 million to Ohio's Wilberforce University. Charles' generosity — the largest single gift the private, historically black university has ever received — will be used to aid students studying music, theater, dance and voice, and to provide visiting scholars, according to the Associated Press. ...

Singer/songwriter John Wesley Harding's next album, The Confessions of St. Ace, will be released Aug. 29 by Mammoth Records, with whom he recently signed a contract. Among the guests on the album, recorded in Nashville, are Steve Earle and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. One of its 12 tracks, "I'm Wrong About Everything," was included on the "High Fidelity" soundtrack. Performing solo, Harding will open shows for Gilmore next month, then tour with a full band once the album's out. Harding also is reissuing Trad Arr Jones, a collection of 17th- to 19th-century British folk tunes arranged by folkie Nic Jones on Appleseed Recordings with four extra tunes he recorded recently with a side band, Minstrel in the Galleries, including Kurt Bloch from the Fastbacks. ...

Rickie Lee Jones' album of covers will be issued on the Artemis Records label in September. The album, whose working title is It's Like This, includes versions of Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man," the Beatles' "For No One" and Traffic's "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys," plus the "West Side Story" song "One Hand, One Heart" and a tune penned by Charlie Chaplin, "Smile." Jones has five shows scheduled in Canada from June 24–30 before traveling to Europe in mid-July for seven dates in Germany, followed by shows in France, Norway, Denmark and Sweden that will keep her busy into August. ...

An organization known as the Guacamole Fund has announced two benefit shows for early August in Southern California that will feature an unusually star-studded lineup. Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, David Crosby, Graham Nash, David Lindley, Warren Zevon, Chris Hillman, Ry Cooder, Andy Fairweather Low and ex-

Eagle Bernie Leadon will play in support of Friends of Fred Walecki. Instrument expert Fred Walecki, proprietor of Westwood Music, is facing high medical expenses after recently having had surgery for throat cancer. The shows will be held Aug. 8 and 9 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. ...

Sets from Bishopstock 2000, a blues festival held in England during the Memorial Day weekend, will be webcast at Bishopstock.com over the course of the next month. Performers scheduled to appear in cyberspace from the Bishop's Court Palace Grounds include Deborah Coleman, Koko Taylor, Steve Earle, Taj Mahal, Magic Slim, Susan Tedeschi, Charlie Musselwhite, Shemekia Copeland, Corey Harris, John Hammond and Mavis Staples. ...

The Blues Foundation is soliciting contestants for its International Blues Challenge on its Web site, www.blues.org/ibc. Besides the title "Best Unsigned Blues Band," the contest, to be held in February, offers winners cash, studio time and gigs. There's also an Albert King Award for the most promising guitarist. Winners this year included New York's Dave Keyes Band, which sometimes works with singer David Johansen, and, for the King Award, Sam Cockrell and the Groove's Chris Forte. ... Double Trouble, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan's rhythm section of bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer Chris Layton, who recently backed guitarist Debbie Davies on her Tales From the Austin Motel album, will close out June touring Brazil behind Angolan-born guitarist Nuno Mindelis. They worked together on Mindelis' Texas Bound (Antone's/Eldorado) in 1995, and Blues on the Outside (Trama, 1999). ...

Steve Earle is scheduled to perform on the sidewalk in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 30 as part of a fast and vigil advocating the abolition of the death penalty in the United States. Earle's performance is part of a four-day gathering of death-penalty opponents in Washington, D.C., from June 29–July 2, organized by the Abolitionist Action Committee. Earle has long been outspoken in his opposition to capital punishment.

— sonicnet.com staff report