From liner notes of Country Cooking’s 26 Bluegrass Instrumentals Album:
“Far from the southern heartland of bluegrass music, a full generation after the style took its classic form, a group of unknown urbanites from New York State made two albums which helped launch new direction in the music.
Built around the inventive harmony banjo arrangements of Tony Trischka and Pete Wernick, “Country Cooking” introduced a flood of original instrumentals and stylistic innovations at a time when recycling the classics was still standard practice.
Always aware of the subtle boundaries defining bluegrass music, the group progressed in two albums (recorded 1971 and 1972) from constantly staying just within the traditional rules, to boldly breaking them on occasion. Unexpected twists–whether in arrangements instrumentation, studio techniques, or tonaltiy–became their trademark. In 1975, a studio session yielded an underground extended play record under the name “The Extended Play Boys,” represented by several cuts on the group’s one re-issue CD, 26 Bluegrass Instrumentals.
All the musicians were in their early 20’s at the time of the first recordings, at the thresholds of musical careers which later blossomed in many forms.”
As a performing band, Country Cooking originally formed in 1970 in Ithaca, New York, playing both electrified country and bluegrass music featuring Pete Wernick and “Nondi” Leonard (later known as Joan Wernick) on lead vocals, and instrumentalists Tony Trischka (pedal steel guitar and banjo), Russ Barenberg (acoustic and electric guitar and mandolin) and John Miller (bass).
The opportunity for some of these musicians to record an all-instrumental album in 1971 for the fledgling Rounder Records resulted in the first album, Country Cooking, 14 Bluegrass Instrumentals. Assisting on the recording were Harry Gilmore (later known as Lou Martin), on mandolin, and Kenny Kosek on fiddle.
For the second album, Barrel of Fun, Gilmore was replaced by Andy Statman on mandolin and saxophone, and vocals by Wernick and Leonard were included. In 1974 the group recorded a popular play-along set of albums for Music Minus One featuring bluegrass standards played and sung in a traditional style. That same year the group re-formed with the departure of all but the Wernicks (now married) and the addition of guitarist Alan Senauke and mandolinist Howie Tarnower (“the Fiction Brothers”) and bassist Peggy Haine. A final album, Country Cooking with the Fiction Brothers was released in 1975. The group disbanded in 1976 with the Wernicks’ move to Colorado.