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April 29th, 2017

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The Lone bellow

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The Lone Bellow

Then Came the Morning, the second album by the Southern-born, Brooklyn-based indie-folk trio the Lone Bellow, opens with a crest of churchly piano, a patter of drums, and a fanfare of voices harmonizing like a sunrise. It’s a powerful introduction, enormous and overwhelming, as Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist, and Kanene Pipkin testify mightily to life’s great struggles and joys, heralding the morning that dispels the dark night: “Then came the morning! It was bright, like the light that you kept from your smile!” Working with producer Aaron Dessner of the National, the Lone Bellow has created a sound that mixes folk sincerity, gospel fervor, even heavy metal thunder, but the heart of the band is harmony: three voices united in a lone bellow.

"The feeling I get singing with Zach and Brian is completely natural and wholly electrifying,” says Kanene. “Our voices feel like they were made to sing together." Long before they combined their voices, the three members of the Lone Bellow were singing on their own. Brian had been writing and recording as a solo artist for more than a decade, with three albums under his own name. Kanene and her husband Jason were living in Beijing, China, hosting open mic nights, playing at local clubs and teaching music lessons. Zach began writing songs in the wake of a family tragedy: After his wife was thrown from a horse, he spent days in the hospital at her bedside, bracing for the worst news. The journal he kept during this period would eventually become his first batch of songs as a solo artist. Happily, his wife made a full recovery.

When Kanene’s brother asked her and Zach to sing “O Happy Day” together at his wedding, they discovered their voices fit together beautifully, but starting a band together seemed impossible when they lived on opposite sides of the world. Brian soon relocated to New York and Kanene moved there to attend culinary school a couple years later. The three got together in their new hometown to work on a few songs of Zach’s, he’d been chipping away at the scene as a solo artist for awhile by then. After hitting those first harmonies did they decide to abandon all other pursuits. Soon the trio was playing all over the city, although they considered Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side to be their home. They opened for the Civil Wars, Dwight Yokam, Brandi Carlile and the Avett Brothers, and their self-titled debut, produced by Nashville’s Charlie Peacock (the Civil Wars, Holly Williams) and released in January 2013, established them as one of the boldest new acts in the Americana movement.

After two hard years of constant touring, the band was exhausted but excited. By 2014, they had written nearly 40 songs on the road and were eager to get them down on tape. After putting together a list of dream producers, they reached out to their first choice, the National guitarist Aaron Dessner, who has helmed albums by the L.A. indie-rock group Local Natives and New York singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten.

“It occurred to me that it would be fun to get together and make music with them,” says Aaron. “My main interest in producing records is community and friendship more than making money. I already do a lot of traveling and working with the National, so when I have to time to work with other artists, it should be fun and meaningful.”

“Aaron is just so kind,” Zach says. “And he has surrounded himself with all these incredibly talented people, like Jonathan Low, the engineer. His brother Bryce [Dessner, also a guitarist for the National] wrote these amazing brass and string arrangements, and he got some of his friends to play with us.”

Dessner and the Lone Bellow spent two weeks recording at Dreamland in upstate New York, a nineteenth-century church that had been converted into a homey studio. The singers found the space to inspire the emotional gravity necessary for the material and the acoustics they were looking for. (For Kanene, Dreamland had one other bonus: “I’m a big Muppets fan, and it looks exactly like the church where Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem lived.”)

Aaron set them up in a circle in what had once been the sanctuary, with microphones hanging in the rafters to capture the sound of their voices bleeding together. Most of the vocals were recorded in single takes, a tactic that adds urgency to songs like “Heaven Don’t Call Me Home” and “If You Don’t Love Me.” “There were a couple of times when somebody sang the wrong word or hit a bad note, and we just had to keep going,” says Zach, who says that recording “Marietta” in particular was daunting—especially the moment near the end when he hits an anguished high note, bends it even higher, and holds it for an impossibly long time. It’s a startling display of vocal range, but it’s also almost unbearably raw in its emotional honesty.

“‘Marietta’ is probably the darkest song on the whole record,” Zach explains, “and it’s based on something that happened between my wife and me. The band was getting ready to record that song when all of a sudden my wife showed up with our youngest baby. It was a great surprise, a beautiful moment. So I was able to go out and sing that song, knowing she was there to help me carry the moment.”

“These are true stories,” says Brian. “These aren’t things we made up. We tried to write some songs that had nothing to do with our personal stories, but we just didn’t respond to them. But we’re best buds, so we know each others’ personal stuff and trust each other to figure out what needs to be said and how to say it.” Case in point: Brian wrote “Call to War” about his own struggles during his twenties, but gave the song to Kanene to sing. “The content is painful and brutal,” she says, “but the imagery, the vocals, they build something delicate and ethereal. That kind of contrast illuminates the true beauty and power of a song.”

Says Brian, “We do this one thing together, and we carry each other. Hopefully that makes the listener want to be a part of it. It becomes a communal thing, whichmeans that there’s never a sad song to sing. It’s more a celebration of the light and the dark.”

It’s a powerful introduction, enormous and overwhelming, as Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist, and Kanene Pipkin testify mightily to life’s great struggles and joys, heralding the morning that dispels the dark night: “Then came the morning! It was bright, like the light that you kept from your smile!” Working with producer Aaron Dessner of the National, the Lone Bellow has created a sound that mixes folk sincerity, gospel fervor, even heavy metal thunder, but the heart of the band is harmony: three voices united in a lone bellow.

"The feeling I get singing with Zach and Brian is completely natural and wholly electrifying,” says Kanene. “Our voices feel like they were made to sing together." Long before they combined their voices, the three members of the Lone Bellow were singing on their own. Brian had been writing and recording as a solo artist for more than a decade, with three albums under his own name. Kanene and her husband Jason were living in Beijing, China, hosting open mic nights, playing at local clubs and teaching music lessons. Zach began writing songs in the wake of a family tragedy: After his wife was thrown from a horse, he spent days in the hospital at her bedside, bracing for the worst news. The journal he kept during this period would eventually become his first batch of songs as a solo artist. Happily, his wife made a full recovery.

When Kanene’s brother asked her and Zach to sing “O Happy Day” together at his wedding, they discovered their voices fit together beautifully, but starting a band together seemed impossible when they lived on opposite sides of the world. Brian soon relocated to New York and Kanene moved there to attend culinary school acouple years later. The three got together in their new hometown to work on a few songs of Zach’s, he’d been chipping away at the scene as a solo artist for awhile by then. After hitting those first harmonies did they decide to abandon all other pursuits. Soon the trio was playing all over the city, although they considered Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side to be their home. They opened for the Civil Wars, Dwight Yokam, Brandi Carlile and the Avett Brothers, and their self-titled debut, produced by Nashville’s Charlie Peacock (the Civil Wars, Holly Williams) and released in January 2013, established them as one of the boldest new acts in the Americana movement.

After two hard years of constant touring, the band was exhausted but excited. By 2014, they had written nearly 40 songs on the road and were eager to get them down on tape. After putting together a list of dream producers, they reached out to their first choice, the National guitarist Aaron Dessner, who has helmed albums by the L.A. indie-rock group Local Natives and New York singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten.

“It occurred to me that it would be fun to get together and make music with them,” says Aaron. “My main interest in producing records is community and friendship more than making money. I already do a lot of traveling and working with the National, so when I have to time to work with other artists, it should be fun and meaningful.”

“Aaron is just so kind,” Zach says. “And he has surrounded himself with all these incredibly talented people, like Jonathan Low, the engineer. His brother Bryce [Dessner, also a guitarist for the National] wrote these amazing brass and string arrangements, and he got some of his friends to play with us.”

Dessner and the Lone Bellow spent two weeks recording at Dreamland in upstate New York, a nineteenth-century church that had been converted into a homey studio. The singers found the space to inspire the emotional gravity necessary for the material and the acoustics they were looking for. (For Kanene, Dreamland had one other bonus: “I’m a big Muppets fan, and it looks exactly like the church where Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem lived.”)

Aaron set them up in a circle in what had once been the sanctuary, with microphones hanging in the rafters to capture the sound of their voices bleeding together. Most of the vocals were recorded in single takes, a tactic that adds urgency to songs like “Heaven Don’t Call Me Home” and “If You Don’t Love Me.” “There were a couple of times when somebody sang the wrong word or hit a bad note, and we just had to keep going,” says Zach, who says that recording “Marietta” in particular was daunting—especially the moment near the end when he hits an anguished high note, bends it even higher, and holds it for an impossibly long time. It’s a startling display of vocal range, but it’s also almost unbearably raw in its emotional honesty.

“‘Marietta’ is probably the darkest song on the whole record,” Zach explains, “and it’s based on something that happened between my wife and me. The band was getting ready to record that song when all of a sudden my wife showed up with our youngest baby. It was a great surprise, a beautiful moment. So I was able to go out and sing that song, knowing she was there to help me carry the moment.”

“These are true stories,” says Brian. “These aren’t things we made up. We tried to write some songs that had nothing to do with our personal stories, but we just didn’t respond to them. But we’re best buds, so we know each others’ personal stuff and trust each other to figure out what needs to be said and how to say it.” Case in point: Brian wrote “Call to War” about his own struggles during his twenties, but gave the song to Kanene to sing. “The content is painful and brutal,” she says, “but the imagery, the vocals, they build something delicate and ethereal. That kind of contrast illuminates the true beauty and power of a song.” Says Brian, “We do this one thing together, and we carry each other. Hopefully that makes the listener want to be a part of it. It becomes a communal thing, which means that there’s never a sad song to sing. It’s more a celebration of the light and the dark.”

Aijala, Emmitt, Kaufmann, & Thorn

Aijala, Emmitt, Kaufmann, & Thorn

What happens when members of Leftover Salmon + Yonder Mountain String Band get together for a never-before-seen supergroup?! We're so pumped to welcome Adam Aijala (guitar) & Ben Kaufmann (bass) of Yonder Mountain String Band + Drew Emmitt (mandolin) & Andy Thorn (banjo) of Leftover Salmon. What do you expect from this incredible set?

Adam Aijala (guitar) - It’s possible that by now you know I play guitar with Yonder Mountain and it’s what I’ve been doing since the band’s inception in 1998. But I’ll bet you didn’t know that as of of July 2015 all my years in Yonder is equal to all of my years of education. That’s Kindergarten through 12th grade and 4 years of college. I started playing guitar in 1986 which is 2 years before Jake Jolliff was born. I feel old, but not really. I was mostly interested in what Greg Ginn of Black Flag was doing at that time, but a few more years into it I found myself learning Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page licks in addition to Metallica riffs. It was around that time my good buddy introduced me to the Grateful Dead and their accompanying medicinal herbs. I took a sharp, but very mellow left turn into Folk music including Bob Dylan, Neil Young and eventually, Old & In The Way. Bluegrass charged me in the way Hardcore and Punk did, particularly on the fast songs. I recall a friend giving me a mix tape my senior year at UMass that included some Doc Watson and Norman Blake. As much as I loved what those guys were doing on the guitar, I was drawn to Jerry’s banjo playing from Old & In The Way and so I bought a banjo at a pawn shop. In 1996 I attended RockyGrass in Lyons, CO and saw Scott Nygaard when he was a part of Tim O’Brien and the O’Boys. This was the first time I’d ever really seen anyone flatpick and realized I had a new goal to work towards. In the spring of 1997 I saw the David Grisman Quintet at the Warfield in San Francisco and bought the first self-titled album which features Tony Rice on guitar. I was hooked. When I think back to when I was 13, I never in a million years could I have predicted my future. From Punk Rock to Bluegrass? You’re damn right. And I couldn’t be happier to share the stage with my fellow bandmates. I love what I do and will never take it for granted. Thanks for listening and see you out there.

Ben Kaufmann (bass) - Hi, this is Ben Kaufmann. I started playing music as a child in much the same way other children start playing music: by banging around on the piano. Was it good music? No, probably not. But it was a start. My father, John, was a musician. In fact, my mom and dad met at one of dad’s rock band’s shows in Pittsburgh, PA. The band was called Sanctuary and, if you believe anything I say, it totally rocked. I have the tapes to prove it.

Some of my earliest memories are of listening to my father’s Big Band rehearsing. Oh, the stories I’ve heard of those wonderful days when schools taught Music to Children! And not just any music, but Jazz! Boy, that must’ve been great. Anyway, my father conducted and played in the DEC Big Band for 20 years give or take. And they played all over New England. Big Band jazz was the music of my childhood. It was always playing. I got my first upright bass from Jim Barbour, the bass player in dad’s band. I am certain that he’s the first person I ever heard play the bass. He also sold me my first car. I still talk to him regularly and he’s a great friend.

So flashing back for a second, I was in 6th grade and still playing piano when I formed my first band called Sanctuary Revival. Yep, ripped off the name of my father’s band. So what? They still had cool stickers with the band name on them left over from the 70’s that we could use. That band featured Ryan Olohan on guitar, Jon Rose on keyboards, Adam Del Rossi on drums, (all 7th graders by the way) and myself also on keyboards. Notice something missing from the line-up? We did: a bass player. Truth be told, Jon was a better keyboardist than I was and so I got a 3/4 sized Hondo electric bass (small hands, you see) and an amp and began (cue scary music) learning to play the bass. We learned “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles and the Beatles’ version of “Rock n’ Roll Music.” We practiced for a while and then had our first gig at a school assembly. Now, for some reason, we thought we needed outfits. And for some other, more perplexing reason, we thought we should wear tuxedo pants, shirts, and suspenders. There may have been bow ties involved, but unless you produce photographic evidence, I’ll deny it. I have a video of this show. And when we played our first note, the girls (yes, even the 8th grade girls) went wild! It was at this moment that I realized that music was for me. I had a subsequent realization about suspenders and bow ties after I watched the video.

That band lasted through high school. We changed names a bunch of times. We were Zuzu’s Petals for a while. But I seem to recall ending our career as Sanctuary Revival. At least that was the only name I had spray painted on my bedroom wall. We played school dances (“Black Cat” by Janet Jackson, anyone?) and parties once we started partying (“Immigrant Song” by Zeppelin, anyone?).

It was pretty much music, music, music my whole life. So how did I end up in film school at New York University? The first great mentor in my life was named Kimball Stickney. He was a pianist, bassist, songwriter, and computer engineer working on some of the first music software that would be available. My dad met him somewhere and he agreed to give me lessons. The lessons were about bass, piano, writing, listening, theory, happiness, sadness. In short: about life. I remember my parents called me into the family room one day and told me that Kim had died. He had been asked to play bass at some private party in a hotel ballroom and a propane tank used for the buffet exploded. The thing that bothered me the most was that initially everyone got out successfully. But Kim’s wife and little daughter ended up on one side of the building and Kim was on the other. I can only imagine that they both started looking for each other and essentially ended up walking in the same direction around the building. Kim thought his family was still inside and went back in to find them. There was a second explosion which killed my friend.

After that, music became a painful thing for me. It wasn’t that I didn’t love music, but I was young and overwhelmed with all of these difficult emotions and thoughts. Here was this great man. He loved music. And he died playing some shitty gig for people who probably weren’t paying attention. I just couldn’t understand and so, probably very unconsciously, I shifted my attention to other things. At this time, home video technology was becoming more accessible and I used every opportunity (mostly school projects) to make funny videos and animations. Some of them I still think are great. Very rudimentary, but still worth watching. So basically I found a new creative outlet. One that didn’t have all of these attendant painful emotions and memories. Anyway, combine a rough talent for video production and editing with the fact that I achieved Super-Nerd status with my grades in school and I was accepted to what was arguably the best film school in the country.

I realized very quickly that I had no business being in film school for one and New York City for second. I grew up in Stow, Massachusetts. It’s a very small town. Everyone knows everyone else. I like that. New York was massive. And no one was smiling at each other that I could see. Admittedly, I am a sensitive person (too sensitive, some might say). And all of my senses were blown apart in that city. That, and I realized that I have a very hard time bull-shitting about why some student film by some pretentious asshole about a girl who takes her clothes off in a public fountain is Art. I made some great friends while at NYU and I said goodbye to them at the end of my sophomore year knowing that I wouldn’t return.

The summer of 1995 was a big deal for me. And mostly because my connection with music returned in a deep way. I started listening to and seeing a band called Phish. I totally geeked out for this band. I tracked down bootlegs, I bought all the CDs and concert t-shirts. I learned the bass parts to damn near every song on their first 4 records. My best friend, Jordan Moretti, learned all the guitar parts. I transcribed the piano parts for their song called “Foam” and made my sister, Allison, learn it on the piano (she’s a great musician and artist in her own right). And we Jammed! All summer long.

Jordan and I moved to Boulder, CO together and enrolled at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The idea was to go to school while we tried to put a band together. I met up with Chuck Martin a drummer and Olympic skier. (No kidding, I’ve seen pictures of him shaking the President’s hand) and joined his band, Fuzz. Shortly after that Jordan, Chuck and I formed Kertz Rhombus, a prog-rock jam band (a what?) heavily influenced by Phish and Frank Zappa. We rehearsed a ton and played a few gigs. I’ve got some audio and video of that time. The music was unbelievably complicated. In retrospect, probably a bit too much so. But we pulled it off sometimes. This was a great time for me when experimentation ruled and we did great and interesting things because we didn’t really know any better. We could’ve used more fans, though. That band ended and Mountain Removal System (ironic name, huh?) was formed with myself, Jordan, Hooper Stiles on keyboard, Cody Sundberg on drums, and Jefferson Hamer on guitar.

Around the time Kertz Rhombus was getting started, I answered an ad at H.B. Woodsong’s music store in Boulder that read something like this: “Working Bluegrass band seeks upright bass player.” I thought, “Working? That means for money, right?” And around this time I finally listened to a CD that my father bought for me years before by a band called Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. I don’t know why I never got into it before but one day I put it on and was changed in some way. So I answered that ad and joined Mountain Standard Time, a great bluegrass/newgrass group that had been working in Colorado for years. They showed me the ropes. They turned me on to all sorts of great bluegrass music. It was a real working education and we played gigs together for about a year.

During this time I started writing bluegrass songs and I wanted to find a place to play them. Tree Full of Pigs with Cary Messenger on mandolin, Armando Zuppa on banjo and Ross Martin on guitar was formed. What a great band. Granted, the live recordings don’t back up my claim, but what an amazing time playing music with some amazing people. “40 Miles from Denver” was first performed with these guys and possibly even “Traffic Jam.” It was at a gig with Tree Full of Pigs at the Acoustic Coffeehouse in Nederland, CO where I first met Jeff Austin.

I remember he had long hair and was really skinny. He came up after the show and introduced himself as a mandolin player who had just moved to Nederland and that his good friend who played the banjo would be moving to town any day and if I ever wanted to jam to give him a call. I remember feeling some hesitancy to be honest. One way to describe it is that I was already playing in 3 different bands and I didn’t feel like I had the time or energy to begin another project. But the way I like to think about it now is this: I sensed that there was something special in this meeting and that it was one of those moments that would dramatically change my life. It would lead me to new places. I would meet amazing people. I would say goodbye to old friends, to everything I had known and relied on for comfort and support. And I would get into an RV held together by duct tape and prayer and start a new life as “Ben Kaufmann from Yonder Mountain String Band.” And after a moment like that, you need to find someone to buy you a beer and do some serious weighing of options.

And now I’m sitting here writing this biography. If you’re curious about what’s happened in the meantime, the entirety of our career is documented and dissected online in some eGroup or another. And almost all of our live shows have been recorded and are freely available for your scrutiny. Let’s see: what else could you need to know?

My favorite color is Blue. I’ve gotten food poisoning in both Greece and in Scotland. I’m not in as good of shape as I’d like to be, but I look better now than I did in high school. My favorite TV show is Game of Thrones. I keep losing my hair, which really pisses me off and makes me angry, genetically speaking, at my ancestors. My favorite foods are gluten-free. My favorite video game is the Legend of Zelda for the original Nintendo. About 3 times a year I crave large quantities of skim milk. I have an impressive (disturbing?) collection of Monty Python paraphernalia including an original 3-sided record. I get my news online from the BBC. My dream car is a Porsche 911 Twin Turbo. Yes, I know you can’t fit a bass in it. The best way to make blood come out of my ears is to tell me to “chill out” when I’m freaking out. My favorite authors are Thich Nhat Hahn, George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and Terry Pratchett. I talk to myself and often will answer using a Scottish accent. And I don’t practice as much as I should.

Drew Emmitt (mandolin) - “Lord you know I’ve been so many places/At least I know I have a longer view”, sings Leftover Salmon lead singer and mandolin player Drew Emmitt over a rollicking mandolin lick on the title track of his third solo effort, Long Road. “I’ve been on the road since the 80’s – can you believe that? That’s 25 years, a quarter of a century…Long Road is all about where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, where I’ve ended up and I invited all of my friends I met along the way to help me tell the story.”

Revered as one of the most energetic and innovative mandolin players on the jamband/newgrass scene today, Emmitt’s “inestimable talents” (An Honest Tune) don’t end with just the instruments that can be picked. Holding the wheel steady on acoustic and electric slide mandolin, acoustic and electric guitar and mandola, Long Road also showcases Emmitt’s superlative storytelling and versatile vocal abilities. With seven originals, including co-writes with John Cowan (“Long Road”) and Jim Lauderdale (“I’m Alive”), Emmitt saavily chose a few best-of-life-on-the-road songs, such as Supertramps’ “Take the Long Way Home”, Marshall-Tucker Band’s “Take the Highway”, and Van Morrison’s “Gypsy in my Soul”.

Co-produced by Emmitt and Compass Records co-founder Garry West, “my heaven band”, is how Emmitt describes the special guest musicians on Long Road: Billy Nershi of The String Cheese Incident (dobro), Chris Pandolfi of The Infamous Stringdusters (banjo), Andy Hall of The Infamous Stringdusters (dobro), Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Tim O’Brien (harmony vocals), Alison Brown (banjo), Darrell Scott (vocals), Eric Thorin (bass), Jeff Sipe of The Aquarium Rescue Unit (drums), John Cowan (vocals), Reese Wynans (Hammond B3), Steven Sandifer (percussion) and Tyler Grant (guitar). Hallelujah.

Following a decade of success with Leftover Salmon, Emmitt released his first solo effort, Freedom Ride, in 2002 drawing on the talent of peers John Cowan, Peter Rowan, Sam Bush, Ronnie McCoury, Vassar Clements, Stuart Duncan and Randy Scruggs. Critics and fans loved the collaboration and Emmitt relished the chance to record with some of the giants with whom he’d shared festival stages. “It's amazing,” he said, “it's like walking in a dream… Standing on stage next to Sam (Bush) is pretty indescribable.” In 2005 he followed up with Across The Bridge, an equally impressive effort showcasing Emmitt’s bluegrass chops and songwriting talents as a straight-ahead bluegrass man. After touring as the Emmitt-Nershi band with Billy Nershi of The String Cheese Incident for the past year and making several reunion appearances with Leftover Salmon, Long Road finds Emmitt rejuvenated and once again taking the contemporary, live gig, fresh everytime approach to bluegrass music.

Andy Thorn (banjo) - Since being drafted from the Emmitt-Nershi Band to join Leftover Salmon, Andy Thorn’s powerful, driving, banjo picking has helped carry the band to new heights. Despite his young age, the North Carolina native brings a wealth of experience to the banjo seat in Leftover Salmon. Thorn first began playing banjo at age 12 after purchasing one at his neighbor's yard sale and has not stopped picking since. After high school Thorn moved onto the University of North Carolina where he earned a degree in Jazz Guitar and played in seminal local band Big Fat Gap, which has a long history of graduating players into bigger bands.

From there he moved to Colorado and joined The Broke Mountain Bluegrass Band, which included Anders Beck from Greensky Bluegrass and Travis Book from The Infamous Stringdusters in its lineup. The band was only around for a brief time, but they won the 2003 RockyGrass Bluegrass Festival Band Contest. That same year Thorn won the RockyGrass banjo contest. Despite the wave of attention that followed, the band soon broke up as they all begin to move onto other bands. Thorn moved back to the East Coast and joined flatpicking legend Larry Keel’s band. His time with Keel was brief as he was then recruited to fill the empty banjo spot in the Emmitt-Nershi Band, which led to him joining Leftover Salmon in 2010.

Seldom Scene

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Seldom Scene

On January 15, 2016 after the announcement of Ben Eldridge's retirement from the band, Rickie Simpkins became the newest member of the Seldom Scene. Rickie started his musical career with "The Heights of Grass" and then continued professionally with groups like; "The Virginia Squires", "Tony Rice Unit", And then on to "Emmylou Harris' The Red Dirt Boys". Rickie is one of the most powerful multi instrumentalists on the planet. Rickie plays Banjo and Fiddle and sings with the Seldom Scene.

DUDLEY CONNELL plays a masterful guitar and provides powerful lead vocals for The Scene, which has a reputation for challenging the bounds of Bluegrass; and Connell's musical virtuosity has pushed the group beyond these bounds. Audiences delight in Connell's renditions of traditional songs like "Old Train", folk ballads such as "Blue Diamond Mine", and blues songs like "Rollin' and Tumblin'". Connell is a former member of The Johnson Mountain Boys.

Playing dobro for The Scene is one of the most respected dobro players on the bluegrass circuit today, FRED TRAVERS. He is also an accomplished vocalist who brings solid lead and harmony to The Scene. Travers is a former member of the Gary Ferguson Band and the Paul Adkins Band. Fred is beloved for his tender vocals on Seldom Scene favorite's Walk Through This World With Me, and From This Moment On.

RONNIE SIMPKINS plays rock-steady bass for the group and provides the bass vocals in The Scene's quartets as well. Simpkins has been performing Bluegrass music since childhood and is a former member of The Tony Rice Unit. LOU REID, who plays mandolin for The Scene and provides the tenor vocals, is also a former member of Ricky Skaggs Band, Quicksilver, and he currently fronts his own group Carolina. On lead, or when providing harmony, Reid's vocals are the epitome of the powerful, "high, lonesome" tenor that is the signature of Bluegrass music.

JOHN DUFFEY, former bandleader and beloved character, John passed away December 10, 1996. He was, to many, the greatest tenor voice ever in bluegrass music.

Cris Jacobs

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Cris Jacobs

Whether alone with just the guitar and his voice or surrounded by a full band, Cris Jacobs enchants listeners with his inspired, poignant songwriting, virtuous guitar playing, and soulfully transcendent voice. Artists across the board have discovered Jacobs’ musicianship and supple versatility, resulting in an impressive variety of formats in which he has played over the last few years.

After a decade, five records, and 200 shows a year as principal songwriter and frontman for beloved Baltimore-based band The Bridge from 2001-2011, Jacobs wasted no time continuing to write music of his own and exploring different configurations for his craft. He released his debut solo album, Songs for Cats and Dogs, in 2012, and continued to perform relentlessly, both with his new band and as a solo artist. In doing so, he quickly garnered the admiration of a variety of predecessors and peers: rock legend Steve Winwood saw Jacobs perform in 2014 and soon invited him to open his national tour. The following year, Sturgill Simpson extended the same invitation. Never limited by genre, Jacobs and New Orleans heavyweight Ivan Neville recorded a collaborative album under the name “Neville Jacobs”, which will be released in 2017. As an adapting, evolving, versatile musician who has survived on his own merit, Jacobs continues to win over audiences of many tastes, as he brings his characteristic authenticity and soul to every set.

Jacobs feels there are common threads across many genres of music, and he has harnessed over a decade of trans-genre exploration on his second solo album, Dust to Gold, due for release on October 21, 2016, from American Showplace Music. The album is a soul-stirring expression of the current chapter of his creative evolution, featuring twelve well-crafted songs that masterfully weave through the sweet and rugged landscape of soul, country, folk, blues, gospel, and rock and roll. Through every turn, one can easily feel Jacobs’ reverence to his influences, but the result is an original, eclectic record with a sound that is authentically his. In a given moment, Jacobs’ guitar playing is gritty, soulful, rich, and lyrical. It’s subtle, yet adventurous. His voice is at once sweet and sultry, with a honeyed whiskey croon that delivers his thoughtful, expressive lyrics.

“I know that the well I seek is bound to be the deepest of all been ever told I know that to plant a seed is alchemy, we can watch the dust turn into gold” So sings the hypnotic refrain in “Turn Into Gold”, a meditative slide-guitar rocker where Jacobs sings about channeling the muse, or “tapping the source”, as he calls it. It’s about the desire to be “enraptured in the mystery, the unknown, the questions, the answers all at once,” Jacobs describes. This is the place in which his songwriting occurs, and from where Jacobs’ performances derive so much electricity. In discussing the song’s inspiration, Jacobs reflects, “if I’m playing or singing and I’m really connected to that source and I’m really locked in and there’s a room full of people experiencing that, the hope is then for them to get locked into their own thing, and it’s this beautiful, ecstatic magic that happens. To me, this is that elusive goal that I chase every time I sit down to write a song or every time I get on stage to perform.”

Other songs on Dust to Gold paint Jacobs’ desire to express the beauty and struggle of the human condition. In “Cold Carolina”, Jacobs pleads softly and emotively about a despondent relationship, the feeling of displacement, and the seeking of redemption, of salvation. In “Little Dreamer”, Jacobs, accompanied by his wife, Kat Jacobs, sings sweetly to their unborn child, whom he discovered was on the way only moments before leaving to start recording the album. “It’s a blink of an eye, this life / tiny grains in sands of time / so tie your purposes on wings and fly to the heavens with the grace and courage of a thousand kings”, he sings to the tiny, nascent being.

The opening track, “The Devil or Jesse James”, is a rousing mixture of New Orleans rhythm, blues, and rock and roll with ethereal tendrils of psychedelic guitar reaching out across the soundscape; painting a tale of a man trying to change identities and run away from one’s past. On the album, the full band includes a richly funky rhythm section, featuring Todd Herrington on bass, Dusty Ray Simmons on drums, as well as John Ginty on Hammond organ and keyboards, who has been a master side man for years, working with Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Jewel, Citizen Cope; and most currently tours with the Dixie Chicks.

Though “Dust to Gold” clearly showcases Jacobs’ well-worn songwriting chops, he is an improviser at heart, and he brings the spirit of seeking and living in the moment to the stage each time. In every performance, he tries to push the envelope, exploring the depth of each song anew. Whether live or on the album, Jacobs’ dynamic voice and guitar envelope the listener completely and instantly, transporting you into the rich, sultry folds of his soulful sound.

Cris Jacobs continues to nurture a devoted audience that knows that whatever the instrumentation or setting he plays, it will be richly authentic, and conveyed with an improviser’s curious spirit and palpable presence. We can only expect further evolution from Jacobs, an artist constantly inspired by the search for “those beautiful, sad, inspiring, heartbreaking magical corners of life. The most rewarding, and terrifying part of trying to be an artist is the journey itself, the vulnerability and riskiness in seeking them out trying to express them. Sometimes you hit dead ends, and sometimes you strike pure gold.”

Lonesome River Band

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Lonesome River Band

Since its formation 34 years ago, Lonesome River Band continues its reputation as one of the most respected names in Bluegrass music. Five-time International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Banjo Player of the Year, and winner of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, Sammy Shelor leads the group that is constantly breaking new ground in Acoustic music. With two stellar lead vocalists, Brandon Rickman (guitar) and newest member Jesse Smathers (mandolin), and the impressive talents of Mike Hartgrove (fiddle) and Barry Reed (bass), the band seamlessly comes together, performing the trademark sound that fans continue to embrace.

This award-winning band is again building on the familiar while adding bold progressiveness to its legend with the March 19, 2016 Mountain Home Music Company album, Bridging the Tradition that made its debut at #2 on Billboard’s Top 10 Bluegrass Album Chart. The album received a 2016 IBMA Award Nomination for Album of the Year along with “Thunder & Lightning” for Song of the Year, “Rockin’ of the Cradle for Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year, and Sammy Shelor for Banjo Performer of the Year. Lonesome River Band is continuing to evolve in the ever-changing landscape of Bluegrass and Acoustic Country music. With this new album, the band once again delivers incredible, ground-breaking music that is rooted in the tradition it began decades ago.

The band’s album Turn On A Dime was released October 14, 2014, also on the Mountain Home Music Company label, and includes the #1 hit single “Her Love Won’t Turn On A Dime.” The song hit the top of the Bluegrass Unlimited Top 30 Song Chart (June 2015) and appeared 7-times at #1 on Bluegrass Today’s Top 20 Song Chart. Another chart track, “Lila Mae” was released as the band’s first official concept video and will make its TV debut in June 2015 appearing around the world on the popular Bluegrass Ridge show.

Lonesome River Band’s long career is obviously filled with a multitude of Awards and Recognitions including their 2012 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Award for Instrumental Recorded Event of the Year for their song “Angeline the Baker” from their Chronology Volume One album. Sammy Shelor received his fifth win as the 2012 IBMA Banjo Performer of the Year. The group has also received other awards from IBMA including Album of the Year, along with numerous Awards from SPBGMA – Bluegrass Band of Year, Vocal Group of the Year, Song of the Year and Shelor asa 3-time SPBGMA Banjo Player of the Year award winner.

Sammy Shelor received the 2nd Annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. Lonesome River Band with special guest Steve Martin made an appearance and performed on the Late Show with David Letterman on November 11, 2011. For over 30 years, Lonesome River Band continues set the standard in the bluegrass music world. Whether performing on the famous stage of the Grand Ole Opry or headlining major concert events & festivals, their loyal fans continue to support one of the most loved and most influential acts of our time. Read more of The Lonesome River Band’s history below the musician bios.

SAMMY SHELOR – Banjo & Vocals - When Sammy Shelor joined Lonesome River Band in 1990, he never envisioned himself leading the band only ten years later. Fresh off a six year stint with the popular Virginia Squires, Sammy came on board along with Ronnie Bowman and before long, had recorded the landmark LRB album, Carrying The Tradition with Dan Tyminski and Tim Austin. This recording quickly moved the group to headliner status, where they have remained ever since. When founder Tim Austin left in 1995 to focus on his studio, Sammy and Ronnie Bowman took over band management, and when Ronnie left in 2000, Sammy found himself in charge, leading the band that had hired him fifteen years earlier. Through changes in vocalists and rhythm sections, the constant in the wildly popular LRB sound has been Shelor’s insistent, driving banjo style. His peers in the International Bluegrass Music Association have voted him Banjo Player Of The Year on five separate occasions, and banjo pickers all over the world have studied Sammy’s tab books and instructional DVD from AcuTab. Sammy got an early start with the banjo, when his grandfather fashioned him a banjo from an old pressure cooker lid when Sam was only four years old. His other grandfather then issued a challenge, promising to buy him a real banjo if the young Shelor would learn to play two songs. Sammy met that mark in short order, and with the help of a family devoted both to him and to bluegrass music, he soon found himself entered in contests at fiddler’s conventions near his home in southwestern VA.

By age 10, he was performing in local bands and became a full time professional musician when he graduated from high school, joining The Heights Of Grass at age 19. That band eventually morphed into The Virginia Squires, and brought Sammy into contact with banjo legend Sonny Osborne, who helped shape the young picker’s approach to working as a pro banjo player. Sonny also showed him the importance of using a quality instrument, and introduced him to the sound of the pre-war flathead Gibson banjos that are now so highly prized by banjo players all over the world.

Since becoming a member of Lonesome River Band, Sammy has been featured on dozens of successful recordings, both with LRB and as a guest player. His solo project, Leading Roll, is still a popular title in the Sugar Hill Records catalog and his work on Knee Deep In Bluegrass for Rebel Records helped that project earn the Instrumental Album Of The Year award from the IBMA in 2001. As a testament to Sammy’s prominence and influence in the banjo world, he has his own signature Sammy Shelor banjo fingerpicks, and a signature model banjo produced by Huber Banjos. His influence on amateur and semi-pro pickers can be demonstrated by a casual walk through the parking lots or jam sessions at any bluegrass event, where licks and phrases which Sam has added to the repertoire are heard alongside those contributed by Earl Scruggs and JD Crowe.

As one of the most sought after banjo players in the business, Sammy guests with numerous other artists including recording and performing (The Late Show with David Letterman) with country superstar Alan Jackson (“The Bluegrass Album), Zac Brown Band, and more. Sammy has received a multitude of awards and recognitions during his impressive career including his induction into the 2009 Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame, 5-time recipient of the IBMA Banjo Player of the Year Award, 2011 winner of the 2nd Annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, and 3-time winner of the SPBGMA Banjo Performer of the Year Award.

BRANDON RICKMAN – Guitar, Lead & Harmony Vocals - For more info, please visit BrandonRickman.com Now in his second stint with Lonesome River band, guitarist and lead singer Brandon Rickman hails from the state of Missouri. A product of a musical family, Brandon grew up playing guitar, but picked up the upright bass just hours before playing his first show as a member of the esteemed bluegrass gospel group, New Tradition.

His distinctive singing and sturdy songwriting graced two previous LRB releases (Window Of Time and Head On Into Heartache) before he left to pursue songwriting full time in the fall of 2005. The lure of the road must have been too strong, as Brandon returned to Lonesome River Band full time. “Rickman’s a compelling singer, and framing himself in stripped down arrangements not only differentiates these tracks from those of the Lonesome River Band, but truly highlights the qualities of his voice as an individual.” Hyperbolium Before first joining the Lonesome River Band, he spent the 2001 season appearing with the award-winning bluegrass singer and songwriter Larry Cordle and Lonesome Standard Time.

June 30, 2009, Rural Rhythm Records released Brandon’s solo album, Young Man Old Soul. This successful album appeared in WNCW Radio’s Top 50 Albums of the Year (2010) and received numerous other honors. Two singles, “Always Have Always Will” and “I Bought Her a Dog” appeared on the Bluegrass Unlimited Top 30 Song chart. The track, “Wearin Her Knees Out Over Me” won the Strictly Country Magazine’s Song of the Year in 2010.

MIKE HARTGROVE – Fiddle - Mike Hartgrove is back for his second stint with LRB. He was a member of the band from ’02-’05, and rejoined the band in December 2008. “Grove” is among the most experienced fiddlers in bluegrass music, having spent time with The Bluegrass Cardinals and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. He was also a founding member of IIIrd Tyme Out, with whom he toured and recorded for 11 years before joining Lonesome River Band in 2002. Mike has also performed with George Jones and Moe Bandy.

“Originally from Shelbina, Mo., and now living in Albemarle, N.C., where he has a full schedule of fiddle students, perhaps no fiddler in bluegrass has as long a history of playing behind great vocalists and harmony trios as Mike,” says Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine.

BARRY REED – Bass - Barry Reed, from Seymour, Tennessee, joined the band in 2010 on upright bass and harmony vocals. He had previously worked with Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper before taking some time off to start his family. “Barry is a great acoustic bass player and singer and adds greatly to the LRB sound,” says Sammy Shelor.

JESSE SMATHERS – Mandolin/Lead & Harmony Vocals - Jesse Smathers, mandolin player and tenor singer, lives in Eden, North Carolina. He began playing the guitar at age 11, mandolin at 15 and was heavily influenced by the music of Lonesome River Band. In 2009, he won the guitar championship of the Virginia Folk Music Association. The following year, he began his career as a touring musician with the James King Band playing mandolin and singing tenor and high baritone, and later rejoined the band performing guitar and vocals. In 2013, High Voltage, featuring Jesse as the lead vocalist, won first place in the bluegrass band category at the Galax Old Time Fiddler’s Convention.

In 2014, Jesse joined Nothin’ Fancy. The same year, he was also inducted in Phi Mu Alpha, a music fraternity, as a Sinfonian, joining such greats as John Phillip Sousa, Count Bassie, Duke Ellington, and Andy Griffith. Jesse comes from a long line of musicians. His grandfather, Harold Smathers, and grand Uncle Luke Smathers, recorded for June Appal and were awarded the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award in 1993 for their contributions to North Carolina Folk Music.

HISTORY OF THE LONESOME RIVER BAND Lonesome River Band has been one of the most popular and influential acts on the bluegrass festival and concert circuit since the release of their breakout album, Carrying The Tradition, back in 1991. That band line-up included current LRB band leader Sammy Shelor, as well as Dan Tyminski, Ronnie Bowman and Lonesome River Band founder, Tim Austin. They recorded a second project for Rebel Records, Old Country Town, before Tyminski accepted a gig with Alison Krauss & Union Station, and Austin decided to leave the road to focus on his recording studio, Doobie Shea.

During his years with LRB, Sammy Shelor has enjoyed performing with such stellar musicians as Kenny Smith, Don Rigsby, Ron Stewart, Rickie Simpkins and Mike Hartgrove (who returned in 2005) – each of whom had moved on to pursue other musical endeavors. With each personnel change, Shelor looked for new musicians who could not only fill a spot that had been left vacant, but also bring in an artist with talents of their own.

The year 2001 brought a lot of new changes with the addition of Brandon Rickman and Jeff Parker along with fiddler Mike Hartgrove who had just left IIIrd Tyme Out, along with bassist Irl Hees. The band was rewarded rave reviews for Window of Time, the first recording with that band configuration. John Wade soon replaced Hees on bass, and the group the recorded Head On Into Heartache.

In 2005, Hartgrove left to join Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and Rickman chose to give up touring to spend more time focusing on songwriting, but more importantly much needed time with his family. With Jeff Parker’s contributions on mandolin and tenor vocals, this took LRB into the next generation returning to the bands aggressive, four piece sound that had brought them to prominence years earlier. Shelor brought on a strong picker and a distinctive singer, Barry Berrier on bass who had made a name singing lead and playing guitar with The Lost & Found. Shannon Slaughter then came on board after initially being hired to fill in during the search for a new guitar man.

In 2007, Hartgrove and Rickman returned to LRB joining Sammy Shelor, Andy Ball, and Mike Anglin. This band configuration recorded two albums for Rural Rhythm Records. No Turning Back, LRB’s twelve career album, was released in 2008 and made its debut on Billboard’s Top 10 Bluegrass Album Chart. The project included the hit “Them Blues,” that garnered seven #1s on various national radio charts.

LRB thrilled the audience with an impressive and well received opening performance of the 2009 IBMA Awards Show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN. IBMA members placed the band in numerous categories including receiving Nominations for: Instrumental Performance of the Year for “Struttin to Ferrum”; Gospel Performance of the Year for “Darkness Wept”; and Sammy Shelor nominated again for Banjo Performer of the Year.

In 2010, Rural Rhythm released Still Learning again with members Sammy Shelor, Brandon Rickman, Andy Ball, Mike Hartgrove, and Mike Anglin. The project resulted in two radio chart singles, “Record Time Machine” and “Jack Up the Jail.” The album garnered the band a nomination for IBMA Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year for “Pretty Little Girl.”

The same year, LRB was part of another Rural Rhythm project, The All-Star Jam – Live At Graves Mountain that received significant attention from IBMA members: nomination for Album of the Year; nomination for Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year (for Sammy Shelor, Brandon Rickman and Mike Hartgrove’s work on “Ground Speed”); and a nomination for Recorded Event of the Year for the song, “Graves Mountain Memories” (by the Rural Rhythm All-Stars that included Sammy Shelor and Mike Hartgrove).

Also in 2010, Barry Reed, on upright bass and harmony vocals, replacing Mike Anglin. Early 2011, Randy Jones joined the band on mandolin and lead & harmony vocals, replacing Andy Ball.

LRB was also part of other various artists’ projects on Rural Rhythm including: A Bill Monroe 100th Year Celebration – Live at Bean Blossom (2011) album that was produced by Sammy Shelor; the 2012 IBMA Recorded Event of the Year Award winning album Life Goes On (2012) by the Musicians Against Childhood Cancer benefiting St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, TN; and God Didn’t Choose Side: Civil War True Stories About Real People (2013) that made its debut at #6 on Billboard Bluegrass Album Chart; Various Artists.

In 2014, Mountain Home Music Company released Turn On A Dime that quickly made its debut on the Billboard Top 10 Bluegrass Album Chart. The album includes the #1 Bluegrass Unlimited and Bluegrass Today hit single “Her Love Won’t Turn On a Dime.” The second chart successful song, “Lila Mae”, was also released as the band’s first official concept music video. In June 2015, Jesse Smathers on mandolin and lead & harmony vocals, joined LRB replacing Randy Jones who left the band to pursue a career outside the music business.

As always, with Lonesome River Band, you can be assured their prominence as one of the most influential acts in bluegrass music is here to stay.

Cabinet

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Cabinet

Celebration, Cabinet’s third studio release and seventh overall, is that kind of get-together. Initially intended to be a straight bluegrass record, the album instead emerged as the band’s most diverse release yet, which is no small statement when you consider the various genres the band has touched upon in the studio and on the stage to date. What’s remarkable, though, is that the tunes, which span the band’s eight-plus years of existence, showcase that diversity while retaining a distinct, cohesive common thread that the band deftly weaves from track to track. It barely needs to be noted at this stage in the game that the individual musicians’ playing prowess is at a high level, but what makes this a true album rather than a loose collection of unrelated songs is not those acclaimed Cabinet instrumental chops, but its time-honored writing abilities, which are in top form here. Scenes and moods are evoked, established and subtly revisited, sometimes via timeless lyrics and sometimes with just the simple turn of a musical phrase or accent.

What’s more surprising is these songs, despite their shared sensibilities, were not all written during the same period. Some have been kicking around the Cabinet catalog for some time, like “Home Now,” a live staple for the Americana outfit since its early days, which gets a relatively raucous reworking here. Others, like “Pine Billy” and “Red River,” are brand new. “Red River,” specifically, finds the band at its introspective best, a yearning, pretty tune that might pleasantly surprise some Cabinet fans.

Those long-time fans will delight in the new material, and the uninitiated will be won over, too, thanks to the warm, inviting nature of the songs and the way they’re presented sonically. Themes of home and family abound, further welcoming the listener to gather around the proverbial campfire with the band as tales are told and songs are sung. It’s a good place to be, and you’ll be mighty glad you stopped by.

Cabinet is a band with roots firmly planted in the Appalachian tradition. They wear their influences like badges, honoring the canon of roots, bluegrass, country, and folk, weaving these sounds into a patchwork Americana quilt. But this music isn’t romanticizing or rehashing the past. Cabinet makes it mark on today. The steady aim of their harmonies soar straight onto target each time, the soaring vocals giving voice to the story of each song. Their music takes the long way home, treating its listeners like passengers on a ride through scenic back roads. Their live shows are inclusive, celebratory, and community-building. Members Pappy Biondo (banjo, vocals), J.P. Biondo (mandolin, vocals), Mickey Coviello (acoustic guitar, vocals), Dylan Skursky (electric bass, double bass), Todd Kopec (fiddle, vocals), Jami Novak (drums, percussion), and newly added Josh Karis (drums, percussion) all live and love music, and aren’t afraid to show it.

Cabinet formed in 2006, bringing together players from various musical and personal backgrounds. Some of the members were barely old enough to drink legally, but their thirst for older music was unquenchable. Whether its rustic "American Beauty"-era Grateful Dead or old-timey bluegrass, Cabinet has digested it all. But that is not to say that Cabinet recreates older styles. No, this is music that might have its roots in the past, but it is current and vibrant, with a sense of celebrating the now

The Dustbowl Revival

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The Dustbowl Revival

Founded in 2008 in the bohemian enclave of Venice Beach, The Dustbowl Revival has become known for their free-flowing and joyous live shows, combining their funk rhythm and brass section with a fast-picking stringband section. They've opened for bands as diverse as Lake Street Dive, Trombone Shorty and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and last year toured China as a guest of the state department in addition to headlining festivals like Delfest, Floydfest, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and recently Bergenfest (Norway) and Tonderfest (Denmark).

While bluegrass, gospel, New Orleans swing and blues were what brought the gang together, (a fateful Craigslist ad got it all started), after touring over two hundred dates a year for the last four years, the band realized as it began to collaborate more on the road, that it was never content to be a throwback band recreating lost eras. When they recorded their soul-dipped new single “Busted” it was like a door opening. As they charge into 2017 with their new studio album, helmed by Grammy-winner Ted Hutt (Old Crow Medicine Show, Dropkick Murphy's), Dustbowl is ready to bring their newest sound - the place where funk and folk meet - to a bigger audience.

HORSESHOES & HAND GRENADES

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HORSESHOES & HAND GRENADES

In 2010, the five Wisconsinites that make up Horseshoes & Hand Grenades found themselves in a living room in the college town of Stevens Point, WI, holding acoustic instruments and enjoying a hodgepodge of fermented beverages. Music and revelry ensued that evening and, while many of the party guests eventually bid their goodbye well into the morning hours, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades wasn’t ready to let the get-together fade. Many years later, the music still hasn’t stopped and the party is still going strong, from the mountain west to the river towns of the Midwest that the quintet calls home, and all across America.

While strongly rooted in bluegrass, old-time, and folk music, the band produces a sound that draws on the vaults of music collectively and individually enjoyed throughout the course of their lives thus far. The music doesn’t lend itself well to categories or boundaries. One could possibly be formed, but the boys seem to generally prefer fishing a river, or enjoying the company of friends and barley beers. With their music well-defined or not, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades has begun to form a place in the American music scene, gaining recognition on both a regional and national scale. The band took 3rd place at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival’s Band Competition in 2012 and has since shared the stage with Trampled By Turtles, The Travelin’ McCourys, Railroad Earth, Merle Haggard, The Infamous Stringdusters, Yonder Mountain String Band, Marty Stuart, and many more. The group’s third full-length Middle Western was released in March of 2015 and another record is expected in 2017. Being mostly inspired by rivers, valleys, good friends, and good drink, this five-piece is as sturdy as any Midwest riverbed and will make your toes tap from sundown to sunrise.

Danny Paisley & The Southern Grass

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Danny Paisley & The Southern Grass

Danny Paisley and The Southern Grass continue to be deeply rooted in tradition, but look to the future with enthusiasm and anticipation. This coming year brings renewed excitement! Danny Paisley and The Southern Grass released their Road Into Town CD on Patuxent Music. It is filled with all the traditional sound you would expect from a Southern Grass CD.

Since Danny’s father Bob Paisley (founder of Southern Grass) passed away in 2004, Danny Paisley and The Southern Grass have made their own niche in the bluegrass world. Their album, The Room Over Mine, earned accolades and significant chart action, and the song, “Don’t Throw Mama’s Flowers Away” won the 2009 IBMA Award for Song of the Year and have garnered several IBMA nominations for Emerging Artist of The Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year. Danny Paisley and The Southern Grass are a national and international touring band who frequently get invited for return engagements. Their list of notable festivals and events include: Rocky Grass, Grey Fox, Grass Valley, Del Fest, Wind Gap, Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival and more.

With Danny Paisley on guitar Southern Grass continues the family tradition adding Danny’s son Ryan on mandolin, the next generation of up and coming pickers. Southern Grass welcomes back TJ Lundy (after a brief hiatus) as the band’s fiddler. TJ Lundy is a highly respected fiddler bridging the gap between old time fiddling and bluegrass music.TJ is a warehouse of fiddle tunes! Southern Grass also includes:

Mark Delaney (formerly with Randy Waller and the Country Gentlemen, and Darren Beachley & Legends of the Potomac) on banjo; and Eric Troutman on bass. Eric Troutman (from Gratz, PA) on bass, who started pickin at the age of 9, when his grandfather gave him a mandolin. As a member of The Southern Grass, Eric is not only known for his driving bass playing but also for his fine lead and tenor singing.

Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass play powerful, unadorned, and intense traditional bluegrass. There is no hybrid or genre-bending music here. Their combination of instrumentation and vocals convey the energy and emotion of classic bluegrass and country music. Danny’s lead vocals will captivate your senses, so much so that many prominent musicians, including Alison Krauss, have considered Danny as one of their favorite singers. His voice combines powerful range and soulful blues with a sound like no one else in bluegrass today.

Danny grew up listening to the music his father Bob played and enjoyed hearing— the sounds of classic bluegrass like Red Allen, Mac Martin, Bill Monroe, the Stanleys, Reno and Smiley, and the Osbornes, as well as old time mountain music and traditional country music. Once you hear Danny sing, it comes as no surprise that he lists George Jones and Vern Gosdin as major influences in his singing.

Danny Paisley, born in Landenberg, PA in 1959, inherited the love and talent of this music and is proud to continue the family tradition. Gathering fans at each event, Danny Paisley and The Southern Grass, look forward with renewed energy as they bring their unique sound to audiences near and far.

The Kitchen Dwellers

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The Kitchen Dwellers

Montana-bred bluegrass outfit The Kitchen Dwellers are captivating fans across the country with their high-energy live performances and unique approach to traditional music that fans have dubbed “Galaxy Grass.” Formed in 2010 while attending college at Montana State, the group has burst onto the bluegrass scene sharing the stage with acts such as Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters and Twiddle. In recent years the band has began to tour nationally hitting notable venues and festivals around the country including The Brooklyn Bowl, The Fox Theatre, Delfest, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Northwest String Summit, and The Frendly Gathering. Kitchen Dwellers will be hitting the road hard in 2016. Stay up to date with their tour dates at www.kitchendwellers.com and don't miss your chance to dance your ass off to some Galaxy Grass.

“For [Andy] Thorn, playing and hanging with the ‘Dusters and Kitchen Dwellers was equally enjoyable as playing with heroes like Sam Bush and Tony Trischka.”

Maria Wyllie and Tyler Allen - Explore Big Sky

“The Kitchen Dwellers, formed only three years ago in Bozeman, are quickly emerging as one of the best bluegrass bands in the country.”

Rich Ledoux - The Moose 95.1 FM

Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike

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Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike

“Her music has been received with widespread critical and popular acclaim in the world of bluegrass” –Joe Romano, Bluegrass Now

“Her recording and performance style has been described as ‘exuberant’ by John Hansen in the Brainerd Dispatch, in Brainerd, S.D.

Jeff Bahr of the American News said, "Watching Valerie Smith perform is like being a witness to a thermonuclear explosion.”

Valerie Smith has developed a unique style and sound that has rocked the bluegrass world for almost two decades with a string of national and international tours, critically acclaimed recordings, and Grammy, IBMA and Dove Award nominations. Val's vocals are impressive. She has a staggeringly expansive range and the ability to portray an amazing array of emotion. As NPR radio host Dave Higgs has noted, "She can be sassy, sultry, siren-like, sweet, smooth, soothing and smoldering---sometimes during the span of just one song!" Valerie Smith and her East Coast-based band, Liberty Pike featuring legendary Hall of Famer Tom Gray on bass, are consistent audience pleasers and skilled musicians. When Valerie walks onstage with her fabulous band, expect to be inspired, amused and thoroughly entertained.

Originally from Missouri and now based in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, a charming little historic town just southeast of Nashville, Valerie Smith is an award winning bluegrass and American roots artist and songwriter. Since 1998 Smith has made thousands of fans and friends with her music, on stages across the United States, as well as in Europe, Canada and the United Kingdom. Her band is named “Liberty Pike” after the road that connects Bell Buckle to Nashville.

When you list to Valerie’s unique voice, you can hear influences from bluegrass, blues, gospel music and even Broadway show tunes. Her personal background is just as interesting and varied. Valerie holds a Master’s degree in Music from the University of Missouri in Kansas City, and she taught music for seven years in her home state before marrying Craig Smith (another fine musician and songwriter) and moving to Nashville.

Her three years as an account executive for a marketing firm in Music City gave Val a valuable crash course in promotion, video and photography to go along with mer music degree. In the evening she was working on her songwriting and singing wherever she could. Country Music Hall of Fame member Charlie Louvin and the Nashville Bluegrass Band’s Alan O’Bryant became her music mentors in Nashville. Louvin invited Val onstage with him at the Grand Ole Opry, and O’Bryan produced her debut album, Patchwork Heart—which included a duet with Charlie on “My Baby’s Gone.”

Valerie’s hit single, “Red Clay Halo,” written by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, climbed the Bluegrass Unlimited, Country Music and Americana reporting charts, receiving heavy radio airplay for five years. BU included the song in their list of the top 60 songs of the decade.

The International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky, commissioned Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike to create a special “Bluegrass in the Schools” program to share bluegrass music and its history with thousands of students in western Kentucky for 15 years. She later developed the “American Roots Music” program, which she continues to present in the United States and overseas.

Smith was invited by producer Bil VornDick and the legendary Ralph Stanley to be a part of the Grammy-nominated album, Clinch Mountain Sweethearts. Val and Stanley sang “I’ll Remember You, Love in My Prayers.”

Country Music Hall of Famer Tom T. Hall made a special appearance on Valerie’s second album No Summer Storm. Tom T guested on “Sit Down and Cry,” a song written by Miss Dixie and Tom T Hall. The Halls also invited Valerie to participate in all three albums by the “Daughters of Bluegrass,” featuring an all-female cast of singers and musicians, on Blue Circle Records.

Smith recorded a CD of duets with Becky Buller called Here’s a Little Song, which received critical acclaim. After 10 years in Liberty Pike, Buller formed her own touring band and has become a respected singer, songwriter and band leader in her own right. And Val couldn’t be prouder of her! Andy Leftwich, fiddler with Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, also worked for five years in Liberty Pike. The list of incredibly talented musicians and singers who have stood in the Liberty Pike circle onstage with Valerie Smith is too numerous to list here.

Smith released her first gospel album, Wash Away Your Troubles, and her arrangement of “Wade in the Water” was included in the independent movie, Bell Witch: The Movie. Valerie, Kraig and Buller also co-wrote the song, “Ole John Bell,” which appeared in the sound track for the film.

Valerie and her band have appeared on several television shows, including Ronnie Reno’s television numerous times, including performances on Reno’s Old Time Country Music on RFD, Bluegrass Underground, and Song of the Mountains, both on PBS.

Valerie Smith’s new recording is called Home Town Heroes, which she was invited to showcase at the 2016 World of Bluegrass Business Conference in Raleigh, NC. Here’s a video preview

In addition to national and international tour dates, Smith continues to write, produce and record music released by Bell Buckle Records.

Country Current US Navy Bluegrass Band

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COUNTRY CURRENT (US NAVY BLUEGRASS BAND)

The United States Navy Band Country Current is the Navy's premiere country-bluegrass ensemble. The group is nationally renowned for its versatility and "eye-popping" musicianship, performing a blend of modern country music and cutting-edge bluegrass. This seven member ensemble employs musicians from diverse backgrounds with extensive high-profile recording and touring experience in the music scenes of Nashville, Tenn., New York, New Orleans and more. In the tradition of country music, each member is a skilled performer on multiple instruments. The band utilizes banjo, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, mandolin, fiddle, electric bass, upright bass, dobro, pedal steel guitar and drum set.

Formed in 1973 , the band has a rich legacy of notable alumni including Bill Emerson, Wayne Taylor, Jerry Gilmore, and Frank Sollivan. They have performed at the Grand Ole Opry, for Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and overseas in Stockholm, Nova Scotia and Beijing. With a fun-filled and family-friendly stage show, Country Current has been delighting its fans for over 40 years with their musical virtuosity and humor. A staple of the bluegrass scene, Country Current has shared the stage with music luminaries Rhonda Vincent, Dailey and Vincent, Mountain Heart, Little Roy Lewis, Third Time Out, The Lonesome River Band, Josh Williams, The Seldom Scene, J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson, Ned Luberecki, Chris Jones and many others. Country Current routinely performs at bluegrass festivals such as Darrington, Windgap, Gettysburg, Lake Havasu and Grass Valley. In 2011, Country Current became the first military band to perform at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas.

Country Current performs regularly for the president, vice-president, the secretary of the Navy, the chief of naval operations, the chairman and vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff, the Master Chief Musician of the Navy and numerous other dignitaries. Reaching out to communities both locally and nationally, they regularly perform for veterans, elementary schools, and in support of our active-duty Sailors.

Frankie short & The Northern Connection Bluegrass Band

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Frankie short & The Northern Connection Bluegrass Band

For a musical world that’s remained, for the most part, resolutely small over the years, bluegrass has managed to foster a surprising number of diverse, distinctive scenes. Partisans of Washington, DC have done much for years to highlight the contributions of acts like the Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene, but areas like southwest Ohio and Baltimore, MD lagged behind in national awareness. Happily, things have taken a better turn for the latter with the prominence of Baltimore-bred musicians—the list starts with Hall of Famer Del McCoury—who made and are making a mark on today’s international bluegrass scene, and lately with the publication of Tim Newby’s useful Bluegrass In Baltimore.

Read through its portrait of Charm City’s lively bluegrass community, and you’ll find frequent reference to Frankie Short, Sr., a musician’s musician who sadly left behind little in the way of a commercial recording legacy. Fortunately, he left another legacy in the person of Frankie Short, Jr., who now is making his own contribution to the still-thriving Baltimore bluegrass scene and, therefore, to the world of bluegrass as a whole. Leading a stellar band that invokes additional history—banjo man Bobby Lundy and bass player Brian Eldreth both bear family names familiar to fans—Frankie delivers a quintessential set that should help to burnish the area’s reputation still further and, even more importantly, introduce a fine set of talents to the larger bluegrass stage.

The music here is, to use the well-worn phrase, bluegrass as it is meant to be played. If you’re looking for complex arrangements, edgy improvisations or fancy ‘grass-flavored re-workings of pop or rock hits (or obscurities)—not that there’s anything wrong with that—look elsewhere. This is the straight-ahead stuff, played and sung by men who have it deep in their bones, and feel no need to look any further. Skilled without being ornate, heartfelt without being maudlin, they are simply doing what seems to come naturally, but is, in fact, the product of lifetimes of dedication. When you hear Baltimore bluegrass—when you hear Northern Connection—that’s what you hear. Enjoy!

-Jon Weisberger, Cottontown, TN, May, 2016

The Dirty Grass Players

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The Dirty Grass Players

The Dirty Grass Players are an up and coming band with their own spin on bluegrass. They use traditional style vocal harmonies and mix it with a jammy improvisational feel to keep listeners on their toes. They have been playing regionally in Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Coming from areas all around Baltimore, each player brings a different set of influence to the table. Alex Berman: banjo/vocals, Ben Kolakowski: guitar/vocals, Alex Tocco: fiddle/vocals, Ryan Rogers: mandolin, Colin Rappa: bass fiddle

Ben, Ryan and Colin and their friend Steve Gallagher had started playing bluegrass together in early 2015. By summer Steve was planning on moving to Nashville and Ben had met Tocco and Berman at Dear Jerry (tribute to Jerry Garcia) and invited them to jam. Once they joined the band, they really began to shape the sound. You can hear influences of traditional bluegrass like Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Del McCoury band, as well as some heavier newgrass like Tony Rice, Infamous String Dusters, and Travelin McCourys. We also have some music that includes jazz style improvisation as well as some group improvisation similar to the Grateful Dead or Railroad Earth.

As they start to play more, their versatility shows in their original compositions and by playing tributes ranging from Old and in the Way to Iron Maiden to James Brown.

The High and Wides

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The High and Wides

The High and Wides play music inspired by, but not tethered to, the days when string bands blurred the lines between bluegrass, old-time, country, boogie, blues, rockabilly and western swing. The band features former members of long-time regional favorites and 2-time CCFBF alumni Chester River Runoff. They perform material ranging from old-time brother duets to originals that draw from their decade in bluegrass while inventively defying the conventions of the genre.

CHARM CITY BLUEGRASS Festival 2017

The 5th Annual Charm City Bluegrass Festival returns to its home in Druid Hill Park. This year will be bigger and better than ever. Union Craft Brewing returns as the beer of choice for the festival. Local food and craft vendors will be on hand to provide a variety of affordable options.

Ticket Options

Regular

General Admission

Ticket + $2 Conservation Fee

Wait? There’s more!?

You think the Charm City Bluegrass Festival fun ends when we're finished at Druid Hill Park? No way!

The party continues at The 8x10 featuring the fast paced high energy of Billy Strings, with some very special guests. Haint Blue kicking us off. Doors open at 9:00 PM.

After Party

Featuring Billy Strings
and Friends

Doors open at 9:00PM

Day of Show

Prices increase to $60 on festival day, April 29th. Be sure to grab your tickets before festival day to secure your spot and enjoy the cheapest retail price.

Day of Show

General Admission

Ticket + $2 Conservation Fee

  • Charm City Yoga
  • WTMD
  • Wamu's Bluegrass Country
  • Eastman Handcrafted Guitars & Mandolins
  • D'Addarío
  • Baltimore Social
  • IBMA
  • MOM's Organic Market
  • NOISE KICK FX
  • Union Craft Brewing
  • Appalachian Bluegrass
  • The 8x10
  • WYPR
  • MissionTix
  • Tenkara
  • Howler
  • FlyTimesDC
  • Internation Violin Company, LTD
  • Phantasy Tour
  • Smith
  • Sendero
  • Charm City Yoga
  • WTMD
  • Wamu's Bluegrass Country
  • Eastman Handcrafted Guitars & Mandolins
  • D'Addarío
  • Baltimore Social
  • IBMA
  • MOM's Organic Market
  • NOISE KICK FX
  • Union Craft Brewing
  • Appalachian Bluegrass
  • The 8x10
  • WYPR
  • MissionTix
  • Tenkara
  • Howler
  • FlyTimesDC
  • Internation Violin Company, LTD
  • Phantasy Tour
  • Smith
  • Sendero
  • Charm City Yoga
  • WTMD
  • Wamu's Bluegrass Country
  • Eastman Handcrafted Guitars & Mandolins
  • D'Addarío
  • Baltimore Social
  • IBMA
  • MOM's Organic Market
  • NOISE KICK FX
  • Union Craft Brewing
  • Appalachian Bluegrass
  • The 8x10
  • WYPR
  • MissionTix
  • Tenkara
  • Howler
  • FlyTimesDC
  • Internation Violin Company, LTD
  • Phantasy Tour
  • Smith
  • Sendero
  • Charm City Yoga