The Bridge consists of Cris Jacobs on guitar and vocals, Kenny Liner on mandolin and vocals, Dave Markowitz on bass guitar and vocals, Patrick Rainey on the saxophone, Mike Gambone on drums, and Mark Brown on keyboards. The band has developed a strong following in the Maryland/Washington D.C. area, and as of Fall 2008 have toured much of the United States and parts of western Europe. They were awarded Baltimore's 'Best Band' and 'Best Album' by the Baltimore City Paper reader's poll in 2005. In 2008, they won the Jam Cruise 6 'vote to the boat' contest, earning a spot to play on the annual jam band cruise.
In 2002, they were briefly featured on the television show The Wire which is set in their hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.
The original line-up of the band consisted of Paul Weinberg on drums and Ryan Porter on bass. Porter and Jacobs went to high school together, where they were in a band called Big Fat. Markowitz and Weinberg were also in a high school band together named Black Eyed Susan.
John McCauley, the songwriter behind the Deer Tick moniker, grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, where he began his career by teaching himself to play drums, guitar, piano, and pedal steel. McCauley started recording his own compositions and touring the area while still in high school, and he widened his circle after graduation by touring the entire country. Although he'd often perform solo, the young musician began piecing together a proper band, occasionally playing as a duo with drummer Dennis Ryan or with a small group. His music fit loosely into the alt-country category, but his vocals -- rough, raw, and ragged -- brought a wealth of rock and grunge influences to the sound.
Following the September 2007 release of his first album, War Elephant, McCauley's Deer Tick project began earning comparisons to Bright Eyes, Modest Mouse, and Uncle Tupelo. Although originally released via FEOW! Records, War Elephant was reissued in late 2008 by Partisan Records. Deer Tick remained with that label during the course of two follow-up albums, 2009's Born on Flag Day and 2010's The Black Dirt Sessions. The band's fourth studio outing, Divine Providence, arrived the following year, and featured 12 rowdy and raucous originals drawing inspiration from the raw power of the Stones and the Stooges. 2013's dark-hued Negativity took a more streamlined approach with producer Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) tightening up the band's occasionally ragged sound.
Though they occasionally toured, Deer Tick didn't record again for nearly four years. In September of 2017, the band released not one but two albums simultaneously -- titled Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Recorded at Memphis' famed Ardent Studios, the first disc focused on the band's softer folk-driven, Americana-tinged roots/rock style, while the second allowed Deer Tick to flex its punk-inspired garage rock muscle.
With OUT IN THE OPEN, Steep Canyon Rangers affirm their place as one of the most versatile and idiosyncratic bands in all of contemporary American music. The GRAMMY® Award-winning, North Carolina-based sextet has spent nearly two decades bending and shaping the bluegrass aesthetic, wedding it to elements of pop, country, folk rock, and more to create something original and all their own. OUT IN THE OPEN is perhaps Steep Canyon Rangers’ bravest excursion thus far, transcending bluegrass while in many ways getting closest to the genre’s true form thanks to producer Joe Henry’s very traditional approach towards recording.
Steep Canyon Rangers have been expanding the parameters of bluegrass since coming together in 2000. Since then, the genre-defying band has developed a remarkable catalogue of original music – predominantly co-written by Sharp and bassist Charles R. Humphrey III – that links them to the past while at the same time, demonstrates their ambitious intent to bring string-based music into contemporary relevance.
With that goal in mind, Steep Canyon Rangers have in recent years begun collaborating with some of Americana’s most distinctive producers, working with top studio hands like Larry Campbell (2013’s TELL THE ONES I LOVE) and Jerry Douglas (2015’s RADIO) to take newfangled routes in crafting their ever-evolving approach. OUT IN THE OPEN sees the band teaming up with Joe Henry, an accomplished singer-songwriter as well as a 3x GRAMMY® Award-winning producer (Solomon Burke, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Carolina Chocolate Drops) with a particular affinity for American roots music.
In July 2017, Steep Canyon Rangers arrived at Fidelitorium Recordings in Kernersville, NC, an intimate studio facility built, owned, and operated by legendary producer Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Let’s Active). Having not previously discussed Henry’s plans, the band were surprised to discover that their producer – with the invaluable help of engineer/mixer Jason Richmond – intended to record in classic fashion, with all six members singing and playing in a room with no overdubs. Though Steep Canyon Rangers had some trepidation, they promptly rose to the challenge.
“We’ve recorded in a circle before,” Platt says, “but with baffles and other ways to isolate yourself. This record, if I stepped six inches to my left, I’d bump into the mandolin player. Six inches to my right, I’m bumping into the banjo player. Our microphones were all over each other, if you turned off my vocal mic, I was in twelve other ones. So really there was no way to fix anything, just like our live show.”
Indeed, OUT IN THE OPEN was recorded completely live, with “not one overdub,” says Platt. “Not one vocal, not one instrument.” The organic process allowed SCR to work faster than ever before, tracking a dozen songs in just three-and-a-half fertile days. Tracks were jammed, rehearsed, played, and recorded with no time wasted, the band moving on to the next song after just a couple of hot takes.
“There’s no sleight of hand,” Sharp says. “It may not be straightforward but it’s honest.”
“What you lose in perfection,” says Platt, “you gain in energy and authenticity.”
Though simply recorded, OUT IN THE OPEN is richly textured and fully etched, the band’s uncanny interplay and exceptional musicianship enabling them to create worlds with only the bare essentials at their disposal. “Going Midwest” was laid down in but a single take, with all of the song’s power and emotion captured in real time.
“We only played it once,” Platt says. “We just walked in there and played it. Joe came over the speaker and said, get in here. We went in, a couple of the guys were crying during the playback. It was special.”
Steep Canyon Rangers attempted to fast finish a number of additional songs but Henry wisely advised them to call it a wrap: OUT IN THE OPEN was complete. With that, the band returned to the endless highway they call home for near 150 nights a year. Indeed, Steep Canyon Rangers are easily among the hardest working bands in any genre, anywhere, pulling double duty on their own and as collaborators with Steve Martin. Since teaming with the legendary actor-comedian-writer-banjo player in 2009, SCR has produced not one but two unique bodies of work, dual catalogues in constant development – along with their own works, the band has teamed with Martin for 2011’s GRAMMY® Award-nominated RARE BIRD ALERT and 2017’s THE LONG-AWAITED ALBUM, while also backing Martin’s own partnership with Edie Brickell on both 2013’s LOVE HAS COME FOR YOU and the sold out tour that followed (captured for posterity on 2014’s STEVE MARTIN AND THE STEEP CANYON RANGERS FEATURING EDIE BRICKELL – LIVE CD/DVD).
In addition to the highly anticipated release of OUT IN THE OPEN, 2018 will also see Steep Canyon Rangers uniting with their local Asheville Symphony for a series of unprecedented live performances and the recording of yet another new album, once again pushing their increasingly distinctive music into unexpected terrain.
OUT IN THE OPEN is an undeniable milestone on Steep Canyon Rangers’ ongoing creative journey, its spirited, eclectic approach recasting the myriad sounds of string-based American music in their own unique image. As they fast approach their second decade, Steep Canyon Rangers are still moving forward, as ever searching for new horizons and musical vistas
“When I’m writing a song, it’s not about the hot licks, it’s about the voice and how it can be showcased from song to song,” says musician Jeff Austin. His focus is on transporting his audience by way of his vocal: “It’s the direct communication with the crowd — not just asking them how they’re feeling, but bringing something out of them.” For Austin, the act of speaking to people through his art really means using his voice.
The career of the Colorado-based artist has already seen him break through jam and bluegrass scenes, play stages from The Fillmore Auditorium to Red Rocks Amphitheater, and outdoor events like Telluride Bluegrass Festival and Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, among many others. But with the launch of his solo career in 2014, Austin is now building on the foundations of previous ventures while honing his own sound and charting new courses.
“I’ve learned a lot from the people I’ve played with,” says Austin who has shared stages with such luminaries as Del McCoury, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Earle Scruggs, Jon Fishman, and Phil Lesh. And it’s artists such as these who have helped crystalize Austin’s idea of what he wants to do as he moves forward with his eponymous project. “From both the rock side and the bluegrass side,” he explains, “I’ve learned a lot about song structure, solo ideas, playing with guts, and being who you are.”
Although he considers the Jeff Austin Band his primary focus, the mandolinist and singer is also known for embracing collaborations. In 2004, he released a full-length album with Chris Castino (The Big Wu) that featured guest appearances by Noam Pikelny, Darol Anger, and Sally Van Meter. Just two short years later in 2006, Austin teamed with Keller Williams and Keith Moseley to record a live album of bluegrass takes on Grateful Dead covers. The project, released under the name Grateful Grass, benefited the Rex Foundation. And most recently, Austin revived 30db - his project with Brendan Bayliss of Umphrey’s McGee.
In truth, Austin only began playing the mandolin a few years before co-founding progressive bluegrass outfit Yonder Mountain String Band, a group with whom he parted ways in 2014. And, picking prowess aside, Austin has always considered his voice to be his first instrument. He was drawn to singing from a young age, pursuing musical theater in high school and college. That passion is still evident in his approach to song craft.
Austin draws from those varied roots and readily admits to still loving musicals, being fascinated by Madrigal singers, and tuning-in to a wide range of vocal powerhouses. He channels all of these influences into his solo career, while also seeking personal innovation. For his newest project, Austin sought out musicians on the cutting-edge of the acoustic and jazz music circles. Artists proficient in theory and technique, but not afraid to lend themselves to some “far-out arrangements.” The result is some of Austin’s most structured, yet exciting, compositions to date with an approach that fits within his own evolving journey and personal motto, "The work continues."
Although there is a strong undercurrent of momentum and innovation that course through Austin’s newest project, there is also a connection to the past with the bandleader revisiting selections from his back catalog. Offerings include “Dawn’s Early Light,” “Snow in the Pines,” and others dating back to the 1990s. What matters, Austin points out, is that those songs evoke strong emotional responses both from the audience and himself. Played by this new ensemble, those songs feel revitalized and fresh.
When it comes to dynamics and structure, Austin taps the variety of sounds and styles he's absorbed from theater, jamming, nearly twenty years of performance, and his love of experiencing live music as a fan. It’s that inner concert enthusiast that binds him to his own audience and a powerful exchange between the stage and the crowd. “I hope they take with them exactly what I hope they leave with us,” he says. “And that’s inspiration.”
Formed in late 1971, as a Washington, DC, USA-based semi-professional newgrass bluegrass band. A fellow musician, most probably Charlie Waller of the Country Gentlemen, was responsible for the name, when he suggested that since the members had to fit their musical appearances around their daily employment, they would be seldom seen playing in the area. The founder members were John Duffey (4 March 1934, Washington, DC, USA, d. 10 December 1996, Arlington, Virginia, USA; mandolin, guitar, vocals) and Tom Gray (b. 1 February 1941, Chicago, Illinois, USA; string bass, guitar, mandolin, vocals), who had both previously played with Waller in the Country Gentlemen, Mike Auldridge (b. 30 December 1938, Washington DC, USA; dobro, vocals), Ben Eldridge (banjo, guitar, vocals) and John Starling (b. 26 March 1940, Durham, North Carolina, USA; guitar, lead vocals). All had daily work outside the music industry, although Duffey actually repaired musical instruments through an Arlington, Virginia music store. Gray worked for the National Geographic magazine as a cartographer, Eldridge was a mathematician, while Starling was a US Army surgeon, then working at a local hospital. Auldridge, now one of country music’s finest dobro players, having played on countless recordings as a session musician, as well as recording solo albums, was working as a commercial artist. (Auldridge’s uncle, Ellsworth T. Cozens, a talented multi-instrumentalist, had played steel guitar, mandolin and banjo on Jimmie Rodgers’ recordings in 1928.)
Seldom Scene first played a residency at the Red Fox Inn, Bethesda, in January 1972. This soon led to festival and concert appearances and by 1974, their fine harmonies and musicianship had seen them achieve a popularity almost equal to that of the long-established Country Gentlemen. They recorded a series of albums for Rebel in 1972, before moving to Sugar Hill Records in 1980. There were no personnel changes until 1977, when Phil Rosenthal, who had already written material for the band, including their popular ‘Willie Boy’ and ‘Muddy Water’, replaced Starling (Starling, an exceptional bluegrass vocalist and songwriter, subsequently become a popular artist in his own right, recording several very successful albums for Sugar Hill). In 1986, Rosenthal (who also recorded solo albums) left and was replaced by Lou Reid (fiddle, guitar, dobro, mandolin, lead vocals), who had previously worked with Ricky Skaggs and Doyle Lawson. Tom Gray finally left the group soon afterwards, his place being taken by T. Michael Coleman, who had played previously with Doc Watson. This change also saw an instrumental variation, since Coleman played an electric bass guitar instead of the acoustic stand up bass that Gray had always used.
The band played a special concert, on 10 November 1986, at Washington’s John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts, to commemorate their 15 years in the music business, which was recorded as a double album and included several guest appearances by artists such as Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, Starling, Jonathan Edwards and Waller. The album even contained a liner note from President Ronald Reagan. Five years later, all the eight artists who had been members over the years played together to record another live album, this time at Birchmere, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Seldom Scene’s formation. Auldridge, Klein and Coleman left in 1995 to form Chesapeake, and were replaced by Dudley Connell (ex-Johnson Mountain Boys), Ronnie Simpkins and Fred Travers. Duffey died of a heart attack in December 1996 prior to the release of a new album. Eldridge elected to continue the band without his fellow founding member, and recorded 2000’s Scene It All with Connell, Simpkins, Travers and the returning Reid.
Haas Kowert Tice asked the question, what if? After forging their own brand of roots music—one grounded in timeless tradition, crafted by top-shelf musicianship, and performed with jubilant comradery—what if this trio of America's finest string players became a quartet?
Brittany Haas (fiddle), Paul Kowert (bass), and Jordan Tice (guitar) own the sweat equity of a decade spent stoking the fires of their passion project. Haas, whose 2004 self-titled release instantly became the touchstone for a generation of old-time fiddlers, has since lent her sound to Crooked Still, Live From Here, Michael Daves – and David Rawlings, where she plays alongside Kowert, well known as Punch Brothers’ virtuosic bass player. Tice is a rare guitar player whose music showcases his unique identity and a particular knack for tune-writing. Haas Kowert Tice was a special road they could travel together. Where communication was intuitive, then innovative. Where musical curiosity was boundless and inspiring for each as writers, players, and friends.
Their 2004 album You Got This displays a breadth of acumen and ambition rarely heard on a band’s debut. Norwegian dance rhythms astride traditional Appalachian folk, bluegrass woven progressively into fundamental notions of jazz and chamber music. But for all their success, they found themselves grinding hard through recording sessions for a follow-up record. “I felt like we were missing an element,” says Kowert; “the sound was incomplete.” “We recorded this collection of music first as a trio,” remembers Tice. “Upon listening back to those sessions we kept yearning for more rhythmic energy and robustness in the ensemble sound, so we cut the tunes again with special guests on mandolin and percussion before realizing that what we really wanted was a fourth member to round out the band.”
Enter Dominick Leslie, the versatile mandolinist whose rhythmic sensibility has made him ubiquitous on the acoustic music scene (Noam Pikelny, The Deadly Gentlemen, Brotet). They had all already known each other for years. The trio wanted the rhythmic backbone he offered, and another plectrum to balance the dueling bows of bass and fiddle. His addition thickens the sound and tightens the groove, opening new creative doors. In short, Leslie is a great fit. Says Tice, “because of the time we shared coming up in the same scene, being inspired by the same music, and collaborating in various projects, Dominick was able to instantly find a voice in our music, seamlessly filling it out.” “They have such an established chemistry as a trio, jumping into the mix felt natural,” remarks Dominick.
Reborn a foursome, they recut the music for the next album. The release of Unless, in reality Hawktail’s debut, is certain to confirm that this quartet has found its wings. “It feels as though this is now a whole band capable of doing anything,” says Haas. “The music of Unless represents hours of creation, founded on our years as close friends. And I think you can hear that,” she continues. Kowert adds, “we strove to write strong tunes that could take us to different places while holding to a simple form, for a natural music that breathes. Melodies and basslines arrived together with a core sound, and arrangements seemed encoded in the tunes.”
With Unless, Hawktail has delivered an album of original instrumental music that showcases their unique talents. A mixture of recordings from the studio and from shows, this album was written to be played live for people in a room. The inclusiveness of that extends beyond the speakers: a finger on the string, a rush of energy when you didn’t expect it – this is music made to be enjoyed.
Since Frank Solivan left the cold climes of Alaska for the bluegrass hotbed of Washington, D.C., he’s built a reputation as a monster mandolinist — and become a major festival attraction with his band, Dirty Kitchen. Solivan, with banjoist Mike Munford, 2013 IBMA Banjo Player of the Year, award winning guitarist Chris Luquette and bassist Jeremy Middleton, simmer a bluegrass/newgrass stew from instrumental, vocal and songwriting skills so hot, they were named IBMA’s 2014 Instrumental Group of the Year.
With chops so hot, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen were named IBMA’s 2016 Instrumental Group of the Year for the second time, with a third nomination in 2017. Their critically acclaimed album Cold Spell earned a 2015 GRAMMY nomination for Best Bluegrass Album of the Year, yet the accolades don’t end there.
Solivan, with banjoist Mike Munford, 2013 IBMA Banjo Player of the Year, award-winning guitarist Chris Luquette and bassist Jeremy Middleton, simmer a progressive bluegrass stew of infinite instrumental, vocal and songwriting skills soon to be featured once again on their new album If You Can't Stand the Heat slated to drop January 25th, 2019.
Since leaving the cold climes of Alaska for the bluegrass hotbed of Washington, D.C., Frank Solivan has built a reputation as a monster mandolinist — and become a major festival attraction with his band, Dirty Kitchen. Their respect and deep understanding of the tradition collides, live on stage, with jazz virtuosity creating an unforgettable, compelling performance.
In a wood-paneled country dive bar in the shadow of the San Francisco skyline, Front Country forged a sound that lies somewhere between indie folk and Americana—a genre some might call “Roots Pop”: the past is discernible with a wink and a nod, and the future is here. Like a carpenter building a rocket ship, there is a whimsy to Front Country’s perspective that takes an active, imaginative listener to appreciate. It’s not a sound based on current trends of what any mainstream audience has asked for, it is a new perspective looking to find a new audience. On their latest album, Other Love Songs, Front Country melds the ferocious energy of lead singer Melody Walker with a band of wickedly creative instrumentalists, building on songwriting influences as far afield as King Crimson or tUnE-yArDs. They’re working to translate the incredibly intricate arrangements and structures of the best pop songs into an organic, on-the-fly acoustic string band.
Baltimore-based roots group Charm City Junction puts a new spin on old-timey music, carrying the torch of fast-picking bluegrass and toe-tapping Celtic music. Featuring fiddle, clawhammer banjo, the button accordion and upright bass, this quartet isn’t afraid to take roots music to new places — but always with an eye on tradition.From dance inducing Old Time rhythms and foot stomping Irish melodies to hard-driving Bluegrass, Baltimore-based Charm City Junction creates a fresh soundscape that keeps listeners on the edge of their seats wondering where they'll go next. The band is comprised of four of the most talented and promising young acoustic roots musicians in the country: Patrick McAvinue on fiddle, Brad Kolodner on clawhammer banjo, Sean McComiskey on button accordion and Alex Lacquement on upright bass. Drawing from separate musical backgrounds, the four members have found a common ground on which to develop their unique approach. Patrick McAvinue, one of the most in-demand and highly respected bluegrass fiddlers in the country, takes charge with his virtuosic, powerful and musical approach to the fiddle. Clawhammer banjo wizard Brad Kolodner adds his playful, driving, melodic and groovy Old-Time touch. Sean McComiskey, an incredibly talented Irish button accordion player, soars through the tunes and fills the gaps with his soulful playing. The versatile bassist Alex Lacquement drives the train, locking everything together with his commanding and tasteful choices. Charm City Junction embodies the essence of what acoustic roots music is all about, a shared and burning passion for blazing new trails while respecting the tradition. They are torchbearers with a clear message that the future of acoustic music is in good hands. They released their debut album on Patuxent Records in the fall of 2015. The album hit as high as #15 on the Folk-DJ Radio Charts.
Based on a mutual love of bluegrass, country, blues, western swing, and other string band music of all kinds, the partnership of Dobro player Rob Ickes (who also plays superlative lap steel guitar in the duo on occasion) and acoustic/electric guitarist + vocalist Trey Hensley continues to delight and astound audiences of traditional American music around the globe.
Since the duo decided to join forces and make their collaboration the focus of their touring and recording careers in 2015 and after cutting their first album on Compass Records, Before The Sun Goes Down (nominated for a GRAMMY® Award), they have continued to bring their music to venues near and far.
They’ve performed in places as close to home as Nashville’s world famous Station Inn—a frequent and favorite showcase–and as far away as Denmark’s Tonder Festival as well as an impressive number of the most prestigious U.S. music festivals, including MerleFest, Rockygrass, ROMP, Wintergrass, Bluegrass Underground, AmericanaFest, and the Freshgrass Festival, just to name a few. On the books for 2018 are performances at IBMA’s Wide Open Bluegrass Festival, Vancouver Island MusicFest, Sisters Folk Festival, the Strawberry Music Festival, Larryfest, the Pagosa Folk & Bluegrass Festival, Guitar Town, the Bear Creek Folk Festival, and a co-bill with Jorma Kaukonen at Fur Peace Ranch in Pomeroy, Ohio. The duo has toured the European continent four times, as well as England, Ireland, and Australia, with more European dates set for 2018.
Their second album on Compass, Country Blues, released in 2016, testified to the growing diversity and expansion of their collaborative talents and repertoire. The duo were also key players on Original, the recent highly-lauded Compass Records album by bluegrass giant Bobby Osborne. Their participation garnered a Recorded Event Of The Year Award at the 2017 IBMA Awards for Osborne’s version of “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You” on the GRAMMY®- nominated album. Rob and Trey also were on the 2016 Recorded Event Of The Year IBMA Award winner, “Fireball,” featuring Special Consensus, in 2016.
The duo, who is currently working on their third album, shared a number of concert bills in 2017 with the great and influential mandolin master David Grisman and Australia’s fleet finger picking guitarist Tommy Emmanuel, both enthusiastic admirers of the duo.
Rob and Trey continue to leave their singular—and ever growing—footprint on the world of traditional music of America–be it bluegrass, traditional country, blues, or jazz—both acoustic and electric. Of their collaboration, Rob has said this: “It works in so many different ways…Trey and I have always clicked, and when he and I know what’s going on, everyone else just grabs on—and that’s kind of the fun of the gig; it’s constantly changing.”
Whether they’re appearing as a duo, with a bassist, with bass and drums, or with bass, drums, and fiddle, they never fail to kick up some musical dust. The excitement at their gigs is palpable, it is contagious, and it is constant. Their sets tend to be a heady mix of the familiar and beloved and the new and unexpected. Trey’s list of powerful original songs has grown quickly since the two started working together, and Rob invariably plays several sparkling instrumentals, both on Dobro and lap steel, new and old. He is also on record as saying that one of his great satisfactions as a Dobro player is accompanying a great vocalist, something the partnership allows him every night.
Rob, who grew up in California’s Bay Area, cut his teeth on traditional bluegrass, since several family members played. He fell in love with the Dobro—or more precisely, the resophonic guitar—almost immediately, after his brother Pat played a tape of the legendary Mike Auldridge for him. After moving to Nashville in the early ‘90s, he quickly became one of the instrument’s acknowledged masters. He soon began touring with several top bluegrass acts, and also became a familiar face at recording studios in town. His fluid, lyrical, yet stinging style has graced the recordings and concerts of bluegrass artists as diverse as Earl Scruggs, Alison Krauss, The Cox Family, Tony Rice, and more, plus such mainstream artists as Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Reba McEntire, and even erstwhile rocker David Lee Roth on his bluegrass album. Additionally, Rob has won the Dobro Player of The Year Award from the IBMA an unprecedented 15 times. He was also a founding member of the critically acclaimed bluegrass “super group” Blue Highway for 21 years. Fulfilling a lifelong dream of not only meeting but playing with his personal number one hero, Rob was a key member of the band who backed fellow Californian Merle Haggard on Merle’s 2007 album, The Bluegrass Sessions.
Trey shares Rob’s admiration for the legendary Haggard and features several of his songs in his repertoire. In fact, his rich, resonant baritone voice can sound at times uncannily like The Okie From Muskogee…but he is capable of far more than that. He also plays blues and rhythm and blues on both acoustic and electric guitar, from the repertoires of artists as diverse as The Allman Brothers Band, Ray Charles, Charlie Daniels, and Stevie Ray Vaughan…and Rob and Trey’s rendition of the Grateful Dead’s “Friend Of The Devil” needs to be heard live to be fully appreciated. Trey also shares Haggard’s well-known love of western swing, and he sings it and plays it with authority; Rob loves playing it, too, often on lap steel guitar. Trey is a talented writer as well—the band’s repertoire is dotted with his original compositions. Both he and Rob have what is called in the trade “big ears,” and this musical curiosity has enhanced their music immeasurably.
Even more precocious than his musical partner, Trey grew up in eastern Tennessee, one of the cradles of traditional music. Trey doesn’t seem to have ever doubted what he was meant to do, and in fact, when he was just 11-years-old, he was brought onstage by Marty Stuart to play with Marty and Earl Scruggs—at the Grand Ole Opry. He was making music—and albums—with famous players before his voice changed. Trey has played onstage or opened for artists as diverse as Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels, Steve Wariner, and Peter Frampton. It was his singing on what was meant to be a scratch vocal on a Blue Highway album that first brought him to the attention of Rob Ickes. Ultimately, the vocal stayed on the album, Trey moved to Nashville, and in partnership with Rob, they began to make all manner of exciting music. Shortly after Trey appeared on the scene in Music City, International Bluegrass Hall Of Famer Roland White was heard to remark in wonderment, that he had a new favorite guitar player in Nashville—and Roland knows a few things about guitar players. Needless to say, Roland is not the only fan Trey has made in Nashville and beyond.
In many ways, this musical partnership is the ideal vehicle for both partners. Their excitement about playing together continues unabated; as their enthusiasm charges the creativity of their collaboration on a nightly basis. It is the audience who stands to be the big winner.
Jon Stickley Trio is a genre-defying and cinematic instrumental trio, who’s deep grooves, innovative flatpicking, and sultry-spacy violin moves the listener’s head, heart, and feet. “It’s not your father’s acoustic-guitar music—although Stickley’s pop showed him his first chords when he was 12 years old. Instead, Stickley’s Martin churns out a mixture of bluegrass, Chuck Berry, metal, prog, grunge, and assorted other genres—all thoroughly integrated into a personal style,” writes Guitar Player Magazine.
Premier Guitar says, “Stickley’s trio… is not a traditional bluegrass group by any means… they are just nimble and ambitious enough to navigate EDM-style breakbeats as effortlessly as the old timey standard ‘Blackberry Blossom.’”
“Stickley is a super-resourceful acoustic guitarist who uses the instrument in many surprising ways and whose timing is just flawless. Fiddler Lyndsay Pruett puts deep thought into her flowing solos, plus she adds little flourishes and sudden stops that elevate the music,” proclaims Nashville’s Music City Roots’ Craig Havighurst.
Jon Stickley Trio announces a change in lineup beginning in January 2018 with new drummer, Hunter Deacon, who is both classically trained and boasts heavy jazz influences. Hailing from the ever-hip Knoxville, Tennessee, Hunter studied with drummer Keith Brown and received a BM in Studio Music and Jazz from the University of Tennessee. Deacon then went on to complete a six month residency at a jazz club in Hangzhou, China where he performed seven nights a week. Since his return, he’s played with Scott Miller and the Commonwealth, toured the country with Sam Lewis, and performs with guitarist Mike Baggetta.
Stickley says about the seemingly sudden lineup change, “we’re really excited to add Hunter’s vibe to the mix, his creativity and willingness to experiment were two things that drew us to him, and Lyndsay and I were quickly surprised and inspired by what he’ll bring to the table.”
With inspiration ranging from from Green Day to Duran Duran to Tony Rice to Nirvana, Grateful Dead, David Grisman and beyond, the Trio is making waves with their unique sound. Along with releasing two full length albums and one EP in the past few years, the Trio has zig-zagged the nation, playing over 120 dates in 2017 alone. They are road tested and band geek approved!
Dave King (of The Bad Plus) joined forces with Jon Stickley Trio to produce 2017’s Maybe Believe and 2015’s Lost At Last (which The New York Times called “both respectful and free”) in the band’s hometown of Asheville, NC at the esteemed Echo Mountain Recording Studio. The Trio slipped a self-produced 5-track EP, Triangular, into the mix in December of 2016.
“In a time when a lot of instrumental music feels more like math than art, Jon Stickley Trio reminds us of the pure joy that can be created and shared through music,” says Greensky Bluegrass’ Anders Beck.
Stickley says, “The Trio feels fresher and hotter than ever, we’ve hit our stride in terms of creating tunes that are uniquely us and that’s a really exciting place to be musically. Not to mention we are so stoked to get back to many of our favorite festivals and clubs, and even more excited to play some the ones we’ve always dreamed of. 2018 will, without a doubt, be our best year yet!”
Raw, soulful, and with plenty of swagger, Town Mountain has earned raves for their hard-driving sound, their in-house songwriting and the honky-tonk edge that permeates their exhilarating live performances, whether in a packed club or at a sold-out festival. The hearty base of Town Mountain's music is the first and second generation of bluegrass spiced with country, old school rock ‘n’ roll, and boogie-woogie. It's what else goes into the mix that brings it all to life both on stage and on record and reflects the group's wide-ranging influences – from the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia and the ethereal lyrics of Robert Hunter, to the honest, vintage country of Willie, Waylon, and Merle. The Bend Bulletin’s Brian McElhiney says Town Mountain, “has serious country and rock ’n’ roll DNA.” Town Mountain features guitarist and vocalist Robert Greer, banjoist Jesse Langlais, mandolinist Phil Barker, fiddler Bobby Britt, and Zach Smith on bass.
The word "freedom" evokes all kinds of imagery: running through a wide expanse of untouched nature, setting off on one's own to explore parts unknown, standing up for deeply held beliefs – at the core, each of these manifests what it means to be free.
It's fitting, too, that the word made its way into the title of Town Mountain's new album, New Freedom Blues. As the Asheville quintet's sixth studio album and the follow-up to 2016's Southern Crescent, New Freedom Blues marks an exciting new chapter for the band – one in which they fearlessly consider what it means to make bluegrass-influenced music in the modern era and one that should be a welcome listen for fans who have come to love the band's raucous, no-holds-barred live performances.
"The album is somewhat of a departure from the sound that we’ve typically recorded, our 'bluegrass' sound," banjo player Jesse Langlais explains. "We took the songs at their face value in the studio this time, as opposed to trying to take a song and make it fit inside certain bluegrass parameters. It morphed into this idea that we should be playing the songs for what they are as opposed to what we thought they should be."
Recorded at Asheville's Echo Mountain Studios with producer Caleb Klauder, the 11 tracks that comprise New Freedom Blues span the sum total of the band's eclectic influences, from traditional bluegrass to roots pop to hardscrabble honky tonk. The album also marks the first time the band brought a drummer – Sturgill Simpson collaborator Miles Miller – into the studio.
"Having a full drum kit on the record gave the songs a bigger sound," mandolin player and vocalist Phil Barker says. "Miles has a great musical sense, a deep pocket, and rhythmically, a strong foundation. With him and Zach [Smith] playing together, it was a solid wall of sound for all of us to ride on. He’s really intuitive about what a song needs, when to give it space, and when to make it rock a little harder."
The album opens with the title track, a hard-driving roots rocker about the bittersweet feeling that comes after making the difficult decision to end a relationship. Anchored by a propulsive beat from Miller and featuring virtuosic displays of musicianship from the players themselves, the track seamlessly bridges the gap between the band's old-school influences and their progressive, genre-bending inclinations.
"'New Freedom Blues' is about the feeling you get after you've broken up with someone or done something you thought would be best in the long run," Barker explains. "You keep telling yourself it was the right thing to do, but the second-guessing hurts like hell. The song specifically talks about a relationship, but the feeling could be applied to any life decisions, political or otherwise."
The tune and the album title also cleverly nod to the band's sonic evolution, as well as their willingness to speak up about issues of inequality in the age of Trump. Album highlight "Life and Debt," with lyrics like, "Piles and piles and miles of cash / couldn't get me back to where I once was at," is an unflinching look at the difficult financial realities faced by most Americans.
"Lyrically," I'm trying to convey the struggle that most of us have with some form of debt," Langlais says of "Life and Debt”. "Looking back to my first year of college, I recall credit card companies setting up shop in the student union, essentially handing out lines of credit to children with zero money management skills. It's predatory behavior in my opinion, but I'm trying to get that across in a lighthearted way. However, it is a very serious matter. The line, 'all the money's in the politicians' hands' is a jab at our current political climate. As long as those folks up on Capital Hill continue to keep their pockets greased, this will be an issue."
In crafting the new album, Town Mountain also called upon friend and fellow musician Tyler Childers, who co-wrote the track "Down Low" with Langlais, the album's closing cut and an aching take on, as Langlais puts it, "one's buzz being too big." "To me 'Down Low' has a Waylon vibe, which is a damn good vibe to have," Langlais says. "My favorite line in the song, which was a Tyler line, is, 'I've been getting into meanness on the dark end of the street.' Ahh, that's downright lonesome."
Town Mountain is Langlais, Barker, vocalist/guitarist Robert Greer, fiddle player Bobby Britt, and bassist Zach Smith. Since releasing their debut album Original Bluegrass and Roots Country in 2007, Town Mountain have made a name for themselves in bluegrass and roots circuits and have amassed a sizable catalog of original songs. They've toured with a who's who of like-minded artists, including Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys, the Del McCoury Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Yonder Mountain String Band, and many others. Southern Crescent debuted at number four on Billboard's Bluegrass Chart, and held strong in the Americana Music Association's Radio Chart Top Forty for 10 weeks. In 2016, Town Mountain made their Grand Ole Opry debut, performing both at the Opry House and at the famed Ryman Auditorium.
With New Freedom Blues, Town Mountain has found a way to build off their past accomplishments and deep musical roots and to craft something new, exciting, and unapologetically authentic in terms of who they are as musicians and as people. Langlais sums it up well, saying, "This album illustrates the fact that bluegrass music will continue to be an ever-changing genre.”
Quickly blazing a name for themselves with their progressive approach to American folk music, Fireside Collective delights listeners with memorable melodies and contemporary songwriting. Formed in the mountain city of Asheville North Carolina, the band plays original songs on stringed instruments, intended for a modern audience. Following the release of their debut album “Shadows and Dreams”, the band hit the road seeking to engage audiences with their energetic live show built on instrumental proficiency, colorful harmonies, and innovative musical arrangements.
Well what do you call it?
“Bluegrass, Newgrass, perhaps Progressive folk…” These are some descriptions mandolinist and songwriter Jesse Iaquinto chooses to identify with. “Depending on where you come from and your experience with folk music, you may think we’re very traditional, or on the other hand, consider us a progressive act. We appreciate both ends of the spectrum and may lie on a different end on any given night.” While roots music lies at the core of the Collective’s songs, a willingness to explore the boundaries and present relevant new material remains fundamental.
The band burst onto the scene in early 2014 following the release of “Shadows and Dreams.” The album weaves bluegrass, funk, rock, and blues influences into a refreshing representation of modern folk music. From the opening track “Poor Soul” with it’s energetic bluegrass overtones to the closer “Shine the Way Home”, the album takes listeners on a journey through simple love songs to complex themes such as metaphysics and coexistence. The album, recorded in Asheville at Sound Temple Studios, features guest musicians from Asheville’s rich acoustic music scene alongside members of the Fireside Collective.
2017 was a momentous year for the band as they released their second studio album, "Life Between the Lines." The album helped garner a nomination for an IBMA momentum award for best band. In 2018, the band is scheduled to perform at a number of respected music festivals throughout the country. If you revel in the sounds of acoustic instrumentation, enjoy the excitement of energetic live performances, and delight in the creation of original songs, then follow the Fireside Collective as they journey on in their musical endeavors.
JEFF WESTERINEN (fiddle and vocals) has played Bluegrass and Old Time music professionally for over 40 years. A native Marylander with an itinerant history, Jeff has played fiddle, mandolin and bass in regional bands from New York, Florida, South Carolina and Washington State before moving back to Maryland in September of 2014. He is a veteran of the five-time New York State champion Yankee Rebels and the year 2000 International Bluegrass Music (Pizza Hut) Champion Ohop Valley Boys. A true multi-instrumentalist, Jeff is also known to play a fiddle tune on a mandolin, flatpick a guitar or pick up a banjo to play a breakdown or two.
ANDREA WESTERINEN (bass and vocals) cites the bassist Roy Husky Jr. as one of her early influences. She has played bass in regional bands in Florida, South Carolina, Washington State and Maryland for over 25 years. In the Seattle area, she has performed with the award-winning Ohop Valley Boys and the Stray Dogs at bluegrass festivals and state fairs. Andrea contributes heartfelt vocals and impeccable timing on the bass, providing a solid foundation for Blue Octane. Andrea and her husband Jeff currently make their home in North East, MD with Carter and Ralph, their two boisterous labradoodle dogs.
DAVID ROBERTSON(mandolin and vocals) has played music nearly all his life starting at a young age singing in church and playing mandolin with his father. David was born in Arizona and raised in southern West Virginia. He has traveled many a highway and back road entertaining and making music with multiple bands. David is well-known for his unmistakable tenor voice and can jump in on any song from the Osborne Brothers to New Grass Revival. He has never met a stranger and leaves his audience feeling like they have a made a new friend. David currently lives on the Mason Dixon Line surrounded by an awesome community of bluegrass pickers he calls his friends.
JOHN BROWN (guitar and vocals) grew up around Bluegrass. His father, John Brown, Sr. was a well-known guitar player and singer. At age 8, John got his first guitar and by age 10 he started playing bass with his fathers band, The One Way Express Bluegrass Gospel Band (which he still fills in with occasionally). Throughout the years, John has performed in several New Jersey based bands, including the Home Cooking Band and his own band, the Bel-Aire Boys. In addition, John was a member of Ivan Sexton and the Delaware Valley Boys and has performed several times at the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival.John's biggest musical influences include the Stanley Brothers, Flatt and Scruggs and the Osborne Brothers. His guitar style is influenced by the Stanley Sound and he enjoys cross picking leads. John makes his home in Millville, NJ with his wife Michele and a Chihuahua named Bella.
GEORGE OSING (banjo) George Osing is a long time veteran banjo player from the Ellicott City, Maryland area. He grew up in a house filled with classical piano music from his father. His style is all his own but influenced by star performers such as Ben Eldridge, Gene Parker, Alan Munde and others. His breaks and backup are tasteful and he tries to compliment the other musicians in the band. He has performed with many bands in the local area. Some of them are The Satyr Hill Band, Harford Express, The River Hill band, The Darren Beachley Band and Bluetrain. His hobby, other than music, is fishing the Chesapeake Bay.
Bluegrass and Hip-Hop may sound like an odd combination, but don’t tell that to Producer Rench, who birthed the fusion in 2006, with Gangstagrass. “There are a lot more people out there with Jay-Z and Johnny Cash on their iPod playlists than you think.” says Rench, who had previously made a name for himself as an in-demand Brooklyn country and hip-hop producer and singer/songwriter. He should know – he’s toured the country with a band of bluegrass pickers and hip-hop emcees to the delight of standing room crowds everywhere."
making beats for local NYC rappers and hosting country music nights in popular NYC venues. In 2007, Rench had a musical itch that needed to be scratched – he was listening to the 1970s recordings of Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys and couldn’t help imagining what classic bluegrass would sound like with rap vocals and beats. The result was a genre-demolishing blitz called Rench Presents: Gangstagrass. He put it up for free download and people took notice. Hundreds of thousands of downloads followed creating an intense underground buzz.
When FX Network came to Rench looking for the Gangstagrass sound for the theme song to their new series Justified, he had bluegrass players lay down an original track with rapper T.O.N.E-z, the younger brother of early hip-hop legends Special K and T-LaRoc. The result was "Long Hard Times To Come," the song that opened every episode of six seasons of the hit series. "Long Hard Times To Come" was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2010, contending for best theme song after critical praise and massive fan response.
The same live bluegrass band approach was used to make Lightning On The Strings, Thunder On The Mic, a full length album of with T.O.N.E-z, the emcee featured on the Justified theme song. Two years later the Gangstagrass sound was expanded with the release of Rappalachia, a 15 song album featuring a variety of rappers, including Kool Keith, Dead Prez, Nitty Scott MC, T.O.N.E-z, BROOKLYN35, R-SON, and Dolio The Sleuth. Country singers Brandi Hart from the Dixie Bee-Liners and Jen Larson added gritty harmonies alongside Rench’s choruses. Broken Hearts and Stolen Money was released in 2014. Featuring performances by legendary rap team Smif-N-Wessun, Juno award winning rapper Liquid (of BranVan 3000), Brandi Hart of the Dixie Bee-Liners and Alexa Dirks of Chic Gamine in addition to the now regular crew of emcees and pickers, the album received universal critical acclaim including the Boston Globe labeling the raucus single Two Yards “Essential.” A fourth official album titled American Music was released in April 2015. Featuring a collection of standout original cuts and traditional folk anthems the band once again broke new ground, while also paying tribute to their cast of American songwriting heroes, and debuted at #5 on the Billboard bluegrass charts.
Gangstagrass has toured internationally, blowing minds on main stages from SXSW to Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, with a live stage act taking full advantage of the improvisational aspects of both hip-hop and bluegrass. With two emcees R-Son and Dolio The Sleuth trading verses, Dan Whitener on Banjo, Landry McMeans on dobro, and Rench on guitar, and frequent 3 part harmonies, the Gangstagrass live show has garnered a reputation among fans for its dynamism and spontanaety. Currently touring across the US, Gangstagrass is using live performances to organically develop new material for an album that will further explode the boundaries between genres generally thought to be incompatible.
Caolaidhe came to America from Holywood, Northern Ireland in 2005 to pursue a career in music. While establishing an earlier band, he found himself in need of a fiddle player. As fate would have it, Meghan (a classical violinist) was working at an Irish pub in DC while teaching music at a nearby public school. Through Caolaidhe’s acquaintances, he was lucky enough to meet Meghan and quickly auditioned her for the band. What Caolaidhe didn’t know was that he was auditioning his future wife. Fast-forward a few months down the road, and Meghan and Caolaidhe found themselves living on ’19th Street’ in Arlington, VA, writing songs and creating the sound that would become the backbone of The 19th Street Band.
Characterized by high energy and strong vocal harmonies, The 19th Street Band brings to the house a fusion of Americana, country and rock. Together they ignite an audience with their passion for music, combined with their magnetic presence and enthusiasm. Add to the mix their talented rhythm section, Greg Hardin (bass) & Patty Dougherty (drums), and this band will undoubtedly get you rockin’ & a-rollin’ through the night.
The 19th Street Band has had the honor of sharing the stage with country music stars such as Rodney Atkins, Craig Morgan, and Chuck Mead. They have opened for I Draw Slow, Dangermuffin and Spirit Family Reunion at The Hamilton as well as Grammy Award-winning Western Swing icons, Asleep at the Wheel, at The Birchmere. They have also packed the house at venues and festivals such as the 9:30 Club, The 8x10, Jammin’ Java, Charm City Bluegrass Festival, Kingman Island Bluegrass Festival, The Washington Folk Festival, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville, The Black Box in Belfast, and Hill Country BBQ and Pianos in NYC. The 19th Street Band has steadily been performing 230 shows a year for the past 5 years, and they are recently back from their second annual tour in Ireland, where they performed live on BBC Radio Ulster and were a part of the Open House Festival in Bangor. Their new album, The Things That Matter, is currently getting air play on BBC Radio and multiple radio stations throughout Europe & the UK.
Maybe April is a Country Americana trio made up of Kristen Castro, Katy DuBois (Bishop), and Alaina Stacey. Hailing from Simi Valley, CA, Jonesboro, AR, and Chicago, IL, the three met in the summer of 2012 at a music industry camp in Nashville, TN. They wrote a song that would later take them to Los Angeles to play at a GRAMMY week event, along with Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristofferson, Allen Shamblin, Gavin DeGraw, J.D. Souther, Joy Williams from the Civil Wars, and many others. Since then, amongst hundreds of shows, the girls have opened for Brandy Clark and Sarah Jarosz, played Pilgrimage Music Festival and IBMA's Wide Open Bluegrass Festival, and had their video "Last Time" premiered on CMT. Maybe April is recognized for their three-part harmonies, strength as instrumentalists, and original songs; they each add something different from their musical backgrounds to create a unique sound somewhere in between Americana and Country. Just like their harmonies, Alaina, Katy, and Kristen are a perfect fit. Their love for each other and their music continues to push them in their endeavors in Nashville, where they have been based since 2013.
Established in 2014, Bluetrain is a five piece Bluegrass Band consisting of veteran musicians, Dave Propst on lead vocals and mandolin, Rick Miller on vocals and guitar, Tom Reeves on vocals and bass, George Osing on banjo and Tom Lyons on fiddle.
This versatile bands song selection consists of mostly traditional bluegrass mixed with Country, and some Pop tunes as well. Their songs run from Standard bluegrass from the greats such as Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, Seldom Scene, etc. Country songs include The Fugitive, Is Anyboby Going to San Antone, Your Cheatin Heart. Songs outside of the Bluegrass realm include Gordon Lightfoot's Early Morning Rain, the Greatfull Dead's Dark Hollow and Bill Withers Ain't No Sunshine. Danceable instrumentals are a specialty. Bluetrain has performed at numerous venues in the Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia areas. Regular venues include The Columbia Lakefront Concert, The Lurman Theatre, Goofy's Pub, Jumbo Jimmy's Restaurant, The Blueside Tavern, The Morgan Inn, Rob's Bluegrass Barn, Charm City Bluegrass Festival, and many private parties and events.
Ultrafaux is an acoustic powerhouse of two guitars and upright bass that has thrilled a wide variety of audiences from jazz festivals to concert halls & nightclubs since their first CD release in 2014. lead guitarists Michael Joseph harris and Sami Arefin trade dazzling leads and harmonize together on rich gypsy-inspired melodies. The band often includes top guest artists from the gypsy jazz scene and recently performed at Festival Django Reinhardt in France as the highlight of a European tour that included Brad Brose, Deborah Lartilleux, Renaud Dardenne, Alexandre Tripodi, Lewis Dickenson, and Lisa Liu.
Wicked Sycamore is an all female trio hailing from the DC/ Baltimore area. They can be described as contemporary folk with a mischievous edge that is grounded in traditional and roots music but branches out into jazz, blues, Americana, soul, funk, folk, rock, bluegrass, pop, and more. They write original music ranging from fun and light-hearted sing-alongs to deep, introspective melodic tunes for the ages. No matter the genre, their music relies heavily on thoughtful arrangement, instrumental prowess, and intricate vocal harmonies.
The women of Wicked Sycamore have been playing music together since 2015. Their musical journey began as members of an electric band that played rock, funk, and blues. They soon realized that they shared a desire to explore acoustic interests in a more intimate ensemble. As a trio, their music is driven largely by blending the familiar and traditional with the daring and unexpected. Each member is a multi-instrumentalist who brings a unique background and influence to their sound, highlighting their musicality and progressive songwriting.
Wicked Sycamore has played around the Mid-Atlantic region at various venues, as well as festivals such as The Ladybug Festival, DOAH Festival, Takoma Park Folk and Street Festivals, and have appeared on local television and radio stations such as 89.7 WTMD, 94.3 WOWD, and Fox5 DC News.