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ClayBank's Debut Album "Playing Hard To Forget" Released

Sun, 10/02/2016 - 18:58

Nashville, TN -- Rural Rhythm Records is pleased to announce the debut album Playing Hard To Forget by ClayBank has been released. The current single "Up On Claybank" has appeared on the Bluegrass Today Weekly Airplay Chart several times and is being received enthusiastically by bluegrass radio. Written by band members Zack Arnold and Jacob Greer, "Up On Claybank" features the lead vocal of Zack Arnold and captures the culture and charm of growing up in this rural community.

ClayBank will be featuring songs from their debut album at a very special showcase performance/CD release celebration scheduled at the 2016 IBMA World of Bluegrass today at the Raleigh Convention Center, Room 305 AB at 2:00 pm.

ClayBank members contributed three original songs to the album, "Foot Of The Phoenix", "Daddy Would Sing" and the first single"Up On Claybank". The band also reached out to some of the top songwriters for songs on their debut album including; Becky Buller ("How I Love You"), Milan Miller and James Ellis("Playing Hard To Forget", "A Little Bit Of You"), Randall Hylton ("It Almost Feels Like Love"), Eli Johnston and Kevin McKinnon ("Demise of Handsome Molly"), as well as Dennis Linde, Stephen Paul Phillips, Lee Black, Kenna Turner West, Jay Don Johnson.

Playing Hard To Forget Track List:

  1. "How I Love You" (Becky Buller)
  2. "Demise Of Handsome Molly" (Eli Johnston, Kevin Mckinnon)
  3. "It Almost Feels Like Love" (Randall Hylton)
  4. "A Little Bit Of You" (Milan Miller, James Ellis)
  5. "My Baby's Gone" (Dennis Linde)
  6. "I'll Stick With The Old Stuff" (Stephen Paul Phillips)
  7. "Up On Claybank" (Jacob Greer, Zack Arnold)
  8. "Daddy Would Sing" (Gary Trivette)
  9. "Foot Of The Phoenix" (Jacob Greer, Zack Arnold)
  10. "I Believe" (Lee Black)
  11. "Playing Hard To Forget" (Milan Miller, James Ellis)
  12. "On My Way Back To You" (Jay Don Johnson)

Produced by Steve Gulley and ClayBank, Playing Hard To Forget delivers drive, high energy and beautiful harmonies that fans have been experiencing at ClayBank's live shows and can now be enjoyed on their debut album on Rural Rhythm Records.

Playing Hard To Forget can be downloaded by D.J.'s at AirPlay Direct and is available now on iTunes, Amazon and wherever Bluegrass music is sold. For more information and tour dates on ClayBank go to

Hailing from the mountains of western North Carolina, an area that is steeped in the musical heritage of bluegrass, old-time and gospel music, ClayBank has been turning heads in the Bluegrass community ever since their formation a little over a year ago. The band took the grand prize at the 2016 band competition at RenoFest (an event honoring the late and legendary musician, Don Reno) and 3rd place honors this year at the 2016 SPBGMA (Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music) National Band Championship.

ClayBank consists of youngsters Zack Arnold (16) on mandolin and vocals and Jacob Greer (17) on guitar and vocals along with Tyler Thompson on banjo and vocals and Gary Trivette on bass and vocals. The band takes their name from the community of Claybank (near West Jefferson, NC) that is not only where they meet together to hone their craft but the place that embodies the very spirit of the music they play. The band members are not related by blood but are tightly knit by the love of the music that they share as well as their love for the Lord.

Tags: ClayBankRural RhythmCD ReleasePlaying Hard to Forget

Foggy Mountain Troubadour: Book Signing with Penny Parsons

Sun, 10/02/2016 - 18:52

Join the fans of Curly Seckler for a book signing with Penny Parsons, author of “Foggy Mountain Troubadour: The Life and Music of Curly Seckler” at the Earl Scruggs Center! Refreshment packages including one beverage of your choice (wine, beer, or soft drink) and an assorted fruit and cheese plate are available for pre-order.

Learn more about Penny Parsons’s new book “Foggy Mountain Troubadour: The Life and Music of Curly Seckler”. Known for his soaring tenor vocals and trademark mandolin style, Curly Seckler had a seventy-seven-year career in bluegrass and country music. Playing in Flatt and Scruggs’s Foggy Mountain Boys in their formative years from 1949 to 1962 secured him a place in bluegrass history.

Parsons tells Seckler’s story from a small town in North Carolina to the Grand Ole Opry and the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Author Penny Parsons has been a regular contributor for Bluegrass Unlimited magazine for 35 years. She was marketing and promotions director at Sugar Hill Records for eleven years, worked as the publicity director for MerleFest for nine years, and has served as Curly Seckler’s manager and producer since 2004.

“Let us shower Penny Parsons and Curly Seckler with roses for their wonderful collaboration on ‘Foggy Mountain Troubadour’. Curly Seckler is one of the most beloved and revered of all the first-generation country and bluegrass music pioneers. Ms. Parsons not only illuminates Mr. Seckler’s storied life but also reports rarified accounts that offer us insight into the humanity that underscored the people, songs, live performances, recordings, and travels surrounding what is now considered to be one of the most mythical bands ever to play: Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, and the Foggy Mountain Boys. Penny Parsons is not only an authentic biographer, she is also a first-rate musical detective.”–Marty Stuart

CLICK HERE for free event registration and to purchase refreshments.

Earl Scruggs Center
103 S. Lafayette St.
Shelby, NC 28150

Tags: Curly SecklerPenny ParsonsFoggy Mountain TroubadourBookEarl Scruggs Center

27th International Bluegrass Music Award Winners

Sat, 10/01/2016 - 19:03

The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) was held Thursday and the winners were announced during the annual Awards Show. The 2016 Awards Show was held Thursday, September 29 at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Memorial Hall in the Oak City, lovely Raleigh, NC. Sierra Hull and Dan Tyminski hosted the gala event.

Known as bluegrass music’s biggest night of the year, the International Bluegrass Music Awards acknowledges the year’s outstanding talent and achievements, honors new Hall of Fame inductees, and waves the worldwide flag for bluegrass music. A new and exciting group, The Earls of Leicester, featuring Barry Bales, Jerry Douglas, Shawn Camp, Charlie Cushman and Johnny Warren captured their second consecutive award for Entertainer of the Year.

The big surprise was one of our favorite groups, Flatt Lonsome who garnered trophies for Vocal Group of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the year. Since their debut in 2011, Flatt Lonesome has enjoyed a nearly unprecedented journey that has placed them among bluegrass music's elite. Bluegrass Today calls Flatt Lonesome "the sort of band bluegrass needs right now" and says their brand of original bluegrass is "some of the freshest our genre has been offered in a while." Stellar picking and heartfelt songs centered around beautiful sibling harmony have made Flatt Lonesome a hit among bluegrass fans both young and old and their vibrant, youthful spirit, with careful respect toward tradition, has earned the praise of peers twice their age.

Winners of the 27th Annual International Bluegrass Music Awards:

  • Entertainer of the Year: The Earls of Leicester
  • Female Vocalist of the Year: Becky Buller
  • Male Vocalist of the Year: Danny Paisley
  • Vocal Group of the Year: Flatt Lonesome
  • Instrumental Group of the Year: Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
  • Song of the Year: "You're the One," Flatt Lonesome
  • Album of the Year: Runaway Train, Flatt Lonesome
  • Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year: "All Dressed Up", Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers
  • Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year: "Fireball," Special Consensus featuring Rob Ickes, Trey Hensley and Alison Brown
  • Emerging Artist of the Year: Mountain Faith
  • Recorded Event of the Year: "Longneck Blues," Junior Sisk and Ronnie Bowman
  • Instrumental Awards:
    • Banjo Player of the Year: Charlie Cushman
    • Bass Player of the Year: Barry Bales
    • Dobro Player of the Year: Jerry Douglas
    • Fiddle Player of the Year: Becky Buller
    • Guitar Player of the Year: Bryan Sutton
    • Mandolin Player of the Year: Sierra Hull
  • Inductees into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame were:
    • Clarence White
    • Founders of Rounder Records: Ken Irwin, Marian Leighton Levy and Bill Nowlin
  • Distinguished Achievement Awards:
    • Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine
    • Boston Bluegrass Union
    • SiriusXM Radio's Bluegrass Junction
    • Bill Emerson
    • Jim Rooney
  • Tags: IBMA AwardsIBMAAwards ShowThe Earls of LeicesterFlatt Lonesome

    Michael Cleveland goes Viral "Fiddler's Dream" Video

    Thu, 09/29/2016 - 19:23
    Nashville, TN -- Compass Records writes, "We could not have been happier when the team here at Compass headquarters learned that Michael Cleveland had gone 'viral', racking up over 6M views in a matter of days for a backstage video shot with a stranger's phone. A precious example of the truly deserving finding its place in the landscape of cat videos, pratfalls and teenagers talking about themselves that dominate the internet."

    As the most awarded fiddler in bluegrass history, Michael is well known in the community but up until this point was not as widely known to mainstream music fans. Now, with this chance exposure and the excellence of his new album, we believe that's about to change. What he achieves with Fiddler's Dream is a definining statement of his artistry.

    For those who know him, he shows more of the incendiary, transcendent playing he's known for, but also illustrates his facility with mandolin, guitar, and songwriting. For those who have just discovered him, it showcases an outstanding performer in his prime surrounded by the best in bluegrass like Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Barry Bales, Jeff Guernsey, Andy Statman, Vince Gill and producer Jeff White. It's the perfect follow up to the video that inspired so many views, shares, and words of praise.

    Michael Cleveland is one of bluegrass music's great treasures: a 10-time IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year, 4-time Instrumental Group of the Year winner and 2016 nominee, Cleveland captured the attention of the bluegrass community as a child prodigy who performed on the Grand Ole Opry with Alison Krauss when he was only 13 years old. But he became a viral video sensation this summer with a virtuoso impromptu performance of "Jerusalem Ridge" that racked up over 6 million views in just a few days. Now mainstream music fans are discovering what the bluegrass community has known for years—that Michael Cleveland is one of the most important fiddle players of his generation.

    Fiddler's Dream will be released October 7th on Compass Records. Fans can pre-order the album today from Compass Records for just $11.99.

    Tags: Michael ClevelandCD ReleaseFiddler's DreamVideo

    2016 IBMA Momentum Award Winners Announced

    Wed, 09/28/2016 - 19:14

    Nashville, TN -- The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) has announced the for the 2016 Momentum Awards which were handed out at a luncheon at the World of Bluegrass Business Conference, Wednesday, September 28, at the Raleigh Convention Center in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. The Momentum Awards focus on artists and industry people who are in the early stages of their bluegrass music careers. Performance awards go to one band, one vocalist and three instrumentalists, while three industry awards go to a Mentor, Industry Achiever and a Festival/Venue/Event.

    Nominees and recipients are selected by a multiple committee-driven process. Regional and local associations -- as well as all IBMA members -- are encouraged to identify serious emerging artists and leaders for consideration. With the exception of the Mentor category, anyone previously nominated for an IBMA Award may not be considered for a Momentum Award.

    The 2016 Momentum Award Recipients are:

    • Event of the Year:
      • Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival
    • Industry Involvement:
      • Brad Kolodner
    • Mentor:
      • Stephen Mougin
    • Band:
      • Lil’ Smokies
    • Instrumentalist (3 are selected):
      • Billy Strings
      • Molly Tuttle
      • Jake Workman
    • Vocalist:
      • Melody Walker

    IBMA is the professional trade organization for the global bluegrass music community. The organization’s six-year stay in Raleigh is the result of a partnership with The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Raleigh Convention Center, PineCone (The Piedmont Council of Traditional Music), the City of Raleigh, and a local organizing committee. For more information:

    Tags: IBMA AwardsMomentum AwardAwardsInternational Bluegrass Music Association

    Exceptional Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion is an Event to Relish

    Tue, 09/27/2016 - 17:27
    Bristol, VA/TN -- The 2016 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion has come to a close. The start of the region's premier festival was some mighty fine weather and a kick off with some outstanding music. The thing about this festival is that with so many stages operating at the same time, one needs to set up their schedule in advance. The producers of this festival understand that and provide a web site where you can customize your schedule and, they have a mobile app that you can download to manage it while you take in all the other activities. The new Birthplace of Country Music Museum is a must see while you're here -- or really anytime you in the area!!!

    Our focus at Cybergrass was on bluegrass and bluegrass related music. While impossible to attend all the events due to the number of artists and stages, this is the place where we can go pretty out of the trench to find new music to experience. With so much regional talent in once place, that isn't difficult to do. It's everywhere! From bluegrass to blues and string bands to traditional country its a smorgasboard of acoustic tastes to please almost any pallet. It is also a great event to explore new talent to sample.

    One of the first sets we caught was Becky Buller at the Country Music Mural Stage. This group emotes energy, fun, emotion and the music. An awesome showing of talent collected on one stage. We spoke with Becky regarding her time at Bristol and her upcoming project. A download and information on it may be found at

    I spoke with Russell Moore and congratulated him on is nominations and his recent album, It's About Tyme. We discussed his music and his latest album's ability to endure over time. Many artists put out an album that consumers tire of soon and rarely listen to again. Russell's music is music you can continue to listen to for years. It has that facet that doesn't get tiring after many listens. He and IIIrd Tyme Out put on an amazing show that fully illustrated why this group continues to be at the top of the charts and a fan favorite year after year after year...

    Another high-energy act was Trey Hensley and Rob Ickes. This dynamic duo is just awesome. The power and emotion of the songs and the music was a major hit at this year's event. The audience area of the Country Mural Stage on State Street was totally packed for their performance. I spoke with Trey about him and rob getting together and here are his commments...

    Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion isn't like any other music event I have ever attended. 20 stages with performances covering three days with a very diverse group of artists representing roots music from the region and the county results in something for everybody. It is fun to visit the stages and the smaller acts in between the main shows.

    This was the first time I was able to experience the music of 11 year old EmiSunshine, also known as Emilie Sunshine Hamilton, a young country music singer that covers the classics more than today's pop country. The people from this region all seem to know her through her performaces in the region. She was a big hit and the crowd totally loved her.

    One group that had it all together was Forlorn Strangers. I met with the band in the artist area. The band has just released their self-titled album. Forlorn Strangers is a quintet based out of Nashville, Tennessee. The band is a collective of five songwriters, each having their own distinct styles that blend into one unmistakable voice. Their sound delves into all reaches of American roots music. Their stage presence was full of happy, fun energy that the audience absorbed graciously. Their album is available on their website at

    Marty Stuart & the Fabulous Superlatives put on an amazing show Sunday evening. While the close was in the rain, the fans stuck it out with umbrellas in hand and the rain didn't even dampen their spirits. The people and fans of Bristol love their music, rain or shine, and it showed throughout the festival.

    In the Tri-Cities and The Crooked Road region, this is one of the best musical events around. While there are certainly others throughout the season in this region, this event is the big draw. Others I would like to see take the stages at this event would certainly include Blue Highway, Leroy Troy and a host of others. There is plenty going on and this event just gets better and better with age. Like a good wine, it is served at the right time.

    Tags: Bristol Rhythm & Roots ReunionRob Ickes & Trey HensleyBecky Buller

    John McEuen to Introduce Hi-Def Solo Album

    Mon, 09/26/2016 - 19:02

    Nashville, TN – Grammy-award winning producer, songwriter and musician John McEuen (one of the founding members of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) steps up the pace in preparation for the release of his new solo album titled Made In Brooklyn.* Scheduled to drop Friday, September 30, 2016 on Chesky Records, the project will be available via all major digital retail outlets (Amazon, iTunes, HD Tracks, etc.).

    As part of the promotion campaign, McEuen made a number of appearances at last week's Americana Music Festival in Nashville. This week, he is slated to introduce the 16-track, high-definition audiophile album on a variety of national and local radio shows, at an industry release celebration (scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, September 27 at BMI, Nashville), and in a special appearance on the Grand Ole Opry (joined by John Carter Cash, Martha Redbone and Matt Cartsonis). McEuen will travel to Raleigh, NC to attend the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) annual conference. He will perform at an album release showcase at which Deering Banjos will unveil the new John McEuen Signature Line.

    "I am very excited about this record; I feel this album is the culmination of every musical influence I've experienced throughout my career," John McEuen stated. "I think it is a true record of an 'event'--these hot players knocking it out all at once! I truly believe it's my best work ever."

    Created in similar fashion to the landmark WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN, McEuen brought together an eclectic assembly of extraordinary musicians into one room for the recording of this historic project. Borrowing from an old-fashioned, live production method, musicians were strategically positioned in a reverberant church (located in Brooklyn, NY) for a single-pass recording. The live performances were captured in high-resolution (24-bit/192kHz) with the single binaural "Dummy Head" microphone system creating a lush, multi-dimensional listening experience. As with the CIRCLE album, once again, the listener is given the impression of being there during the actual recording session.

    Described in early reviews by media and music professionals as a "beautiful," "masterpiece," "breathtaking experience" and "lovely acoustic ramble" that is "Grammy-worthy," Made In Brooklyn will appeal to all genres and all generations.

    Making early introductions to the project, Chesky Records released the debut single "Excitable Boy;" the track is available via all major retail digital and streaming outlets and is the pre-sale instant gratification track.

    Made In Brooklyn • Available 9/30/2016 via all major digital retail outlets and HD Tracks.

    Tags: John McEuenCD ReleaseMade in Brooklyntechnology

    Carter Fold Presents Whitetop Mountain Band Saturday

    Sun, 09/25/2016 - 18:28

    Saturday, October 1st, 2016, at 7:30 p.m., the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia, will present a concert of old time music by the Whitetop Mountain Band. Admission to the concert is $10 for adults, $1 for children 6 to 11, under age 6 free.

    Whitetop Mountain Band is a family-based band from the highest mountains of Virginia. Whitetop is an area rich in old time music tradition, and this band has deep roots in mountain music. The band's members have worked tirelessly to preserve the region's style of old time fiddling and banjo picking and are legendary musicians and teachers of the style. Their shows are high energy and unlike any other show you have ever seen. There's everything from fiddle and banjo instrumentals to powerful solos and harmony vocals on blues, classic country, honky tonk, traditional bluegrass numbers, old timey ballads, originals, four-part mountain gospel songs – and some flat foot dancing. Well-known for their charisma on stage and their ability to engage audiences of all ages, this group has been performing at the Carter Fold since shows first began at the A.P. Carter Grocery in the 1970s.

    The Whitetop Mountain Band is one of the most popular dance bands of the Appalachian Mountains. They have a great following at square dances all over Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky at venues like the Carter Fold. The group has performed throughout the U.S. at festivals, concerts, competitions, and colleges. The Smithsonian Folklike Festival, National Folklife Festival, World Music Institute in New York City, the Carter Family Festival, the Dock Boggs Festival, the World's Fair, the Virginia Arts Festival, Floydfest, Ola Belle Reed Festival, and Merlefest are a few of the many festivals that have featured the band. The group has toured in England, Wales, Ireland, and Australia. They have taught at workshops and classes all over the U.S. like the Swannanoa Gathering, Cowan Creek Music School, Big Stone Gap's Mountain Music School, and the Mt. Rogers Combined School. They were featured on a NCTA music tour of the east and west coasts in 2010.

    Arhoolie, the Virginia Foundation of the Humanitie, JuneAppal, Heritage, and Rounder Records are a few of the labels they have recorded for. In addition, they have been featured in many magazines, TV shows, and radio programs. Whitetop Mountain Band was recently given the "Entertainer of the Year" award in the old time category at the ACMA's Blueridge Acoustic Uprising.

    The band originated with Albert Hash in the 1940s. Albert was a well-known and beloved fiddler and luthier. As a teenager, Albert played with Henry Whitter of Grayson & Whitter. Grayson & Whitter recorded in the 1920s. The tune "Hangman's Reel" that Albert recorded is the same version played by so many old time musicians today. He taught Wayne Henderson, Audrey Ham, and many others to build instruments.

    In the 1970s, Albert's brother-in-law, Thornton Spencer, and his wife Emily joined Albert in the Whitetop Mountain Band. The three also started an old time music program at Mt. Rogers School, a small K-12 public school in Whitetop. The students learn fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass, and dancing. Emily Spencer has carried on the program, and it has received a lot of regional and national attention for its' uniqueness – including Grammy and CMT nominations.

    The Whitetop Mountain Band is still carried on today by Thornton Spencer on fiddle and Emily Spencer on banjo and vocals. Their daughter, Martha Spencer plays with the band as well. She is a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, banjo, fiddle, and bass) and fine vocalist and dancer. Debbie Bramer moved from Michigan to Fancy Gap, Virginia. She plays bass in the band and dances. Debbie has been part of several clogging teams and has been active in many dance workshops and competitions. Ersel Fletcher plays guitar and adds his vocal talent to the group.

    The fast-paced mountain music of the Whitetop Mountain Band of Grayson County is definitely a family affair. Be sure to check out the Spencers and their family band at the Fold. Lots of people play old time music, but no one plays it with as much fierce intensity – or absolute fun – as the Whitetop Mountain Band! For additional information on the group, go to

    Carter Family Memorial Music Center, Incorporated, is a nonprofit, rural arts organization established to preserve traditional, acoustic, mountain music. For further information on the center, go to Shows from the Carter Family Fold can be accessed on the internet at Partial funding for programs at the center is provided by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. For recorded information on shows coming up at the Fold, call 276-386-6054. The Fold is on Facebook – page Carter Fold – and Twitter – @carterfoldinfo. To speak to a volunteer Fold staff member, call 276-594-0676. If we don't answer you right away, we'll get back to you in 24 hours.

    Tags: Whitetop Mountain BandCarter Family FoldConcertEvent

    Official IBMA Kick-Off Party with Lonesome River Band

    Sat, 09/24/2016 - 20:17

    Raleigh, NC -- The Official International Bluegrass Association’s World of Bluegrass Kick-Off Party, sponsored by Moonstruck Management, will feature Lonesome River Band who are nominated for four IBMA Awards this year. The party will take place on Tuesday, September 27, 6:00 p.m. at the Lincoln Theatre located 126 E Cabarrus Street in Raleigh.

    Music fans will be admitted with an IBMA Business Conference Badge, or a Bluegrass Ramble wristband. Shuttle service will be offered for conference attendees from the Convention Center to the Lincoln Theatre immediately following the Keynote Address.

    At 7:00 p.m., immediately following Lonesome River Band’s Kick-Off Party, the IBMA Bluegrass Ramble showcase will begin. At 10:00 p.m., bluegrass music fans are invited to remain at the Lincoln Theatre for the Moonstruck Management Showcase featuring performances by NewTown at 10:00 p.m., Lonesome River Band at 11:00 p.m., Trinity River Band at 12:00 a.m., followed by the Moonstruck Mash featuring the incredible talents of: Sammy Shelor, Dave Adkins, Brandon Rickman, Jesse Smathers, Kati Penn Williams, Jr. Williams, Sarah Harris, Joshua Harris, and Travis Anderson. Dave Adkins, who had one of the most successful bluegrass albums of 2016, will also serve as Emcee for the night.

    On Wednesday, September 28 at 3:30 p.m, Lonesome River Band will perform at the Mountain Home Music Company’s Showcase being held from 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. in Room 305 A-B of the Raleigh Convention Center.

    Later that evening, Sammy Shelor will also be part of the Virginia is for Music Lovers Ramble at The Architect Bar & Social House from 9:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. The event features Jim Lauderdale and Friends Sammy Shelor, Wayne Henderson, Virginia Luthiers, Dani Flowers, The Church Sisters, and Hackensaw Boys

    Lonesome River Band's four IBMA Award Nominations this year includes one for Album of the Year for Bridging the Tradition. This groundbreaking album, released in March on Mountain Home Music Company, features two nominated tracks - “Thunder and Lightning” written by Adam Wright for Song of the Year and “Rocking of the Cradle” written by Kim Williams and Doug Johnson for Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year. Sammy Shelor, received a nomination for Banjo Performer of the Year - an Award he has been presented with five times during his impressive career. Lonesome River Band will perform during the 27th Annual International Bluegrass Music Awards Show. This special event will be held Thursday, September 29, 2016 at Raleigh’s Duke Energy Center for The Performing Arts. Shelor will also present an award during the event. For more information on IBMA, please visit

    For more information on Lonesome River Band, please visit and join them on Twitter and Instagram.

    Nothin' Fancy Releases "Where I Came From"

    Fri, 09/23/2016 - 19:35

    Willis VA -- Mountain Fever Records is proud to announce the release of brand new music from Nothin' Fancy. "Where I Came From" is available to radio today and is the title track of a new album due for release October 7th.

    Where I Came From is Nothin' Fancy's sophomore album for Mountain Fever Records since signing with the Virginia-based label in 2015. Nothin' Fancy, also based in Virginia, is comprised of Mike Andes on mandolin, Mitchell Davis on banjo, Chris Sexton on fiddle, Tony Shorter on bass and Caleb Cox on guitar. Together, the band hosts one of the most successful fall bluegrass festivals in the country annually, drawing thousands to Buena Vista located in the Shenandoah Valley region of the state. With this year's festival happening September 22nd through 25th, it only made sense for the band to introduce an audience of their most loyal fans to their new single, touting their love for their home-state.

    "Mike Andes writes much of the material for Nothin' Fancy including 'Where I Came From,'" stated Mark Hodges of Mountain Fever Records. "In the song, the singer laments of missing his home in Virginia and longing to return. When it became clear that would be the title of the album, it made sense to launch the title track as the first single and release it to radio the same week as the Nothin' Fancy Bluegrass Festival. Some of the band's most loyal fans travel from all over the country to join the band for this event each year so it was just a natural fit."

    "Where I Came From" is the first single from the band's second album for Mountain Fever Records and radio programmers may download the single via AirPlayDirect.Consumers may download the first single and preorder the album here. Where I Came From will be released everywhere great music is sold on October 7th. For more about Nothin' Fancy and the Nothin' Fancy Bluegrass Festival, visit For more about Mountain Fever Records, visit

    Tags: Nothin' FancyCD ReleaseWhere I Came FromMountain Fever Records

    Larry Stephenson Band to Release “Weep Little Willow”

    Thu, 09/22/2016 - 20:12

    Nashville, TN -- Whysper Dream Music is proud to announce the new album, Weep Little Willow by the Larry Stephenson Band, will be released on Friday, October 14, 2016.

    Pre-orders are available now at and coming soon on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby and more fine retail outlets. Radio programmers are being serviced the first single, “Yesterday’s Gone” today.

    The band is offering a special on their Facebook page for the first 25 fans who pre-order Weep Little Willow. They will receive a FREE autographed copy and a digital download for the Larry Stephenson Band’s last album – the award-winning Pull Your Savior In.

    This Friday, September 23, they will perform songs from the new album at the Nothin’ Fancy Bluegrass Festival in Buena Vista, Virginia.

    Next week, they head to Raleigh, North Carolina for the annual International Bluegrass Music Association’s highly attended World of Bluegrass where they will perform at the MerleFest Showcase on September 28 at 10:00 p.m. to be held at The Vintage Church at Longview Center located at 118 South Person Street.

    On September 30 at 2:45 p.m., be sure to catch the Larry Stephenson Band's performance at the exciting IBMA Wide Open Bluegrass Street Festival on the Davie Street Stage.

    Mark your calendars for the Weep Little Willow Album Release Concert on Friday, October 14, 2016 at Lorraine’s Coffee House in Garner, N.C.

    Weep Little Willow was produced by Ben Surratt and Larry Stephenson. The album and band includes the talents multi-award winner Larry Stephenson on lead vocals and mandolin with Kenny Ingram on banjo and vocals, Kevin Richardson on guitar and vocals, and Matt Wright on upright bass and vocals. For more information on the band, please visit

    Throughout his 25-year career fronting his own band, and almost forty years as a major touring performer, Larry Stephenson has been well-recognized and awarded by fans and his peers in the recording industry. In 1996, Stephenson was inducted into the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame by the Virginia Folk Music Association. Since that time, he has garnered numerous other awards including being named Contemporary Male Vocalist of the Year by the Society and Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA.)

    Tags: Larry Stephenson BandCD ReleaseWeep Little Willow

    Wayne Henderson and Friends at Carter Fold Saturday

    Thu, 09/22/2016 - 19:59

    Hiltons, VA -- Saturday, September 24th, 2016, at 7:30 p.m. the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia, will present a concert by an old time band - Wayne Henderson and Friends. Wayne Henderson's top-notch finger-picking is a source of great pleasure and pride to his friends, family, and neighbors in Grayson County, Virginia. His guitar playing has also been enjoyed at Carnegie Hall, in three national tours of Masters of the Steel-String Guitar, and in seven nations in Asia. In addition to his reputation as a guitarist, Henderson is a luthier of great renown. He is a recipient of a 1995 National Heritage Award presented by the National Endowment for the Arts. He produces about twenty instruments a year, mostly guitars; he is almost as well-known for the mandolins he has made. Doc Watson owned a Henderson mandolin.

    Some of Henderson's instruments are intricately decorated, but they are most respected for their volume, tone, and resonance. Blues guitarist John Cephas said that Wayne Henderson "is probably the most masterful guitar maker in this whole United States." There is a waiting list for Henderson's guitars made up of the "famous (and not-so-famous)." He built a custom guitar for Eric Clapton. Above and beyond his great talents as a musician and instrument maker, Wayne Henderson is known as a "friend to everyone" and shares his talents and knowledge unselfishly. Wayne is one of the finest people you'll ever meet. He works tirelessly to promote the music of the mountains. You will never find a more humble, down-to-earth person than Wayne. He represents our region in a way few others could. There probably isn't a guitar picker anywhere who can out-pick Wayne. You truly have to see him to believe it.

    Rounding out Wayne's group of friends accompanying him will be Helen White on fiddle and guitar, Greg Cornett on banjo and vocals, and Herb Key on bass. You couldn't find a group of finer musicians if you tried.

    Helen is as good on fiddle as she is on guitar, and her vocals are exceptionally beautiful. A very accomplished musician, Helen has worked all her life with young people. Once of her biggest accomplishments was getting the JAM program active – not only in the state of Virginia – but the entire region. JAM stands for Junior Appalachian Musicians; their web site is Just a few weeks ago, our audience saw the evidence of all the hard work and devotion Helen and others put into getting JAM into our area schools when students from the Scott County JAM program played a couple of numbers on stage at the Fold as guests of the ETSU Old Time Pride Band. It was heartwarming to see the group of young people – nearly 20 of them – playing their hearts out. The songs they did were quite good, and these talented children of Appalachia now have the option of pursuing music as a career should they choose to.

    Greg Cornett is perhaps best known for his banjo playing - and he's great. He also plays guitar, does beautiful vocals, and can whistle like no one you have ever seen. Greg is well known in the area not only as a fine musician, but as a friend to anyone who's lucky enough to meet him and get to know him. He's warm, entertaining, talented, and so sweet you just want to take him home with you. A good friend of Dr. Joe Smiddy, everyone who works at Wellmont knows Greg. Dr. Joe Smiddy first introduced him to Fold audiences, and he's been a part of the Fold ever since. Dr. Smiddy has graciously served on the Carter Music Center's Board of Directors since it was set up in 1979. In addition, he willing accepted the Fold's reigns after Janette Carter's death and served as the Board's president. Introducing us to Greg is just one of the many fine things he's done for the Fold. For more information on Greg, go to

    Herb Key is unlike anyone else you'll ever meet. One of the finest doghouse bass players there is, he's good at everything he does. In addition to playing bass, Herb will be doing some old time songs. He knows lots of them. Herb is a friend to our music, and he's a true southern gentleman. A serious gardener, he and Uncle Joe Carter used to swap tomatoes and tales and tricks of gardening. You will never see Herb without a sweet smile on his face. Talented, warm, and gracious, Herb is an example of all that's good about our Appalachian region. When it comes to bass players, Herb Key ranks right up there with the best there is.

    For one of the best nights of old time music you can imagine, don't miss Wayne Henderson and Friends at the Carter Family Fold. Concert admission is $10 for adults, $1 for children 6 to 11, under age 6 free. Be sure to bring along your dancing shoes – and your friends! For more information on Wayne and all the work he does for our area's music, visit

    Carter Family Memorial Music Center, Incorporated, is a nonprofit, rural arts organization established to preserve traditional, acoustic, mountain music. For further information on the center, go to Shows from the Carter Family Fold can be accessed on the internet at Partial funding for programs at the center is provided by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. For recorded information on shows coming up at the Fold, call 276-386-6054. The Fold is on Facebook – page Carter Fold – and Twitter – @carterfoldinfo.

    Tags: Wayne HendersonCarter Family FoldConcertEvent

    Introducing the New

    Wed, 09/21/2016 - 19:07

    Charlottesville, VA -- Rebel Records is excited to announce the roll out of its new and improved website. The site,, highlights Rebel's outstanding roster of current talent while also reflecting on the significant impact the label has had in shaping bluegrass music for the last half century.

    Fans and bluegrass industry members alike will find the site to be a great resource to learn more about Rebel's notable stable of artists. Whether looking for a short bio of a group or wanting to learn more about a particular album, both current and upcoming, the website provides a gathering place for this information. Each artist's page features a biography, a discography of their currently available releases (complete with 30-second audio clips of every track from the album) and links to their website and social media pages.

    President of Rebel Records Mark Freeman says, "We are thrilled to offer a user-friendly website where folks can quickly and easily find out the latest happenings of our bands as well as learn more about the Rebel legacy."

    In a nod to Rebel's historical importance, the site includes a detailed narrative of the Rebel story over the last 55+ years as well as a "Catalog Artist" section devoted to the many acts who have recorded for the label over the years. Biographies and discographies of a few select bands are currently up with more to be added in the coming weeks.

    Folks who are interested in purchasing a Rebel release can do so through the site's secure online store. Shipping is free within the United States.

    "Our ultimate objective is to present the story of Rebel Records, past and present, in a clean, accessible format," says Freeman. "I hope in the end we have created a site where people can come and get lost for a little while."

    Tags: Rebel RecordsWebsiteBusiness

    Bluegrass Fiddler Michael Cleveland Announces New Album

    Tue, 09/20/2016 - 19:08

    Nashville, TN -- Michael Cleveland is one of bluegrass music's great treasures: a 10-time IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year, 4-time Instrumental Group of the Year winner and 2016 nominee, Cleveland captured the attention of the bluegrass community as a child prodigy who performed on the Grand Ole Opry with Alison Krauss when he was only 13 years old. But he became a viral video sensation this summer with a virtuosic impromptu performance of "Jerusalem Ridge" that racked up over 6 million views in just a few days. Now mainstream music fans are discovering what the bluegrass community has known for years—that Michael Cleveland is one of the most important fiddle players of his generation.

    With his new release, Fiddler's Dream, Cleveland delivers his finest studio album to date: full of the fire and finesse that has earned him fans from across the globe. Highlights include a blistering performance of the Arthur Smith penned title track "Fiddler's Dream," a step out vocal from Sam Bush on the John Hartford classic "Steamboat Whistle Blues," and a twin fiddle show down on the Bill Monroe classic "Tall Timber" featuring Jason Carter (Del McCoury Band).

    Fiddler's Dream also showcases Michael's masterful guitar playing on "Earl Park" and mandolin playing on "Blues for Bill," "Lonesome Desert" and "Earl Park." Additional guests include Jerry Douglas (Dobro), Jeff Guernsey (guitar), Lloyd Douglas (banjo), Andy Statman (mandolin), Paul Franklin (steel guitar), Vince Gill (vocals), and co-producer, Jeff White (guitar and vocals). Michael Cleveland has undeniably achieved a new personal best with Fiddler's Dream and in the process has raised the bar for all aspiring fiddle players to follow.

    Fiddler's Dream will be released October 7th on Compass Records.

    Tags: Michael ClevelandMichael Cleveland & FlamekeeperCD ReleaseFiddler's Dream

    Wayne Taylor to be Inducted into Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame

    Tue, 09/20/2016 - 18:50

    Bristol, VA/TN – Blue Highway's highly respected bass player, songwriter, and vocalist Wayne Taylor will be honored as the 2016 Inductee into the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame in a ceremony to be held at the Chesterfield County Fairgrounds at 10300 Courthouse Road in Chesterfield, VA, on Saturday, October 8, at 7:00 pm.

    One artist or band who has significantly contributed to country or bluegrass music is chosen annually by a board sanctioned by the Governor of Virginia, with past inductees including legends such as Patsy Cline, the Statler Brothers, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Jimmy Dean, Mother Maybelle Carter, and Roy Clark.

    The Executive Board of the Virginia Folk Music Association (VFMA) selected Wayne Taylor as the 2016 Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame Inductee, and Governor Terry McAuliffe will sign a congratulatory letter to accompany the induction proclamation, according to board member Yvon Jackson.

    The VFMA was founded in 1947, with the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame being created in 1972, and the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame Museum being dedicated in 2011.

    Wayne Allan Taylor, the Virginia native honored with the 2016 Hall of Fame Induction, epitomizes the pure American dream.

    A child of humble parents, Wayne overcame four early years spent on crutches and in a wheelchair to become a coal truck driver in the mountains of southwest Virginia for 18 long years before a golden door opened for him to become a founding member of one the most influential and respected bluegrass bands in modern history, Blue Highway.

    Wayne's musical path started when his cousin taught him two chords on a guitar as a teenager. As an adult, Taylor played in garage bands at night, in a gospel group called The Christian Heirs, and in several regional bluegrass bands, which led to his friendship with Tim Stafford. Tim and Wayne, along with Shawn Lane, Jason Burleson, and Rob Ickes, formed Blue Highway in 1994.

    The 22-year strong, internationally heralded Blue Highway has earned 25 IBMA Awards, 6 SPBGMA Awards, one Dove Award, and two prestigious Grammy Nominations as a band.

    The gifted songwriting and pure vocals of Taylor, Stafford,a nd Lane have been like rocket fuel for Blue Highway, helping skyrocket each of their 10 studio albums to #1, with their last album 'The Game' reigning at #1 for 7 consecutive months on the Bluegrass Unlimited Album Chart. With powerful songs from 'The Game,' Blue Highway charted the Most Radio Airplay of Any Bluegrass Artist in 2014.

    Blue Highway was also recently voted the Favorite Bluegrass Artist of All Time in April 2016 by the readers of Bluegrass Today.

    "I want to thank the Virginia Folk Music Association for this honor," Taylor said. "This took me completely by surprise. I never imagined I'd be named in that group, with people like Patsy Cline – that's the greatest honor in the world."

    Taylor's formal induction will be on October 8 during the 18th Annual Jumping Bluegrass Festival, an October event created by the VFMA in 1998 to host each year's Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and help preserve the heritage of country, bluegrass and gospel music. Wayne will be inducted into the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame at 7:00 pm, followed by a performance by Taylor and his band Blue Highway.

    Tickets for the four-day Jumping Bluegrass Festival are $40 prior to October 1, with single-day tickets ranging from $10-$20. Single-day tickets for Saturday, October 8, the day of Taylor's induction, are $20 each. For more ticket info, please go to, or call 804-832-0950.

    Tags: Wayne TaylorBlue HighwayHall of FameVirginia Folk Music AssociationVirginia Country Music Hall of Fame

    Rounder Records Readies Three Mark O'Connor Digital Reissues

    Tue, 09/13/2016 - 23:08

    Nashville, TN -- Rounder Records is pleased to announce the digital re-release of the first three albums by acoustic multi-instrumentalist Mark O’Connor. O’Connor’s early recordings document not only the start of a career that would make its mark on the full range of American music, from bluegrass to classical to jazz, but also a portrait of a young virtuoso who could hold his own with many of the best musicians in bluegrass and old-time music. The three albums, which were never released on CD, are now available on all digital and streaming platforms.

    Mark O’Connor has had a storied career, beginning as a contest-winning teen (he won the Grand Ole Opry’s Grand Masters Fiddle Championships at the age of 13). He has performed and recorded with mentors such as Stéphane Grappelli and Benny Thomasson, as well as with renowned musicians Wynton Marsalis, Reneé Fleming, Béla Fleck, Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile, Alison Krauss, and The Dregs (of which he once was a member). His symphonic compositions, including "Fanfare for the Volunteer" and "American Seasons" were recorded for Sony Classical. The O’Connor Method of violin instruction, which teaches traditional American repertoire for beginning players, is becoming the standard in many music education programs.

    O’Connor comments, "I’m excited to announce the reissue of my early albums on Rounder Records from 40 years ago. I recorded these LPs beginning at age 12, documenting my burgeoning career as a young national fiddle champion and national flatpick guitar champion. As the O’Connor Band travels the country performing music from our new number one bluegrass album on Rounder, Coming Home, I am always reminded by many fans that they still treasure my first recordings as some of the best in the genre."

    Three classic albums from the 1970s
    are now available digitally for the first time ever.

    Four Time National Junior Fiddle Champion

    This 1974 set of bluegrass and fiddle tunes finds O’Connor in the company of Charlie Collins on guitar and Norman Blake on mandolin. He was 12 years old at the time, playing fiddle exclusively on his debut recording. Includes the previously unreleased “Grey Eagle.”

    Pickin’ in the Wind

    On this 1976 release, O’Connor again plays fiddle exclusively in the company of Sam Bush, Norman Blake, Charlie Collins, John Hartford, and Roy Husky. Pickin’ in the Wind was an early best-seller for Rounder.

    On the Rampage

    1979’s On the Rampage shows O’Connor finding his wings as a composer, as he began to stretch the boundaries of bluegrass. Many tracks are built with overdubbed layers of his own guitar and violin, with Bill Amatneek, Sam Bush, John Cowan, David Grisman and Tony Rice also in support.

    Rounder’s VP of A&R, Scott Billington, adds, “These three albums have not been available since LP days, and they sound as fresh today as they did forty years ago — the energy of young Mark O’Connor realizing his voice. They also show Rounder’s perceptive early investment in bluegrass — both in the musicians and the genre — that helped to pave the way for the bluegrass scene we know today."

    Tags: Mark O'ConnorRounder RecordsDigital Downloads

    New Ballard’s Branch Bogtrotters at Carter Fold

    Tue, 09/13/2016 - 23:06

    Hiltons, VA -- Saturday, September 17th, 2016, at 7:30 p.m. the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia, will present a concert by the New Ballard’s Branch Bogtrotters, an old time band. Admission to the concert is $10 for adults, $1 for children 6 to11, under age 6 free.

    The New Ballard’s Branch Bogtrotters took their group’s name from the original Bogtrotters, the famous Galax, Virginia, area band of the 1930s, and because band leader Dennis Hall lives on Ballard’s Branch. Galax is home to the world-renowned Old Time Fiddler’s Convention, and the area has traditionally produced some of the country’s finest old time string bands. Carrying on that rich musical tradition, the New Ballard’s Branch Bogtrotters features Dennis Hall on guitar, Carolyn Beverley on mandolin, Eddie Bond on fiddle, Bonnie Bond on Bass, and Josh Ellis on banjo. The Bogtrotters have been playing and singing for nearly twenty years now.

    Eddie Bond’s four great grandfathers were old time banjo players. He was raised by his grandmother who was a singer and guitar player. His family on both sides is packed with musicians who played the traditional music of the Blue Ridge. Eddie began performing at age three - dancing for quarters. Through the years, he’s added guitar, autoharp, fiddle, and banjo to the list of instruments he plays. He grew up in Fries where some of the first old time music had its beginnings at the Washington Cotton Mill from 1923 to 1929. Fries is about six miles from Galax. Eddie does most of the lead singing for the Bogtrotters. One of the finest old time fiddlers around, he’s not only a perfect southern gentleman – he’s one of the nicest people you will ever meet. Eddie’s beautiful wife, Bonnie, plays the dog house bass for the group. Her lead and harmony vocals are exceptional. A southern lady through and through, Bonnie and Eddie are a match made in Heaven.

    Dennis Hall is a grand nephew of Uncle Eck Dunford – the droll voiced fiddler and spokesman for the original Bogtrotters. Their dance band was recorded by Alan Lomax in the 1930’s. Lomax left a trove of important recordings by the Bogtrotters and others at the Library of Congress. Uncle Eck was very conscious of his Ulster Irish background and his name. The Bogtrotter heritage is closely tied to that of Eck Dunford. Dennis is noted among old time musicians for his unerring and rock-solid guitar time. In addition, he’s a master carpenter and home builder. Dennis is the keeper of a rich score of older, historic music.

    Josh Ellis was a Clapton-style rock and roll guitar player when he came to Galax, but all that changed when he picked up a banjo. Like the other Bogtrotters, Josh is very passionate about timing. The banjo and fiddle are the original string band created by Virginia slave musicians in the early colonial period. Keeping with that tradition, Josh works closely with Eddie to adhere to that ancient musical combination. Josh manages a business in Galax and has helped construct many beautiful homes in that area.

    The Bogtrotters are proud to welcome their new mandolin player – Carolyn Beverley – from Elkins, North Carolina, to the group. This show will mark Carolyn’s first Fold performance, and we want to extend a heartfelt, warm welcome to her.

    The band won the old-time band competition at the Galax Fiddler’s Convention on six different occasions. In addition, they have played their music at such regional and national festivals as the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival, Merlefest, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and the University of Chicago Festival. Having performed many times at the Fold, they’re a favorite of Carter Fold audiences. This group covers it all – great fiddle and dance tunes, outstanding vocals and harmony, beautiful gospel numbers, waltz tunes, and some of the finest instrumentals you’ll ever hear. For more information, check out the Bogtrotters on Myspace, Facebook, and Youtube. You may also visit their web site

    If you love old time music and dance, don’t miss the New Ballard’s Branch Bogtrotters at the Carter Family Fold. Everyone loves the Bogtrotters, so get ready for an evening of old fashioned fun. Be sure to bring your dancing shoes – and your friends!

    Carter Family Memorial Music Center, Incorporated, is a nonprofit, rural arts organization established to preserve traditional, acoustic, mountain music. For further information on the center, go to Shows from the Carter Family Fold can be accessed on the internet at Partial funding for programs at the center is provided by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. For recorded information on shows coming up at the Fold, call 276-386-6054. The Fold is on Facebook – page Carter Fold – and Twitter – @carterfoldinfo.

    Tags: New Ballard’s Branch BogtrottersCarter Family FoldEventConcert

    Rhiannon Giddens Wins Steve Martin Prize For Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass

    Mon, 09/12/2016 - 22:40
    Los Angeles, CA -- Critically acclaimed singer, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter Rhiannon Giddens is the recipient of the seventh annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. Described by T Bone Burnett as one of the “most profound musicians active today,” Giddens is the co-founder of the GRAMMY Award-winning string band Carolina Chocolate Drops, in which she sang and played banjo and fiddle. That group has long investigated and promoted the foundational role African-American performers and songwriters have played in folk-music history, while making recordings that are vital, contemporary, and exuberant.

    "Rhiannon has made a rare contribution to American music,” said Steve Martin. “She - along with the Carolina Chocolate Drops - has resurrected and revitalized an important part of banjo history."

    Giddens began gaining recognition as a solo artist when she stole the show at the T Bone Burnett–produced Another Day, Another Time concert at New York City’s Town Hall in 2013. The elegant bearing, prodigious voice, and fierce spirit that brought the audience to its feet that night is also abundantly evident on Giddens’ critically acclaimed solo debut album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, which masterfully blends American musical genres like gospel, jazz, blues, and country, showcasing her extraordinary emotional range and dazzling vocal prowess. Giddens is currently working on her follow up album and will have a recurring role in the fifth season of the hit TV show Nashville.

    The Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass provides the winner with an unrestricted cash prize of fifty-thousand dollars, as well as a bronze sculpture created specifically for the prize by noted artist Eric Fischl. Created to bring recognition to an individual or group for outstanding accomplishment in the field of five-string banjo or bluegrass music, the prize highlights the extraordinary musicianship of these artists and bluegrass music worldwide. The winner is determined by a board consisting of J.D Crowe, Pete Wernick, Tony Trischka, Anne Stringfield, Alison Brown, Neil V. Rosenberg, Béla Fleck, and Steve Martin.

    The award is given to a person or group who has given the board a fresh appreciation of this music, either through artistry, composition, innovation or preservation, and is deserving of a wider audience. Recipients must be a professional or semi-professional and should currently be active in their careers.

    The award is funded personally by the Steve Martin Charitable Foundation. Its first winner was Giddens’ Nonesuch Records labelmate, Noam Pikelny of Punch Brothers.

    Rhiannon Giddens occupies a unique position in the world of banjo music, bridging contemporary and traditional forms and the cultures of three continents. Few musicians have done more to revitalize old-time sounds in the last decade. Drawing from blues, jazz, folk, hip-hop, traditional African, Celtic, and jug band music, she has brought tremendous vitality and artistry to her live and recorded performances. Her work as a solo artist and with the Carolina Chocolate Drops has highlighted the banjo’s history as an African and an African-American instrument, and resurrected black string band music for a new generation.

    Her musical career began with opera training at Oberlin College, then segued into Scottish and Celtic music, with a sideline in calling contra dances. In 2005, Giddens attended the Black Banjo Gathering at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, a conference dedicated to exploring the roots of banjo music. There, she met Dom Flemons and Justin Robinson, with whom she founded the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The three started making weekly trips to play and study with veteran fiddler Joe Thompson. Albums, touring, and widespread acclaim ensued, including a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album for Genuine Negro Jig in 2011. In recent years, she’s branched out into solo recording projects, including Tomorrow is My Turn, which was nominated for a Grammy for Best Folk Album in 2016. In addition to the contemporary five-string banjo, she has performed on gourd banjo, nineteenth-century minstrel banjo, and the three-stringed African akonting. She has emerged as a multi-instrumentalist who is passionate about bringing the sound and feel of old-time black string bands into the twenty-first century. Along the way, she has become a historian as well as a musician.

    In an interview in the February 2016 issue of Banjo Newsletter, Giddens said “I was attracted to the banjo before I knew the history of it. I just loved it. In the beginning I felt like I was kind of an interloper, and then I realized actually it’s everybody’s music. When you look at the history of it, it’s everybody’s music. It doesn’t belong to anybody. And then getting into the African roots of it I was just flabbergasted. . . . It’s a huge history that nobody talks about. And that really drew me.” Giddens’s work recognizes how big and versatile and multicultural the banjo can be, and how deep its roots go. Her electrifying performances have made the banjo exciting to new audiences, while simultaneously reaching back to the instrument’s earliest origins.

    Tags: Rhiannon GiddensSteve Martin Prize for Excellence in BanjoAwardBanjo

    Blue Highway's “Original Traditional” is Blue Hot!

    Sun, 09/11/2016 - 22:00

    Original Traditional is the highly anticipated new studio album from the GRAMMY-nominated and multi-IBMA award-winning progressive bluegrass ensemble Blue Highway. If any Blue Highway album perfectly exemplifies "the essence of bluegrass music," this is it, combining the spirit, themes, and topics of traditional bluegrass, but through a set of 12 all-new originals from the band and co-writers. Original Traditional may well be the record that everyone has been waiting for from Blue Highway. From callous killings to struggling with sobriety, to the majesty and magic of the mountains, the songs evoke the timeless quality of bluegrass past, but showcase the voices and instrumental prowess of Blue Highway present, capturing a contemporary group at its creative peak.

    Blue Highway is fairly unique in being one of the very few bands that boasts three lead singers - Shawn Lane, Tim Stafford, and Wayne Taylor - who are also accomplished songwriters, each of whom brings his own distinctive voice and personality to each of the songs.

    On Original Traditional, Shawn Lane's s contributions include "Don't Weep For Me," "What You Wanted," "A Long Row to Hoe," and "Top of the Ridge." "Don't Weep For Me" could well be an old-timey murder ballad, complete with retribution and hanging. "A Long Row to Hoe" is an ode to the farmer, and "Top of the Ridge," a song of redemption, "no need to worry about the things I miss/I'll see a whole lot better from the top of the ridge," lovely in its simplicity.

    A veteran of both Doyle Lawson's and Ricky Skaggs's bands, prized for his voice as well as his mandolin and fiddle virtuosity, Lane has been a key component of the Blue Highway sound, and has contributed many outstanding original songs to the band's oeuvre.

    Tim Stafford, the band's resident music historian, is admired for the depth and breadth of his knowledge, his amazingly fluid guitar style, and his prowess as a singer and songwriter. Stafford penned "She Ain't Worth It," "Wilkes County Clay," the bluesy, laid-back "If Lonesome Don't Kill Me," and the heartbreaking ballad "Last Time I'll Ever Leave This Town."

    Wayne Taylor's resonant voice is one of the wonders of the bluegrass world, the perfect instrument for expressing his own songs. On this album, his directness and emotional power come through loud and clear on "Water From the Stone," and "The Story of My Life." As dependable and solid as ever, his strong bass playing nails the band's pulse in place.

    Jason Burleson, who hails from rural North Carolina, rounds out Blue Highway with his powerful banjo playing, though he also is a noted multi-instrumentalist, not limited to bluegrass. His knowledge of string band jazz and other forms of music runs deep, and his musical sophistication is reflected in his original tunes in the band's repertoire, a wonderful example of which is the new instrumental, "Alexander's Run."

    Blue Highway recently welcomed a new addition to their lineup: abundantly gifted Dobro player Gaven Largent, who has more than risen to the challenge, and has already won over many of the band's longtime admirers.

    As music scribe Dan Mullins summed up in the album's liner notes, "With Original Traditional, Blue Highway chose to look ahead by looking back." In so doing, they have never sounded better.

    Tags: Blue HighwayCD ReleaseOriginal Traditional

    The O’Connor Band Releases “Coming Home” Video

    Sun, 09/11/2016 - 22:00
    The O’Connor Band was number one again on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart again this past week. The O’Connor Band has just released a new video of the band performing “Coming Home” which features some skateboarding fiddle playing by Mark. Consisting of four master instrumentalists, The O'Connor Band is all family -- Grammy and CMA Award-winning Mark O'Connor (violin); Mark's wife, Maggie (violin); his son Forrest (mandolin); and Forrest's fiancé, Kate Lee (violin). 'Coming Home,' their 12-track debut album on Rounder Records, debuted at number one on the Billboard Bluegrass Albums Chart last month. For all the instrumental virtuosity on display here, it is the songs - both Mark's instrumental compositions, and the vocal songs written by Forrest and Kate, the band's lead singers -- that are at the heart of this project. “Coming Home” is just one fine example presented on this album.

    “Coming Home” is the title track on the group's newest project. "I've recorded on at least 500 albums," O'Connor says, "but I have to say, there are very few, if any, that I've been as proud of as this O'Connor Band album. With the help of Grammy winners Gregg Field [co-producer] and Neal Cappellino [chief engineer], we're bridging the gap between progressive bluegrass, country, and indie folk and yet creating something that is also very commercially viable."

    Multi Grammy and CMA Award-winning fiddler and composer Mark O’Connor returns to progressive bluegrass and country music with the O’Connor Band and their debut album, Coming Home. O’Connor embarked on a prolific career as an American Classical music composer, hot swing violinist and legendary bluegrass fiddler collaborating with the likes of Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Earl Scruggs, James Taylor, Wynton Marsalis and Yo-Yo Ma. The New York Times has described O’Connor’s career as “one of the most spectacular journeys in recent American music.”

    Coming Home is a perfect balance of contemporary songcraft by Forrest and Kate and intricate instrumentals featuring the band’s triple fiddle lineup. The O’Connor Band is rounded out by national flatpick champion Joe Smart on guitar and University of Miami DMA candidate Geoff Saunders on bass and banjo. Co-producer and Grammy-winner Gregg Field says, “At the heart of any album is the songwriting. Kate and Forrest have seductively crafted alluring stories and colorful characters in their songs, some biographical and each one sounding like a new standard.”

    The album opens with guest guitarist Joe Smart's bright arpeggios on the Jim Shirey-penned tune "Always Do," followed by a lively triple-fiddle-fueled "Coming Home" and a rousing version of the old Osborne Brothers hit "Ruby, Are You Mad at Your Man?" After weaving traditional country and progressive bluegrass throughout, the record closes with the instrumental "Fiddler Going Home."

    Mark himself has the name that fans of many different musical styles will immediately recognize. A former child prodigy and national champion on the fiddle, guitar, and mandolin, Mark has won his share of Grammys and CMA Awards, and has collaborated with a dizzying array of iconic artists, including Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, George Jones, Randy Travis, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis, and Yo-Yo Ma. He has also written numerous violin concertos, which he has performed with hundreds of major symphony orchestras around the world. In addition to performing, he has authored a groundbreaking and now best-selling instructional method for strings, The O’Connor Method. Hailed by The New York Times as having followed “one of the most spectacular journeys in recent American music,” O’Connor’s career has been unique and inspirational.

    Tags: O'Connor BandCD ReleaseComing HomeVideoMark O'Connor