The Bluegrass Standard - June 2021

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Our Staff

Keith Barnacastle • Publisher

The Bluegrass Standard is a life-long dream of Keith Barnacastle, who grew up in Meridian, Mississippi. For three years, Keith brought the Suits, Boots and Bluegrass Festival to Meridian. Now, with the Bluegrass Standard, Keith’s enthusiasm for the music, and his vision of its future, reaches a nationwide audience every month!

Richelle Putnam • Managing Journalist Editor

Richelle Putnam is a Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC) Teaching Artist/Roster Artist (Literary), a Mississippi Humanities Speaker, and a 2014 MAC Literary Arts Fellowship recipient. Her non-fiction books include Lauderdale County, Mississippi; a Brief History, Legendary Locals of Meridian, Mississippi and Mississippi and the Great Depression.

Rebekah Speer • Creative Director

Rebekah Speer has nearly twenty years in the music industry in Nashville, TN. She creates a unique “look” for every issue of The Bluegrass Standard, and enjoys learning about each artist. In addition to her creative work with The Bluegrass Standard, Rebekah also provides graphic design and technical support to a variety of clients.

Shelby C. Berry • Journalist

Shelby Campbell is a writer and designer whose heart beats for creativity. A native of rural Livingston, AL, she found her passion in journalism and design at The University of West Alabama, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications. Shelby also has her own photography business.


Susan Marquez • Journalist

Susan Marquez is a freelance writer based in Madison, Mississippi and a Mississippi Arts Commission Roster Artist. After a 20+ year career in advertising and marketing, she began a professional writing career in 2001. Since that time she has written over 2000 articles which have been published in magazines, newspapers, business journals, trade publications.

Stephen Pitalo • Journalist

Stephen Pitalo has been an entertainment journalist for more than 30 years, having interviewed everyone from Joey Ramone to Bill Plympton to John Landis. He is the world’s leading authority on the The Golden Age of Music Video (1976-1993), mining inside stories from interviews 70+ music video directors and countless artists of the pre-internet music era.

Kara Martinez Bachman • Journalist

Kara Martinez Bachman is an author, editor and journalist. Her music and culture reporting has appeared in dozens of publications and she’s interviewed many performers over the years, from local musicians to well-known celebrities. She’s a native of New Orleans and lives just outside the city with her husband, two kids, and two silly mutts.

Emerald Butler • Journalist

Emerald Butler is a writer, songwriter, fiddler, and entertainer from Sale Creek, TN. She has worked and performed various occasions with artists such as Rhonda Vincent, Bobby Osborn, Becky Buller, Alison Brown, top 40 radio host Bob Kingsley, and country songwriter Roger Alan Wade. With a bachelor’s degree in Music Business and a minor in Marketing, Emerald uses her creative talent to share the love of music with others.




After his heart attack over four years ago, Billy pondered the important things in life. For him, it was music and playing that music with his kids. “We gave them instruments for Christmas to see if they would be interested in playing,” said Billy. Billy had been out of music for almost 15 years. He had learned guitar when he was eight years old. After graduating college, he got a banjo and played with the New River Gospel Singers. Flash forward to today, Billy uses his past love and experience to teach his kids to play and sing bluegrass. They document this learning journey on their Facebook page and invite listeners to follow along as they grow in their music.

old Landon and 7-year-old Jacob won ten mandolin lessons with learn the bass and the fiddle, Steve Dilling, a founding member of Sideline. respectively. “Getting my new mandolin at Lorraine’s Coffee House during the contest was so memorable. I came in third place and won lessons from Steve Dilling, and Heavily influenced by Rhonda the first-place winner gave me her Vincent and Williamson Branch, mandolin!” said JoJo. fellow members of Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars, Billy and the As they learn to play more Kids Bluegrass credit much of instruments and grow into their music, Billy and the Kids Bluegrass are developing their sound. Harmony lessons have helped Billy and JoJo hone their singing skills. Since they have no banjo, the sound resembles folk more than bluegrass, but “maybe one day one of the boys will play the banjo!” said Billy. “I really like when we first started playing on stage,” said JoJo. “There was a lot more people to play for!”

their enjoyment in the music to the people they’ve met within the bluegrass community. “It’s a very different atmosphere at bluegrass festivals and shows,” said Billy. “Bluegrass is like a big family, and everyone acts like they’ve known you forever.”

In 2019, President John Colburn asked them to become members of Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars. Last spring, they participated in the hugely successful TBS run online bluegrass festival.

“The festival introduced them to other young artists,” said Billy. Naming themselves Billy and the Lorraine Jordan & Carolina “They made lifelong friends, and Kids Bluegrass, 12-year-old JoJo is Road hosted a Bill Monroe’s ol’ to see them grow up in the music learning mandolin while 10-year- mandolin contest, and the band pursuing their dream is such a 8


good thing. That’s the future. If there wasn’t someone to help them stay interested, there would be some that wouldn’t stay in it. It’s a good push. I didn’t have anyone to push me when I was young. If I had had a circle of people, it would have been a lot better!”

of originals, something in which they take deep pride at such an early age. Also, their focus is on participating in upcoming music festivals and in August they hit the stage with Cumberland County Lions at Lorraine’s.

Follow the band along on their As they move forward, Billy really musical journey and watch them savors the time that he spends with grow in their music on Facebook at his kids on their music. Billy and the Kids Bluegrass.

“I really like when we first started playing on stage,” said JoJo. “There was a lot more people to play for!” “I love teaching them music! Sometimes, I wish we could jump right into a song, but I love teaching them. It’s like I’m giving a bit of myself to them. It’ll always be with them as long as they play,” said Billy. By summer’s end Billy and the Kids Bluegrass want to record their first album which includes a lot 10

L a b o r D ay W e e k e n d

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The NCBF will be following all applicable governmental pandemic rules and recomendations in effect at the time of the festival and reserves the right to cancel the festival should circumstances warrant it. 11



“If I had some remedy, I’d take enough to please me,” wrote the Black Crowes back in 1992, but Southern bluegrass fans are definitely pleased with Remedy Tree, a six-year-old band whose style is garnering them adulation. Whether you call it “new modern bluegrass”, or “progressive acoustic” or even “high energy jam grass”, it’s experiencing success and notice amongst fans and critics alike. But founder band founder Gabriel Acevedo hears it differently. “Remedy Tree is Americana-folk with influences from ‘old-time,’ bluegrass, and even hints of classical music,” he said. As the 2018 Florida State Fiddle Champion, Gabriel started the band three years earlier. After moving to St. Augustine in 2014 with his wife Abigail, Gabriel wanted to perform his growing collection of original songs. Abigail grew up as a singer and guitarist in the Morse Family Band, so she joined him onstage playing guitar, and then stand-up bass. With the addition of a cellist, Remedy Tree was fully formed by 2015. “We are not very strict when it comes to genre specifically. Though we definitely operate under the folk umbrella, I would describe us as lyric-driven, Americana-folk with influences of bluegrass, old-time, and even hints of classical.” “I started writing songs when I was about 11,” said Gabriel. “Back then my inspirations were more bluegrass driven: Ralph Stanley, Bill Monroe, Dailey and Vincent, and Kenny and Amanda Smith were some of my early musical heroes. The more I wrote, the more I took to the indie-folk movement, and gravitated toward Mumford and Sons, Peter Bradley Adams, and Matthew and the Atlas. My current favorites include Mandolin Orange, Town Mountain, and The Steel Drivers, but today I still pull from everywhere for inspiration.” Gabriel serves as the main songwriter for Remedy Tree, but Abigail’s sister, Leah Lynn has collaborated with Gabriel on several songs for the band. “I’ve written songs in the middle of a busy kitchen, singing to myself in my head,” said Gabriel about when the inspiration strikes. “Lots of times I’ll come up with an idea and write it down, then sit down later and finish the thought. That being said, I think the best of my inspiration happens when I’m in my studio alone in perfect silence, just me and my thoughts.” Back in 2017, the band’s tour across several states in the Southeast was a landmark moment for the band to congeal. “Our tour was all self-booked and we mostly camped along the way,” Gabriel said of their unconventional traveling style. “We found some amazing campsites. Our tour spanned nine days, and we played small venues throughout Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee, including The Cave in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; the North Georgia Folk Festival in Athens, Georgia; and the Blue Plate Special, in Knoxville Tennessee.” Gabriel takes the stage life of Remedy Tree as a responsibility more than a vocation. “The platform that music gives us to impact the world is performing,” Acevedo commented, “since it is the biggest thing we have. Even if we play an empty bar, if there’s one person that enjoyed and listened, and was touched in a positive way, that makes it all worth it. We are greatly blessed to have that opportunity.” 13

BY KARA MARTINEZ BACHMAN LeRoy Mack McNees caught the bluegrass bug in the 1950s after a friend played him a record by Flatt and Scruggs. “Before that day, I had no experience with bluegrass at all,” said LeRoy. “I grew up listening to rock and roll music, but the sound that came out of that record was mesmerizing. I’d never heard anything like it!” His musical career started in 1959 after he saw a live broadcast of The Country Boys (later known as the Kentucky Colonels). They later invited LeRoy to jam with them where they practiced. “I was there almost every night with them, and then one day Roland, a member of the band, told me that they needed a dobro player and that I needed to learn to play so I could join the band. I found myself a dobro and started listening to records so I could learn how to play,” said LeRoy. The Kentucky Colonels recorded many albums and earned even more success after appearing on two episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. LeRoy had only been playing music for three years. Decades later, LeRoy remains a fan-favorite at the Mayberry Days annual festival and has only missed one event since his first performance in 2001. In 1964, after committing his life to Jesus Christ, LeRoy left the band and later co-founded Born Again Bluegrass Band



and spent more than 31 years of his life performing and creating 12 albums with the group. Sadly, when bandmate Steve Hatfield passed away, they dissolved the band. “That band represented a turning point in my life. It was a spiritual experience. I wanted to do gospel music because I dedicated my life to the Lord at that time. It really was a ministry for us,” said LeRoy. LeRoy and his wife hit the road traveling across the country, performing his solo music and accompanying artists all over. He became a frequent guest of top bands in the US and Canada including Vince Gill, John Denver, Nashville Bluegrass Band, and the Laurel Canyon Ramblers. Eventually, LeRoy decided to settle back down in his home of Los Angeles, California. There he formed LeRoy Mack & Gloryland, a band of five seasoned fast-pickin’, fun-strummin’, and foot-stompin’ musicians: LeRoy on dobro, Craig Wilson on guitar, Roger Phillips on banjo, and Charlie Davis on bass. Leroy’s career is filled with awards like the prestigious LA Treasure Award for Outstanding Contributions to the City of Los Angeles in Bluegrass. In 2019, he and the other members of the Kentucky Colonels were inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame. The Bluegrass Standard: What has been the most rewarding part of your lifelong music experience? LeRoy Mack McNees: I would say the whole experience of learning how to play. The love of the music is the high point for me and playing with really great players. BGS: Tell us about The Andy Griffith Show. LM: In 1961, we did Andy Griffith. It aired on Feb 13, 1961. It’s been a big part of the Kentucky Colonels’ legacy. It’s never been off the air. BGS: Talk to us about your decision to go solo after being with a band for so long. LM: I started doing solo music when Steve passed, and we dissolved Born Again Bluegrass. At this time, my wife and I started traveling during the summer. We started traveling around the US, going to festivals, and doing dobro workshops. More times than not, bands would ask me to sit in with them when they played. I did that for 10 years all over Canada and the US. In 2004, we sold our business and went full-time in our motor home. We made some wonderful friends! It was the highlight of our lives. We would make a lap around the US and Canada through the year. We saw different parts of the world too! England, Ireland, Slovakia and even more places. In 2015, we sold our motor home and decided to settle down a little bit. When I got back, I 16

missed the band experience. I played but didn’t have the camaraderie. So, I started LeRoy Mack & Gloryland. It’s been 3-4 years of that now. BGS: What or where was your favorite place to perform? LM: One of the festivals in California by the California Bluegrass Association in Grass Valley. We’ve been going there for about 30 years. My wife and I have put on a chapel service on Sunday morning at that festival almost that long. We started chapel services at many other festivals over the years. We even used to do IBMA when it was on Sundays too. BGS: Working with so many bluegrass and country artists, what was a memorable collaboration? LM: There’s a band in British Columbia called Jerusalem Ridge. We even did an album together! And Canadian Grass Unit from New Brunswick, Canada. I really enjoyed playing with them a few different times. BGS: What’s happening with LeRoy Mack & Gloryland? LM: We just got together for the first time in 13 months last week. We started working on some of our old stuff anticipating that we will get to go out and perform sometime soon. BGS: What does your music reveal about you to the world? LM: Well, the neat thing is that sharing gospel music is really life-giving and encouraging. We do a lot of humor with our presentation too! It’s great to see people listening and enjoying music. BGS: What one message do you want to send to your fans? LM: Well, the message of our music is the gospel, so we would say to trust in the Lord and lean not on your own understanding. Follow LeRoy Mack and learn more about his story, his music, and his legacy at



Stephen Pitalo

Don’t Call This Mandolinist J-Bro!

Winner of the 2009 & 2015 International Bluegrass Music Awards (IBMA) Mandolin Performer of the Year, Brock said his true bluegrass awakening was The Bluegrass Album Band, Vol. One, which cemented the idea of what bluegrass is to him: a banjo and a fiddle.

listening to albums by the Dillards, The Bray Brothers, Mac Wiseman, Jim & Brock, The Osborne Bros., Bill Monroe, J.D. Crowe & Larry Sparks, and soon began his bluegrass career with his family band at the age of 9. He started singing at age 7, taking fiddle lessons at 8 & picked up the mandolin at 9. His first album was recorded with “I started reverse-listening to all his family at age 11 and later that projects, and each member was a year played the Grand Ole Opry part,” Brock said. “Doyle Lawson & as the first place prize winnings at Tony Rice were the new standards Bill Monroe’s Bean Blossom Band of the times & still are in my book. Contest. As Bill’s guest on the Early Personally, I feel bluegrass is not Bird Special, C.W. Brock & the Next bluegrass without a banjo and/or of Kin played two songs. fiddle!” Brock is currently performing with a His early exposure, however, was cast of bluegrass veterans known as family-oriented. His father, C.W. Fast Track on EMG Records. Brock Brock, plucked a five-string banjo as has been working diligently in the a founding member of the Golden studio at Sound Biscuit Productions Harvest Boys, later becoming The on his much-anticipated project, Knights of Bluegrass’ with Chet Streamliner. Featuring artists Kingery circa 1977. Brock continued Bronwyn Keith-Hynes, Jason 18

Carter, Josh Swift, Rob Ickes, Russ Carson, Ron Block, Greg Blake, Barry Reed, and Dale Perry. Brock has worked with: The Lynn Morris Band (2 albums), Dale Ann Bradley (2 albums), Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper (4 albums), Audie Blaylock & Redline (2 albums), and most recently with The Gibson Bros. Brock first appeared on the Grand Ole Opry at the young age of 11, and since has performed on stage with Ricky Skaggs, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, The Tony Rice Unit, and the list goes on. Brock was also on Michael’s 2 Rounder solo projects in the earlymid 2000s: ‘Flamekeeper’ & ‘Let ‘Er Go, Boys’. Brock’s solo effort, the IBMA award-nominated CD ‘Kickin’ Grass’ on Pinecastle Records includes an A-list of pickers and was co-produced with his former bandmate, Ron Stewart. In 2007,

Brock co-produced Rick Lang’s album (w/long-time friend, songwriter/singer, John Miller), ‘Look to the Light”, another multiaward-nominated project. Rick Lang commissioned Brock and John Miller to arrange all the original songs and produce the album, which went on to be in the first round of the Grammys, the final round of the GMA Dove Awards, and the final round of the IBMA awards (2011). Streamliner seems to have a lot of moving parts to it. Brock said that the most difficult part of a project and/or band like this, especially during a pandemic, is that it is nearly impossible to do much. Brock Brock & Streamliner is an all-star cast facing the obstacles of each member’s full-time band schedules. A string of further setbacks ensued: Brock had a partnership band dissolve in 2019

(Mainline Express) a position in Jeff Scroggins & CO. (early 2020) which also disbanded. Fortunately, the end of 2020 saw Fast Track come along and we have already recorded two albums with a third soon to be recorded, and an upcoming stint on Greg Blake’s solo album. Streamliner will have a full album release in June 2021.

notoriety.” The versatility of the fiddle attracted him at first, citing the fretless fingerboard which has that in common with the resophonic guitar or Dobro, but the call of the mandolin drew him in differently.

“I was getting proficient at age 8 on fiddle but the sounds of a “It will be exclusively booked as I whomping mandolin from Monroe am also in a full-time band Fast set me afire and started excelling Track,” Brock said. “I am getting with it (at age 9) in my family band. traction on XM-Sirius radio as well I poured all my energy into being a as all the independent stations supportive role in my family band. I across the world. This is also my was a self-taught mandolin player first project releasing a video. w/assistance of my oldest sister’s Objective: High-profile dates at a teaching of 3 chords, rhythm & minimum is a starting point for this how to keep time w/my foot. She venture just because of the nature created a monster...ha, ha! I had of the concept. Most are familiar to compete with my father’s driving with the Rounder label supergroup, banjo and had to deliver.” ‘Longview’. This will be along the same lines and allow others to As for his band-member-versusmake more money and have more solo-artist struggle, Brock 19

said he feels his sense of accomplishment when working on a solo career, but he understands the dynamics and benefits of the band experience.

complete disaster.”

went on to make 2 band albums on the Rounder label, each In recent years, Brock was receiving many awards. It was a an integral part of Michael good 4-yr run. I’ve heard that our Cleveland & Flamekeeper, version of “Jerusalem Ridge” has recording two band albums gotten over a million views. I was “When working under others’ awarded IBMA’s “Instrumental also told by Kyle Cantrell of XM/ brands, their sound reigns, and Album of the Year” (2009 & Sirius Satellite Radio, “...that it is conformity is demanded. Respect 2011), and the band winning still one of the most requested to allows one to conform happily but “Instrumental Group of the Year” date.” a healthy paycheck sure helps. A four years in a row (2007-2010). solo recording/show/career draws He recalled that time as a lot of So does his release “Kiss on a upon all your knowledge to make hard work, sometimes rehearsing Cold Cold Stone” really nail down the best choices yet is like starting for eight to twelve hours at a who Jesse Brock is? all over from what you are time. known for. You are spotlighted to “It could be,” he acknowledged, showcase your mind, skills, stage “My time with Michael Cleveland “and yet, the whole album presence, etc. that may differ started all the way back in The celebrates my vision of the from another band you’ve been Dale Ann Bradley Band,” Brock future of traditional bluegrass. in. So, it is like a double-edged recalled. “I was also on his solo It blends old and new with the sword and sometimes scary. It projects that led up to the forming technical edge yet strong rhythm could be very rewarding or a of his Flamekeeper band. We that pulsates in the hearts of 20

STREAMLINER Jesse Brock on mandolin & harmony vocals, guitar & bass Greg Blake on lead vocals & guitar Barry Reed on bass Russ Carson on 5-string and clawhammer banjo Jason Carter on fiddle Bronwyn Keith-Hynes on fiddle Josh Swift on resophonic guitar Rob Ickes on resophonic guitar Streamliner is a definitive chess move to announce Jesse Brock as a producer of traditional yet fresh-sounding music. Brock’s sideman contributions for over 39 years advanced him to the producer of Streamliner, also adding his mandolin chops, solos, and backing vocals. Additionally, you’ll also hear Brock sharing his guitar and upright bass skills on a select few.





With songs like “Handguns and Hammocks,” “Just Add Water” and “Riley,” one learns to expect the unexpected from Florida duo The Applebutter Express. Their allegiance to 70s Allman Brotherstype instrumentalism never overpowers their sound but feels more like an Americana progression than a freshly p a i n t e d bandwagon. When Kyle Biss met his future wife Shannon while working at a record store in Bradenton, Florida in 2004, it was fate. Still a focused bass player, Kyle picked up a ukulele in 2010 and began to write songs, with the idea of singing with Shannon (his then-girlfriend) for fun on the couch. Pretty soon the duo began making a name for themselves among the open mic community; in no time, 22

that of her ukulele-playing husband, Kyle Biss. She grew up in a musical family, singing in middle and high school choirs, but didn’t start performing with a band until many years later. Despite graduating from Johnson and Wales University with a degree in baking and pastry arts, she decided to pursue music instead. After about a year of performing with their former band, she and Kyle split off to form a duo, just ukulele, and vocals, soon dubbing themselves The Applebutter Express. Now a 4-piece outfit, Shannon and the boys continue to spread their unique brand of feel-good music across the country and soon the Florida native Shannon Biss world. fronts the Tampa-based Applebutter, where her vocal Hailing from Milwaukee, harmonies are paired with Wisconsin, Kyle Biss began the eclectic, tuneful duo – now known as The Applebutter Express – were the talk of Tampa, Fl. Kyle and Shannon married in 2011, and in 2012 added Joe Trivette (fiddle) and Zach Rogers (bass) to the band.

playing drums at age 9, and soon formed his first band in the 7th grade. After realizing the lack of string players in the area (and abundance of drummers) Kyle began exploring stringed instruments and soon the bass guitar became his instrument of choice. Kyle graduated from the University of South Florida with a bachelor’s degree in communications, and around that time he discovered the ukulele. The ukulele is traditionally a Hawaiian and Portuguese instrument but having learned to play the uke on his own, Kyle’s interpretation is anything but traditional. This is how he and his wife came to form The Applebutter Express: their unique blend of bluegrass, funk, and classic rock, teamed with the vocal harmonies created between him and his wife have, make the act difficult to categorize as anything but delightfully unique. When asked which bands have influenced The Applebutter Express music, Kyle namedrops the Allman Brothers Band, Grateful Dead, Parliament/ Funkadelic, Ben Folds Five, and even Weezer. “I believe The Allman Brothers shouldn’t be lumped in with all the other southern rockers because they

got a little more jazzy and duo was recording their debut album, and the next day was in technical,” Kyle said. the studio with them, recording “Shannon used to be in chorus, fiddle tracks. When not on the and we would sing on the couch, road with Applebutter, Joe is a but she wanted nothing to do private fiddle instructor; he also with getting on stage,” Kyle said. works as a luthier under Ken “She was 17 and I was 18. She Bailey in Plant City, Florida. wanted nothing to do with being a singer and couldn’t wrap her You know your band is the real head around the idea. When she thing when you’re asked to open turned 21, she was able to get a for Steve Martin and Martin Short. That was the case with little liquid courage.” the Applebutter Express when “Yeah, I had a beer first,” they opened for the comedymusic duo at the Mahaffey Theater. As for work on the road, they’ve been seen onstage from Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival to Hulaween to Suwannee Springfest. Soon they’ll be joining Tire Fire, Hannah Harber and the Lionhearts, Free Range Strange, Mountain Holler & Friends, and Ashley Smith & The Random Occurrence on the bluegrass stage at Orange Blossom Shannon said. Jamboree in at 11th annual Orange Blossom Jamboree “She simply was tired of watching at Sertoma Youth Ranch in the band,” Kyle confirmed. “So, Brooksville, Florida, on the she’d sit in and would sing back- weekend of May 14, 2021. up. Finally, somebody said, Kyle, you need to stop singing and let her sing.” Fiddler Joe Trivette met Kyle and Shannon at a party while the 23



Nashville’s Tommy Buller is doing mighty fine, despite the pandemicwrought troubles experienced by most performers over the past year. He’s doing better than most. He’s making music. Performing live. Charting. Things are pretty good. “I’ve been doing a lot of recording in the last year in both country and bluegrass genres,” he said, adding that he’s “very excited and grateful for the success of our latest single, ‘Nothing Said It All,’ which has made it to number five on the Bluegrass Today charts.” Buller said he’s fortunate since he’s been back out there playing live since October of last year. “Things have really opened back up here in Nashville, and we are back to a full regular weekly schedule.” Buller’s guitar playing and vocals have been a fixture in Nashville for years. He said he’s been working on a new country album and hopes for a release date early this fall. “It’s coming along really well,” he said, “and we have some very special guests on it. We will be releasing a single independently from the new album in a couple of months. I’m very excited about it, and very grateful that things are starting to open back up and we will be able to hit the road more to promote it.” Buller has been doing his thing for a long time. He’s played little honkytonks. Dive bars. Places like Layla’s Bluegrass Inn in Nashville. He’s 24

taken to the road. He’s been picking and singing for almost as long as he can remember. He said his passion for music ignited at age four, when he started singing and playing music with his parents’ bluegrass band. “I’ve always been a big fan of bluegrass music, but also a huge fan of country music,” said the versatile musician who is firmly planted in not one, but two American roots traditions. It was when he was age 12 that country caught the eye of this Nebraska native. He started getting into people such as George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams, Sr. “At that point in time,” he reminisced, “my dad took me to a friend of his who was the lead guitar player in the house band of a club he owned in Council Bluffs, Iowa called The Glass Front Tavern.” Buller was hired immediately by musician and owner Phil Kephart and started playing with the band three nights a week through age 16. He said Kephart was “awesome,” explaining this important person from his past “supported me starting my own band, and I always had a spot at his place when we weren’t booked.” Buller said it was there, while jamming at The Glass Front, that he decided at age 14 he wanted to make music for a living. “It just felt so good,” he remembered. “They were all great pickers, and very inspiring to me.” Buller has carried this love of music with him throughout life. Even as a boy, it would really move him. “I remember at a very young age sitting and listening to Hank Sr. and George Jones and I’d just start crying,” he said. “I never knew why, but I just could feel so much emotion from it.” “It’s still that way today,” he added. Buller hopes he can keep going and going, doing what he loves. “I’m so excited about everything we’ve got going on musically right now,” he said. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know, if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be pickin and singin’ somewhere.”





in 2006 and decided to devote herself to a life both performing in Nashville and building and growing something in the place of her roots. She recently retired from her role there at the university, but the free time was quickly re-filled with two new projects: A position on the board of directors at Grammy Museum Mississippi -- which just happens to be in her neck of the woods in the Mississippi Delta -- and development of a new music program called Deep Roots.

For Tricia Walker -- founder of the Women in the Round at Nashville’s landmark Bluebird Cafe -- songwriting, performing, and encouraging others to make music is a way to grow communities and bring people together. This Mississippi native and Nashville notable has made a mark on her world for decades, and it seems she has no plans to slow down.

“I’m almost just as busy as I was in my Delta State position,” she said. Walker seems deeply invested in the Deep Roots project, which she described as “a small roster of music have come from this of local musicians. We planned assemblage of musicians who to do live music on a regular started out sitting together in a basis.” cafe and showcasing the music they were putting together. Tillis The pandemic halted these live has since become a household performances, forcing things to name. go virtual for a time. Walker is hopeful that the project -- which “We had a great chemistry from can be found at Deltadeeproots. day one,” Walker said. “It’s a com -- will soon be fully back on unique dynamic.” track.

These core women have “We’re gonna really work to continued to show up as Women brand Cleveland as a roots in the Round has survived for music town,” she explained. over three decades. Walker seems to have a All the while, Walker writes and comprehensive attitude about records music, with some of her performing. Maybe this comes songs recorded by big names such as Faith Hill, Patty Loveless, and Alison Krauss. The Walkerpenned “Looking in the Eyes of She suggested to the café, Love” won a Grammy for Krauss. “Hey, we wanna see if we can do a women’s circle.” As if that weren’t enough, for the past 13 years Walker has That original circle consisted of devoted herself to the direction Walker, plus Karen Staley, Ashley of the Delta Music Institute Cleveland, and Pam Tillis. In at Delta State University in the time since the circle started, Cleveland, Miss. She had been major contributions to the world pulled back home to Cleveland Back in the early 1980s, the Bluebird Cafe opened in Nashville. Walker had relocated there several years prior, and she wanted to start a regular event for female performers like the groundbreaking songwriter circle composed of men that had already started at the venue.


from sitting so often in a circle, telling the stories of the music. Maybe it comes from working in a university setting. It’s an attitude that music is about something more than hitting notes and strumming chords. It’s about finding ways to connect, and it seems Walker thinks success in the ever-more-competitive field of songwriting depends upon those connections. “Do you just want to get famous,” she asks, “or build community?” It’s clear she believes one goal to be more valuable, and that the other can’t happen at all in a state of disconnect. “Part of your job is to entertain and educate about how music can be so valuable beyond just a throwaway product,” she said. “When music comes back, I hope people will value it more than they did before the pandemic.”


With so many chomping at the bit for live music to return in full force, we have no doubt Walker’s wish will become reality.

Early Bird Special 3-day ticket $


before June 1, 2021

Checks and all major credit cards may be used for advanced tickets

June 17, 18 & 19, 2021

Tax Included

Mike Wilson, Promoter

Russell Moore & III Tyme Out Saturday

Carolina Blue Saturday

David Davis & Warrior River Boys Friday

Seth Mulder & Midnight Run Thursday

8 am for early arrivals

Sideline Friday

Malpass Brothers Saturday

Drive Time Thursday

Keven Prater Band Friday

Big Country Bluegrass Saturday

Dewey & Leslie & Carolina Gentlemen Thursday

Gates Open June 12

Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road HOST BAND Friday and Saturday

Roxboro, North Carolina

Cane Mill Road Thursday

For Festival Reservation Form and More Information Roxboro, NC 27574

Caroline Saturday

Scarlett & Big John Friday

Friday and Saturday Mornings


Directions: 3.5 miles south of Roxboro off NC Hwy 49 on Blalock Dairy Rd. 1 hr north of Raleigh/Triangle area | GPS: 36.37456, -79.04302

ADULT TICKETS 3 Day at Gate - $90 Thursday - $30 Friday - $30 Saturday - $30 CHILDREN’S TICKETS Age 12 and under - Free Age 13-16 - $15 per day order tickets online

CAMPING w/ festival ticket Primitive campground campsites .........$5/day Adv Elec campsites ...$20/day or $120/Sun-Sat Electric campsites at gate .................... $25/day Parking in One-Day lot ............................. FREE Quality Inn-10% Discount..(336) 599-3800 Hampton Inn .................(336) 599-8800

For more information, or help with online ticket sales call 919-779-5672 To pay by check make checks out to Willow Oak Productions and mail check to Jordan Entertainment, 101 Timber Pointe Lane, Garner, NC 27529


Family Style Bluegrass Vendors Electric Hook-ups Hot Showers Concessions Camping in Shade Lots of Campsite Jammin’ Fishing Pond Workshops


No alcohol in the concert area. No smoking in the concert area. No pets in the concert area. Pets must be on a leash at all times. Golf carts only. No ATVs. No glass containers in concert area.


WAYFARING STRANGER Review By Richelle Putnam

“Our haphazard assembly of instruments produced a thick cloud of sound, from which emerged snatches of tune. The notes themselves seemed to move around our group like a swarm, settling for a short while on a banjo, next buzzing gently in the strings of a mandolin. I gripped the neck of my violin and willed them not to come my way. The music was flighty, cheerful, virtuosic; a thin, spectacled bassist kept the pace high. There were no chord sheets or pages of lyrics; everyone here knew the song, or at least knew how to follow along. Everyone except me.” (Emma John)

bluegrass music. What she did know was that bluegrass music

British author Emma John didn’t know what to expect when she set out for the U.S. Appalachian intrigued her and that for years Mountains to explore the roots of her love had been strained for 30

the violin on which she had been classically trained. She knew also that the sensation of Mumford & Sons and O Brother Where Art Thou? had shaken the world with enthusiastic ferocity. Incorporating a fiddle in the music mix became a new trend in London’s local bands. I had never heard a violin played like that before: fast and furious, in unpredictable and impenetrable patterns. This wasn’t music you could imitate, it was a secret code, its cleverness so complete that, without the key, all efforts were in vain. All the while its playfulness, its cocky swagger, tantalised the listener. Even the most explosive technical fireworks were handled with outrageous nonchalance. I’d never seen a violin player look so cool. And it tempted me, for the first time in a long time, to pick up my

instrument again. (John, 2020) Knowing little to nothing about the Southern landscape and zero about where to go and where to stay (think Google Search), John sets out to excavate the roots of this mountain music called bluegrass and to rekindle her love for the violin. These become the subjects of her first book, Wayfaring Stranger: A Musical Journey in the American South. However, it is not her first “published” book. As John explained in her August 24, 2020, Rick Bayles interview in Americana UK, “music and travel genres don’t sell well,” therefore, neither agent nor publisher had any interest in the book. John’s first published book, Following On: A Memoir of Teenage Obsession and Terrible Cricket, covered another of the author’s obsessions: the 1990s England’s Cricket Team. Following On became the 2017 Wisden Book of The Year. We are grateful John returned to her first book and Weidenfeld & Nicholson released Wayfaring Stranger: A Musical Journey in the American South

on November 3, 2020. Since then, (to the likely dismay of the agents and publishers who turned it down) John’s memoir became a Newsweek Travel Book of the Decade and the British Guild of Travel Writers’ Travel Book of the Year. The song “The Wayfaring Stranger” or “The Poor Wayfaring Stranger” became well-known after singer and actor Jos Slovick sang it a Capello in the war movie 1917. The origins of the song remain unknown, but many believe it’s rooted in American folk and gospel music. It is listed as #3339 on the Roud Folk Index, probably the largest Englishlanguage folk song index in the world. “Wayfaring Stranger” evolved into a coveted cover for the likes of Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, and Burl Ives. Its poignant lyrics deftly molded into a haunting minor chord structure, clearly speak of death and leaving this world behind, but also relate to a reflective person on a journey through life. “Wayfaring Stranger” is absolutely the perfect title for this insightful memoir. 31

The 250+ pages pass by too quickly as we watch John bare all. She seems to trust her readers enough to share what most try desperately to hide— vulnerabilities, misconceptions, encounters, assumptions, and conclusions about unfamiliar people in a foreign culture we don’t understand. In one noteworthy moment, John exposes her unease: “But right now, as I sat under an advert for snake repellent, inhaling dust and paint thinner, my foreignness had never seemed more acute. When I’d begun my journey, I had felt like an adventuress; now I felt like a fraud. A committed city girl, a lover of creature comforts and liberal politics, earning songs whose evocation of humble country living meant nothing to me, whose corniness and attitudes to women made my modern sensibilities cringe. Bluegrass music was suffused with its love of home, of mountain mamas and cabins in the woods – a sentimentality I couldn’t share, for a place I’d never lived. In a style I couldn’t even play. As the music hustled on and I stumbled behind, catching at its coattails, all I felt was the vast distance between me and everything it represented. And I wondered: why did I ever think this was a good idea?” (John, 2020) John’s candidness allows readers to experience her angst, her insecurity, and even her English audacity in dropping herself into a Southern landscape that had only shown itself to her in movies like Deliverance and The Chainsaw Massacre. A Southerner might take offense to the author’s uncensored thoughts and assumptions, especially her 32

political views, but if we are all honest with ourselves and recognize and admit to our own biases, we appreciate her ability and willingness to completely share herself without a protective covering, something most of us long to do. And if you take offense, you miss John’s whole purpose in her journey— and how so completely this Southern landscape filled with mountain people so unlike her and their music changed her:

to the Appalachian Mountains. And this time …she would become a fiddler.

Here, John’s transformation begins, in Boone, N.C., where this classical violinist and her 300-year-old violin learn the rules of bluegrass jamming, where she tosses sheet music and learns how to improvise by ear, where she spends nights at bluegrass jams, and travels to bluegrass festivals and events in North Carolina, “Fred and his wife, Doris, Kentucky, Indiana, Virginia, and lived on a suburban street Tennessee. Alongside John, in a small town in the south readers from around the world of the state, not far from the learn about bluegrass music and city of Charlotte. Mailboxes the legends—Bill Monroe, Ralph stretched languorously down the Stanley, Flatt & Scruggs, Jim road and each house nestled and Jesse—who first brought comfortably on a large apronthe harmonic lyrics of cheatin’, front of immaculately groomed, drinkin’, killin’, the homeplace, discreetly watered lawn. The and trains to our ears. longer I stayed with Fred and Doris, the less I wanted to leave. John’s emotive portrayal of I took walks and drives in the the Southern landscape and North Carolina countryside; I its people urge us to remove joined in with the routines of our heavily guarded walls with their small-town life. The change which we so fiercely protect our of pace was an unexpected proud Southern culture and … relief; my usual restlessness listen. If you do, you’ll admire fell away; I embraced my this well-educated, independent, unproductivity. Some days I got successful writer, and sassy no further than the porch. In the Briton who exposes without still, heavy heat, the backyard shame her self-doubt and throbbed with color – purple musical ineptness against those coneflowers, tangerine lilies – improvising bluegrass jammers and an occasional breeze stirred who thrive effortlessly on every up the scent of honeysuckle.” lightning note. Like John in her (John, 2020) bluegrass journey, you will enter these pages as a stranger, but John does leave the lovely you’ll leave as Emma John’s old North Carolina home of Fred friend. and Doris, but it is too late. Bluegrass has beguiled her. It In short, we highly recommend was, in her own words, “music Wayfaring Stranger: A Musical that showed off; it scratched Journey in the American South, an exhibitionist itch.” She had not only for your reading started violin lessons at age four, pleasure but for a journey you but by age 21, she was through will likely never forget. with the instrument and had no interest in music …at all. Until bluegrass. Emma John returns


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