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The Bluegrass Standard

click here to subscribe − it's free! The Bluegrass Standard magazine is published monthly. Opinions expressed are not necessarily the opinions of The Bluegrass Standard or its staff, advertisers or readers with the exception of editorials. Publication of the name or the photograph of any person, business or organization in articles or advertising in The Bluegrass Standard is not to be construed as any indication of support of such person, business or organization. The Bluegrass Standard disclaims any responsibility for claims made by advertisers. Advertising rates are subject to change without notice. The Bluegrass Standard reserves the right at its sole discretion to reject any advertising for any reason. It is our policy to publish any letters to the editor that are signed and verifiable by phone number. We reserve the right of anonymity upon request. Letters must be grammatically correct, clarity and original and free of libel. The Bluegrass Standard reserves the right to decline publishing or reprinting any letter. Please forward any letters to: editor@thebluegrassstandard.com The views expressed are not necessarily those of The Bluegrass Standard. Copyright Š2019. All Rights reserved. No portion of the publication may be reproduced in any form without the expressed consent of the publisher.

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Sam Bush The Travelin’ McCourys Della Mae Billy Droze Five Mile Mountain Road more THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD


Bradley Walker Zach & Savanna Wright

Silas Powell Billy Strings Adam Steefey more THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Fiddler’s porch

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Hillbilly Fever Flamekeeper The Michael Cleveland Story

The Country Gentlemen MACC

Musicians Against Childhood Cancer

Festival Guide THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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The Blu e gras s St andard St aff 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!

Keith@TheBluegrassStandard.com

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. She writes for many publications.

Richelle@TheBluegrassStandard.com

James Babb • Creative Director James is a native Californian, and a long-time resident of Palm Springs. He creates a unique "look" for every issue of The Bluegrass Standard, and enjoys learning about each artist. In addition to his creative work with The Bluegrass Standard, James also provides graphic design and technical support to a variety of clients.

James@TheBluegrassStandard.com

Shelby C. Berry • Journalist Editor 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.

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The Blu e gras s St andard St aff 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.

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. GoldenAgeOfMusicVideo.com

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.

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 has used her education, experience, and creative talent to share the love of music with others.

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Sam Bush

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Veteran musician Sam Bush Can’t Stop and Won’t Stop

by Stephen Pitalo When an artist receives a lifetime achievement award for a career that spans, well, a lifetime, it represents an accomplishment that few bluegrass musicians can even fathom. Veteran bluegrass pioneer Sam Bush is ten years past his AMA Lifetime Achievement Award and has no plans to slow down. “I hadn’t until you said that,” Bush laughed when reminded, “but yeah, I’m still going. I’ve been in America the last 10 years, and they still haven’t put me out to pasture.” As a world-renowned mandolin player and former New Grass Revival member, Bush sports a legacy of great albums, a long road of amazing performances and the lifelong respect of his peers inside and outside the genre. Bands like the Traveling McCourys and the Steep Canyon Rangers invite him to jam at festivals, and country music stars including Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett and Garth Brooks call upon him to lend his talents to their performances and projects. Bush said it goes all the way back to his father. “I think probably listening to my dad play along to Tommy Jackson fiddle records and albums,” said Bush of his first musical memory. “It was an album jacket of five 78 records that he had by Tommy Jackson. He had another album—I think it was an instrumental fiddle album he THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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loved by Roy Acuff, with Tommy Magness playing fiddle. “So that’s my earliest memory, and maybe hearing the Grand Ole Opry on the radio in the house happened early on, but really the first memory is probably my dad playing the fiddle himself.” Bush’s last album took nearly four years to record before release, but he said it was just the process of arriving at a place he desired to be. “So, in those four years, of course I was playing live with our band all the time and – but really what was going – when I made the Circles Around Me record, I was actually thinking I would go for an effort where I would co-write all the songs. But as I started into it, I realized there were some other things I wanted to do. “After the Circles Around Me record, I spent a lot of time writing with friends and, when you’ve got friends like Jeff Black and Guy Clark as songwriting pals, I would come to them with maybe a story or the start of some thought, and then I’d ask, can we finish this? Can we make this into a song? So really, it was the joyful experience of going out writing with my friends and gathering tunes that made me write more than was necessary. There might even be a few left over, I can’t remember. But really, it took a long time just because I was engaged in a real effort to write more with my pals.” Even as a well-respected veteran of the bluegrass scene, Bush gushes when mentioning his heroes. Don’t get him started on the time he got Pig Robbins to play a shuffle on his last album. “It was wonderful, and it was interesting,” Bush said. “The song you mentioned is one that Emmylou Harris and I wrote called ‘Hand Mics Killed Country Music’ and of course we know 12

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there is a thriving country industry. Nothing is killed. It was just our lighthearted way to say that we like looking at the guitars when people are playing. Emmy and I, we decided. We talked about that. We see those old Time Life photos. Advertisements on TV. You look at their guitars and people are identified with the kind of guitar they played sort of. But anyway, with Pig, I was wanting to record, and we wrote a country shuffle, and all of a sudden, I realized that I never recorded a country shuffle kind of tune and wanted it to be a country song. “I was thinking about the piano playing, and how important that is in the way that it follows the bassline. and what happens there. The guy that really wrote the book on that to me was Pig Robbins, and I was fortunate to get to play some sessions with him earlier in life—I’m just old enough that I got to play with some of the greats that built Nashville music sound. Rather than to hire a younger person and ask them to try to copy Pig Robbins, why not get the original? “I called him, and he called back within about five minutes and I explained what I would like to do, a country shuffle that Emmylou Harris and I wrote. He went, ‘Gosh, country shuffle. I hadn’t played one of those in 20 years.’ So yeah, he came in, and he recorded the song with us. It wasn’t an overdub. We just felt it was really important that he be there for the feel of that song, not to mention what an expert he is on where the bassline should go, and just exactly how that rhythm works. Having Pig Robbins was just a real thrill and he’s a true architect of the Nashville sound.” Bush radiates a joyful energy that belies his age and experience, one that seems to establish a connective electricity between himself, his bandmates, the bluegrass community, and the audience.

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“Well, the joy is already inside me I guess somewhat,” Bush attempted to explain. “Somebody said to me the other day, ‘Is your resting face just a smile?’ (laugh) I said I guess so. But I’ve been lucky that when we start playing, yes, the joy of playing with the other people is what drives me on. I can’t always think of anything to play until somebody else has started playing something. I mean, I thrive off the other players. I want to play rhythm together, and one of the most joyful things for me is to be standing on stage, playing rhythm with the guys, and really, the timing of music is just so exciting that once we get it going, that’s what feeds the energy to the audience.” A documentary about his musical experience entitled Revival: The Sam Bush Story, debuted on Amazon late last year, and just became available on DVD with additional live performances. Seemingly never taking time off, Bush said his father comes right back into his mind whenever he feels the slightest bit bored.

“There’s always something to do, so in that way, I feel pretty fortunate,” Bush elaborated. “I know the last time I said I was bored, I was probably about 14 and my dad stuck a weed chopper in my hand and said, ‘Great. Go cut this. That will take care of that boredom.’ So, I learned as a farm kid never to say you’re bored.” 14

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SamBush.com

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Making It All Work by Emerald Butler Popular media dubbed this year’s Grammy Awards celebration as the year for women. While this is true for many cases, all-male bluegrass band The Travelin’ McCourys took home the Grammy Award for the 2019 Best Bluegrass Album. The album was nominated on December

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7, 2018, among competitors Portraits in Fiddles – Mike Barnet, Sister Sadie II – Sister Sadie, Rivers and Roads – Special Consensus, and North of Despair – Wood & Wire. The name McCoury is probably best known for the McCoury brother’s father and bluegrass legend, Del McCoury. However, it wasn’t until 2009 that Ronnie and Rob McCoury formed their own band, The Travelin’ McCourys. The band is also comprised of bassist Alan Bartram, fiddler Jason Carter, and guitarist Cody Kilby. Although the band has been performing since 2009, it wasn’t until 2016 that they decided to release their first single “Cumberland Blues.” The jiving single showcased the musical traits inherited from Del McCoury as well as the group’s innovative identity. Over the years, The Travelin’ McCourys continued to release singles, but it wasn’t until May 25th of last year that the band finally released their self-titled debut album which won them the Grammy. In an interview with Billboard magazine, Ronnie McCoury stated that “I just scratch my head in how we got it. I’m not going to knock it, but it’s a surprise.” The Travelin’ McCourys’ album pushes the boundaries of bluegrass with the genre mixture of the songs included. It all begins with the contemporary hit song “Let Her Go” by Passenger. The McCourys take the intimacy of the song and infuse it with a touch of bluegrass drive. Then they jump into some Outlaw Country with Waylon Jennings’ song “Lonesome, On’ry and Mean”. The band’s first singles “Cumberland THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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FESTIVAL GUIDE Blues” and “Loser” are also included in this debut album. To complete the creation the band includes a mixture of original songs that appropriately end with Alan Bartram’s song,” Travelin’.” Ronnie McCoury may not quite know why or how they won, but their album is a knowledgeable mix of traditional and

contemporary.

Each of the band members has been nominated and awarded Grammys in the past for work with various artists, but, as a group, this award has shown the growth and harvest of their many years’ worth of work. “The album definitely shows what we’ve evolved into as a band. And, it’s a pretty good representation of what’s happening with the whole genre,” Ronnie shared on the bands' website. While the boys still have dates scheduled to play with Del McCoury and plan for more, Del has shared his pride and joy for his son’s independent accomplishments in different interviews. The Travelin’ McCourys Grammy award and the music itself shows the progression of bluegrass while also honoring the tradition of the genre.

“The old bluegrass material is something I love, but it’s been done many times. We’re forging ahead with our own sound,” Ronnie stated. “That’s what you have to do to make it all work.”

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Della Mae by Susan Marquez Della Mae. Della Mae! Has anybody seen Della Mae? Has anybody seen her, this I got to know. The Osborne Brothers sang about trying to find Della Mae in their 1959 release on MGM Records. “A lot of the songs in the bluegrass repertoire in those days were about women who done a man wrong,” laughs Kimber Lutiker. “Della Mae was a character in a song, but we decided we’d stick by her and honor her by naming our group after her.” And that’s how the popular all-woman bluegrass band Della Mae got its name. Lutiker founded the group in 2009. “I was just trying to find a gig I could fit in with,” she explains. “I was living in Boston after college and realized that the most wellknown bluegrass bands were male-dominated. They may have a female lead or band member, but the majority of people in the groups were male.” THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Lutiker says that being the over achiever that she was, she had an idea. “I wanted to do the female bluegrass version of Uncle Earl. There just aren’t many all-female bluegrass bands out there. Our mission has always been to showcase bluegrass and roots music, and of course, to have fun!” The fiddle player in the group, Lutiker hails from Spokane, Washington, and is the fifth generation fiddle player “so far.” Both of her parents were fiddlers, and her mom’s side goes way back, with her father playing fiddle, and his father playing fiddle and so on. “My dad, who passed away a few years ago, was a five-time National Fiddle Champion. A musician visited his school when he was nine years old and he fell in love with the fiddle. When he was twelve years old, his mother bought a bow at a garage sale, and it’s the same bow I use today. It’s had to be repaired a few times over the years, but it still works great!” The Lutiker family has 11 combined National Fiddle Championships, and Kimber Lutiker holds five of those. “My grandfather learned from listening to others at dances he used to go to in North Dakota.” He moved with his father to Washington State to start a logging business. He had five kids, and married Lutiker’s grandmother, who also had five kids, then together they had three more. “There was no time for fiddle playing in those days,” Lutiker says. Eventually Lutiker’s grandfather did find time for the fiddle again. He bought her first fiddle and taught her to play when she was three years old. Six years later, he passed away, but his legacy lives on with Lutiker’s expert fiddling skills.

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Lutiker’s band, Della Mae, has been a big success. Their debut album on Rounder Records was named by Rolling Stone as one of the ten bands to watch in 2015. “We have traveled to 40 countries and had a GRAMMY nomination,” says Lutiker. They were also the IBMA’s Emerging Artists of the Year in 2013 and have traveled with the U.S. Department of State to 15 countries “spreading peace and understanding through music.” Lutiker explains that the women in Della Mae decided early on to do a service project. “We felt we had a unique message about empowering women, so we applied for the American Music Abroad program with the State Department. We were selected to go, and they sent us on a 42-day trip to six ‘stan’ countries, including Pakistan and Uzbekistan. It was so interesting.” Lutiker recalls meeting a young girl there who played banjo. “She learned to play from YouTube. We had a chance to pick with her and it was her first time to ever play with other bluegrass musicians.” After five years of over 220 days on the road, Della Mae took a much-needed break. But Lutiker couldn’t sit still for long. “I was working with an artist management company in Nashville when she got the call from the State Department about a tour in Barbados, Antigua and St. Kitt’s. “The Caribbean in the winter sounded like a good idea!” She took Avril Smith, the original guitar player with Della Mae, and Vickie Vaughn, a singer who has toured with Patty Loveless. The group continued to play together, and after doing a trio of shows in Kentucky across the river from Cincinnati, a storm blew up. “We raced back to the hotel and our car broke down. We laughed about our adventures, or mis-adventures, and that’s how we came up with the name Ms. Adventure. We went to the studio to record a few songs as a demo to get more gigs, and ended up recording seven tracks in one day. We decided to go back the next day and knocked out an album that is coming out on New Year’s Eve!”

DellaMae.com MsAdventureMusic.com THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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One Artist, Two Genres, A Lifetime of Music by Shelby C. Berry Ah, the 1980's... The era of America’s first mobile phones, the cool kids hanging out at Bayside High, and a whole lot of hairspray.

It was also the decade Billy Droze was given to our world. An artist and songwriter who spent almost half his life pursuing his dream, Billy is a one-of-a-kind, talented storyteller whose songs make you feel like you’ve lived his life right there alongside him. In his 32 years, Billy has already lived a life of heartache, happiness, success, and hopefulness—all which help create the best sort of stories and music. Well on his way to becoming a household name in the bluegrass world, Billy has been a hit songwriter in Nashville, Tennessee for more than a decade – writing lyrics that dig deep down to make you feel something you never knew you needed to feel. He has penned songs for The Grascals, Flatt Lonesome, Darryl Worley, Shenandoah, and Jamie O’Neil—just to name a few. Billy grew up in a musical family in the small town of Sand Mountain, Alabama. “You weren’t anybody if you didn’t play bluegrass,” said Billy, whose dad, Bob Droze, was a dedicated country, gospel, and bluegrass musician and early influence on Billy as a young musician. 24

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Billy began performing at only 5 years old when he first hit the stage and never really stopped. “I thought I’d be the next Randy Travis,” he said. “But that didn’t quite work out the way I planned.” Moving to Nashville at 17, Billy was signed as an artist by Sony BMG while he honed his skills as a songwriter. While his music didn’t develop into what he hoped for, his writing led him to publishing deals that resulted in songs cut by Darryl Worley, The Grascals, Grammy awardwinning Shenandoah, and more. “You Never Know was probably my favorite song I’ve written. It was written for and in memory of a founding member of Shenandoah, Ralph Ezell. It was recorded by Shenandoah and later by Darryl Worley as well.” Writing for Shenandoah even led to Billy singing lead for the band for several tours. “That was one of the biggest accomplishments of my career so far. I grew up listening to them, and this honor was more than I could comprehend at 19 years old.” After years of success as a songwriter, but not as a country artist, Billy decided to spend time in Europe promoting his traditional style of music. This led him to Lithuania where he met his wife Marija, a notable vocalist in her own right. Before he returned to the United States, he had a wife and two beautiful sons in tow. “My musical inspiration drives from two things – Jesus Christ and my family. I’ve had quite the life in 32 years. So, I draw from those experiences, as well as my faith and family,” said Billy. After coming back to the US and his musical career at home, Billy knew it was time to make some changes. “I went all around the world to end up right where THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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I started in the very beginning – traditional bluegrass,” said Billy. “I went back to my love.” While country music was changing to a more commercial pop sound, Billy knew he found his niche by making his way back home to the bluegrass sound. And, boy, was he right. To date, he has garnered an unprecedented six number one singles, an achievement unheard of in this genre. “I want to be to bluegrass music what George Strait was to country,” said Billy. “If I can make the music people love, I’m here to do that. I’m thankful that 15 years in the business has gotten me to where I am today, but I’m just getting my wheels greased up. I’m just getting started.” Billy was nominated last year for the prestigious Grammy Awards, as well as the IBMA and ICMA Awards. He even cohosted the ICMA Awards with Rhonda Vincent at the historic Grand Ole Opry House. He is quickly becoming one of the fastest rising stars of his generation, even though he’s been working hard at it for over a decade. In addition to his own musical successes, Billy has also started his own record label, RBR Entertainment, with the goal to produce great bluegrass music of today. “We seek singers and writers that I believe can produce bluegrass music of this century, bringing music with full potential to for a new market. We make music for the older crowd and the younger, but we always keep the respect for traditional bluegrass music alive.” Billy strives to use his label to make bluegrass music as popular as country. He wants RBR to help bluegrass become what country music was 15 years ago. “Honestly, music shouldn’t be put in a box. Music is music, whether it’s pop, country, bluegrass, or hip hop. It all just comes down to production and how you present it to the world.” Billy may have put in decades of work to get where he is today, but 2019 is 26

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looking to be another amazing year for this talented artist. He continues to tour throughout the year while also signing to his record label three new acts with passionate hearts for bluegrass music—just like his. “I think we are going to become a force to be reckoned with. We are excited to put out a brand of bluegrass that is of today and will also be great 20 years from now. I’m proud to be a part of this new wave of bluegrass.”

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Piano and Fiddlin' Go Hand-in-Hand for Five Mile Mountain Road by Kara Martinez Bachman “Fiddlin” Billy Hurt isn’t hurt by the closed-mindedness of some music fans, but he sure sounds a little tired of it. He’s as personable and as nice as can be, but this fiddle player from Boones Mill Virginia — not far from Roanoke — has an open mind about traditional music and wishes more fans would be accepting as well. “They have all these rules in their mind,” he said, of the not-uncommon, sometimes stringent expectation that bluegrass music should stick to certain instruments and

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certain ways of doing things. Hurt makes it clear that he and his band, Five Mile Mountain Road, aren’t strictly bluegrass. It’s just one genre they enjoy, and their repertoire also includes other styles. “We really lean more towards all types of roots music than we do bluegrass,” Hurt said. Although he’s “always gotten a positive response to the piano” played by band member Brennen Ernst, when he talks, it’s easy to sense a frustration with closed-minded music listeners resistant to the idea that for all its “tradition,” roots forms have always found room for experimentation. “They [closed-minded listeners] can’t understand bluegrass had recordings with an accordion and pump organ,” he explained. “The Osborne Brothers had percussion... they all had different instruments at one point or another.” He said he thinks this is because people “don’t know the history of the music.” If they did, they’d know that being too restrictive isn’t necessarily in the spirit of roots pioneers. “I have seen people condemn bands for some of the most ridiculous reasons,” Hurt summarized. He began playing fiddle when he was only eight years old and was performing onstage at age nine. “My dad was friends with one of the greatest fiddle players that ever lived, Clark Kessinger,” he explained. As a boy, he was around Kessinger from time to time and when he wasn’t there to be influenced by him in person, he would listen to his records. He also grew up attending a ton of live roots music performances, since his father was such a music fan. “There was never a moment in my life 30

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that I wasn’t around string-type music,” Hurt said. Over the years he was in “a lot of bands,” including a stint as an original member of The Bluegrass Brothers, back in 1986. “At the age I’m at now,” he said, “I want to focus on having my own band...with likeminded people who like a lot of the type of music that I like.” He did just that when several years ago, he formed Five Mile Mountain Road. There have been a few lineups, but the current configuration includes: Fiddlin Billy Hurt (fiddle); Brennen Ernst (guitar, piano, banjo); Seth Boyd (banjo, guitar); Caleb “Duke” Erickson (guitar, mandolin); and JC Radford (bass). The outfit has already released one recording through the Patuxent label, and Hurt said in the coming year, they expect to drop a second album. The first record has “some piano music, old time fiddle songs, a few bluegrass numbers, and originals,” and Hurt said the upcoming project “will have some of the same types of music...but we might put a little more effort into doing some original songs for this one.” The band of course gigs, but this year, is keeping its schedule light “on purpose.” Hurt said he expects about 25 to 30 Five Mile Mountain Road shows in 2019, but “it will pick up in 2020.” He said a live performance by his band offers lots of variety. It’s just a mix of roots. In addition to bluegrass and piano-focused music, he and the guys “also like to do 1950s country...we like to do old time country and hillbilly music.” He said the repertoire of songs they can play is huge. “We could play for days at a festival and never play the same song twice,” he joked. Hurt said his home region most definitely shapes what he does. “So many people play music around here,” he said. “I live in what’s called ‘the circle’...it’s a way of life around here.” Not only that, but his specific part of Virginia puts its own stamp on things. And that’s...well...a fast, foot-stomping stamp.

“We’ve got our own brand of old-time music,” Hurt said. “It’s a little faster... it’s more of a driving style of music.” He said outsiders will comment that it’s being played at too quick a pace. But obviously, they didn’t grow up in Boones Mill, or they’d know better. “Virginia has a lot of influence on my musical thinking,” he added. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Bradley Walker Overcomes the Odds to Praise God on His New Album “Blessed” by Stephen Pitalo

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Bradley Walker started singing when he was two or three years old and began performing in public when he was four. “Music was always a constant around my house growing up,” Walker said. “The radio was always on. I think the first time I sang was riding down the road, singing along to ‘Elvira’ by the Oak Ridge Boys on the radio, probably at 3 years old. That’s the first time my parents knew that I could carry a tune.”

his life.

When he was ten, he was invited on stage to perform with those very same Oak Ridge Boys. More amazing still is that Bradley Walker was born with muscular dystrophy, and has been in a wheelchair all

“A dear friend ran the Hilton Hotel in Huntsville, AL where the Oaks and all the stars stayed when they came through Huntsville,” Walker explained. “He introduced me to the guys because he knew how much I loved their music and that I could sing. That meeting started a life-long friendship and gave me some real heroes to look up to. The Oak Ridge Boys have been such a blessing in my life, and they remain so to this day.” Soon after, Walker was invited to sing with The Oak Ridge Boys on The Nashville Network program “Nashville Now.” “That was my first time to sing on national television,” Walker recalled, “and a great opportunity to sing with some of Nashville’s best musicians behind me. I sang ‘Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind’ that night, and also sang ‘Elvira’ with the Oaks. I think that experience at 10 years old really started the fire inside me to want to be a singer on a professional level.” By 1998, Walker had formed a band, The Trinity Mountain Boys, and began to perform at bluegrass festivals. In 2001, he joined the Georgia-based group Lost Horizon. Soon after, he was signed to Rounder Records and released his debut album in 2006, entitled Highway of Dreams. For his performance on the album, he won the Male Vocalist of the Year Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Walker's second album, 2016’s Call Me Old-Fashioned, was produced by Rory Feek and recorded at the Joey + Rory studio out on their farm. Walker had known Joey and Rory Feek since 2007, and he was asked by Rory Feek to sing the hymn "Leave It There" at the funeral of Joey Feek in accordance with her wishes. Bill Gaither of the Gaither Music Group, who was also at the funeral service, heard Walker's performance and signed Walker to his label. The album includes a posthumous duet with Joey Feek, "In the Time That You Gave Me", using vocals she recorded before her death. The album was released on September 23, 2016, and debuted at No. 9 on the Top Country Albums chart. On October 6, 2017, Walker released Blessed: Hymns & Songs of Faith. The album, produced by Ben Isaacs, features collaborations with Nashville icons such as Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, Rhonda Vincent, Jimmy Fortune, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Isaacs and Ricky Skaggs. “After the success of the Call Me Old-Fashioned record, the folks at Gaither music asked if I’d like to record a hymns album. In the back of my mind, that was always something I’d hoped to get to do, so with the help of Ben Isaacs, we did it. I really hope folks enjoy my spin on several classic hymns, and a few ‘new’ songs that feel like they belong in a hymnal, too.” That is certainly so, since Walker’s album received a GMA Dove Award for the Bluegrass/Country/Roots Album of the Year in 2018. He’s currently looking forward to a performance that takes place in a somewhat colder climate.

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“I’m honored to be a part of this year’s Gaither Homecoming Alaskan cruise, and it will be my first trip to Alaska. Again, such a blessing that Bill and Gloria Gaither asked me to be a part of an amazing week of music and worship. I can’t wait!” Along those lines, Walker has a new Gather project that he’s very excited to share. “This is a special project with Gaither Music that will feature a ‘quartet’ of friends including myself, Ben Isaacs, Mike Rogers, who some may remember from his time with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver a few years back, and Jimmy Fortune from the Statler Brothers. It’s going to be so much fun spending time with and making music with these guys…look for something from us later this year! Also, I just always want everyone in the bluegrass family to know how thankful I am for their support of my music. Bluegrass will always be a part of what I do.” Walker’s love for music keeps him going, despite the inconveniences and difficulties of modern life for a person with his physical challenges. He continues to inspire with his all-out enthusiasm.

“I love the creative process,” he said, “like being in the studio, seeing and hearing a new project come together, and I love traveling and meeting people.

“As long as God blesses me with opportunities to make music, I hope to be doing so for a long, long time!”

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The Wrights Are All Right

Zach and Savanna Wright by Shelby C. Berry THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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The small town of Louisa, Kentucky, hometown of bluegrass and country greats Ricky Skaggs and Larry Cordle, has done it again. This community in Lawrence County has produced more incredibly talented bluegrass musicians with a story to tell. Zach and Savanna Wright, sibling musicians at only seventeen and fifteen years old respectfully, have grown up singing together and are finally getting to put their music out to the world. The siblings began singing together in church when they were so young they couldn’t even play an instrument. This led to a majority of their music being gospel when performing together. “Some of my music inspiration comes from Rhonda Vincent, Patty Loveless, and most importantly Jesus Christ,” said Savanna. While both Zach and Savanna are both multi-instrumentalists, Zach primarily performs with the banjo, and Savanna plays the upright bass. They are young artists with old souls – dedicated to singing and performing traditional bluegrass music with mountain-style singing and playing. The first moment you hear Zach pick the banjo, it is not hard to realize instantly that his biggest influence is the late, great Dr. Ralph Stanley. With a similar background in their start of playing bluegrass music, Zach has put in countless hours studying Dr. Ralph Stanley’s traditional claw hammer style of playing the banjo. He can always be found learning more and trying to do “his part to keep traditional bluegrass music alive.” You have never felt the soul of bluegrass until the moment Savanna opens her mouth to sing a melody. She puts so much heart and soul into her music and has a true Appalachian bluegrass voice. “When listening to Savanna sing, you would think she has lived a life of heartache at only fifteen years old,” said Michelle Wright, Zach and Savanna’s mom. Honored to have had the opportunity to share the stage with many talented musicians since they started playing, Zach and Savanna’s love for bluegrass led them 38

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to where they are in their music and careers today. Zach and Savanna are both currently playing with Sammy Adkins and the Sandy Hook Mountain Boys, spending the last couple of years traveling all over the United States playing traditional bluegrass at some of the best bluegrass and acoustic music festivals across the country. “Our favorite part of playing together is traveling around to different festivals and venues, seeing new places, and meeting new people that love music as much as we do,” said Zach. “We have met some wonderful people that we now claim as our bluegrass family.” As proud members of young bluegrass musician group Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars, Zach and Savanna are thankful to be a part of a group of young musicians that love bluegrass music. While bluegrass is not the most popular genre of music among young listeners, Zach and Savanna were excited to join a group that has allowed them to find a group of kids across the US to share their love of music with. Grateful for Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars and the opportunities it has offered, Zach and Savanna are even more excited about the upcoming changes to the organization – allowing artists better opportunities to help keep this generation and future generations interested in playing bluegrass, listening to bluegrass, and keeping traditional bluegrass music alive. “If I was giving advice to another young musician who wanted to join Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars, I would tell them to burn the midnight oil and lay the picks to it,” said Zach. Even though they are excited and dedicated members of TBS, Zach and Savanna are looking forward to another busy music festival season with Sammy Adkins and the Sandy Hook Mountain Boys for 2019. Zach and Savanna have each recorded independent solo albums that they sell on their social media pages and at the merchandise tables at all of their shows. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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“Of course, we have dreams of what we want our future to look like, but God is in control of our future, and where He leads, we will do our best to follow,” said Zach. “We would like to have our own band one day, but for now, we enjoy traveling and playing with Sammy Adkins and his band.” If the careers of 14-time Grammy winner Ricky Skaggs or IBMA and Grammy awardwinning artist Larry Cordle are any indication of what is in store us from Kentucky natives Zach and Savanna Wright, we are in for a treat as lovers of traditional bluegrass music.

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Silas Powell by Susan Marquez

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We’ve all heard of musical prodigies – kids who can play instruments surprisingly well at a very young age. You can now add Silas Powell to that list of talented kids. It helps that he comes from a musical family. As a matter of fact, he’s a fifth-generation mandolin player. Silas’s dad, Josh Powell, played in a local bluegrass band when Silas was little and now plays with him in their family’s band. The story goes that Silas’ parents put a mandolin in his playpen and the toddler began picking. At age seven, Silas was in the basement with his dad’s band and he just started chopping along. “We knew he had to do something,” said his mom, Chasity Powell. That something was to have Silas start taking formal mandolin lessons with Kevin Means. “Kevin started working with Silas until he needed something more, then he started taking lessons from Davey Vaughn. Finally, Davey said he couldn’t teach him anymore. A friend told us about Mike Compton in Nashville so we contacted Mike, who told us he doesn’t normally work with kids, but he’d give it a try. They’ve now been working together for over six years, mostly over Skype.” Over the years, Silas, who is now 15, has competed in numerous contests. At age ten, Silas was awarded fourth place in the adult division of the Monterey, Virginia’s Old Time Fiddlers Convention. He is a four-time champion of the State of Maryland. He took second place in the Maryland state adult division at age twelve, plus a top five finish in the West Virginia state championship adult division. And mandolin isn’t the only instrument which Silas can play. He showed his diversity on different 42

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instruments in 2016 when he was awarded the State of West Virginia Junior Flatpick Champion, and he was awarded second place playing the fiddle at the Appalachian Old Time Fiddlers Championship held at West Virginia University. Silas has performed at Festivals around the country, including Merlefest, Remington Ryde, Bob Evan’s Festival and BayGrass in the Florida Keys. He has twice been a scholarship recipient from Houstonfest in Galax, Virginia. With all those accolades under his belt, you may imagine that Silas Powell lives a life of a music star. But on any given weekday, you’ll find Silas in a public-school classroom in his hometown of Salem, West Virginia. The high school sophomore is a normal kid, and most of his classmates have no idea about his musical accomplishments. “It’s not something I really talk about much,” says the somewhat reserved musician. “My close friends know about what I do, but it’s not something I brag about.” For a couple of years, Silas found time to play at local nursing homes, something that earned him the title of Youth Volunteer of the Year for the State of West Virginia for two years in a row. “It’s something I really enjoy doing. The people I play for are so appreciative. But sadly, I have less and less time now to do that kind of thing.” Silas travels with his family’s band, The Powell Family Band, more now than ever. His father, Josh Powell, and grandfather, Jeff Powell, are both in the band with Silas. “We tour as much as we are able to,” says Silas. “Starting around April, there is something pretty much every weekend for the next several months. We travel throughout West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Maryland, and southern part of the state of New York.” For the past six years, the family has traveled to the Florida Keys for the BayGrass Bluegrass Festival in Islamadora. “We really enjoy going to that. We’ve been on the main stage for the past three or four years, which has been great.” THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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In addition to festivals, Silas says he enjoys playing at the IBMA. “Meeting all the people there is one of my favorite things to do.” In 2017, he was one of 25 kids selected to perform as one of The Kids on Bluegrass at IBMA. He was recently featured on Woodsong’s Old Time Radio Hour as a Woodsong’s Kid, and he was also recently inducted into Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars. While Silas says he’s not often star-struck, he did have the opportunity to meet Ricky Skaggs. While talking with Skaggs, Silas says he saw Ralph Stanley walk in with his grandson, Nathan. “I was a little star-struck to meet Ralph Stanley,” Silas says. “He was really nice and encouraging.” Silas says he plans on attending college, and hopes to be a post-secondary educator, possibly in performing arts music, or music theory. He has recently begun writing songs. “I wrote an instrumental song that is on our new LP, Hard Times.”

Silaspowell.com

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Billy Strings by Stephen Pitalo

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Jimi Hendrix. Eddie Van Halen. Stevie Ray Vaughn. Billy Strings. You may know the first three as burning hot guitar virtuosos whose style is unmatched. The fourth is the one you should be listening to right now. Although, when it comes to talking about his talent and performance style, Billy Strings would rather let the music do the talking. “I appreciate it,” Strings said. “I just don’t know what to say about myself, you know?” Strings, with a 200 gigs-a-year average, doesn’t need to talk, seeing as how Rolling Stone just named him “the bluegrass star you don’t want to miss.” But when he does speak, he connects the dots between guitar styles across genres; one might hear Earl Scruggs and Slayer in the same breath. But is he a shredder who loves bluegrass, or a mountain picker who digs metal? Whether or not that’s established, Strings has been delivering head-banging performances across the country and picking up devoted fans along the way. His first album, Turmoil and Tinfoil, was released in 2017 to universal critical acclaim. All that said, he does kneel at the altar of Bill Monroe. “Honestly, I think of what I gained by listening to that stuff when I was little, by being

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exposed to it,” Strings (real name William Apostol) explained. “My dad showed me a lot of Bill Monroe’s music. I heard fast driving bluegrass and the bluegrass harmony. I heard the way the vocals worked together, and the instruments worked together. I guess I got a taste of that early on and that has been a substantial sort of a head start for me as a musician. Just learning all that stuff that, like ‘Bluegrass Breakdown’ and all that stuff that Bill Monroe and my father [Michigan picker Terry Barber] did together. I love all that stuff.” Strings said that his “go-for-broke performance style” harkens back to his heroes. “I feel like bluegrass was sort of that way originally,” he explained. “Maybe before 1946 or 1948 when Bill Monroe was running around with Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and his band. Before then, you maybe only heard banjo, claw hammer banjo or string bean out of the Grand Ole Opry, or this or that—but once that shit came out, it was so fast and intricate and technical. I couldn’t imagine seeing Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys in the early 1950s. It would just blow you right back in your seat.” “But later on in my life, I got into heavy metal and stuff like that too. I played in a metal band when I was in middle school and early high school — ninth, tenth grade stuff. It was the first kind of performing that I did. I played bluegrass growing up, but I never played on stage very much. I just played with my dad and around the fire at the campground, and it wasn’t until later on that I kind of got into heavy metal. That all started through Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix and stuff like that. You know, kind of a gateway. “I came back to bluegrass because that’s where I first started, and that’s where my heart really was, those memories that I have growing up. Learning that music and playing it with my dad, those are the best memories that I have. So sometimes that music can bring me right back there.” Strings’ down-to-earth subject 48

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matter is mined from his own experiences, but sometimes it’s an observance of the trials and tribulations of his audience. “I think I always kind of go back to running around things that I either have been through or things that I know, things that are popping around inside of my head. I drive around the country a lot, and I see a lot of small-town America. You know what I mean? I see exhausted people and growing up, I saw a lot of substance abuse, people doing a lot of drugs, shit like that, so I tend to write about that. There’s one song in a new album about a couple of my friends that had died last year from heroin. It was two people in the last six months of the year or something. I just sat down one day and wrote a song for them. So, there’s a lot of that kind of stuff about real shit as far as I’m concerned, stuff that really goes on. We’ve also got a kind of an ecofriendly touch there too. There’s a couple of songs we’re hinting at how I feel about how humans are using the planet.” But on a more spiritual level, can high-octane, hard-driving bluegrass bring people to higher ground? Billy Strings seems to think that may be his mission. “I’ve always been driven by something. Music is what drives me. My mission is to bring music into the world and to keep playing my guitar, man, because I love it. It’s just what I do, and I don’t know what that is. There’s sort of a higher power there that we’re all kind of looking for. But it’s music, man, it’s magical. It can heal people and bring so much happiness.”

BillyStrings.com

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Adam Steefey One Man, Many Bands, & a Whole Lot of Bluegrass Music

by Shelby C. Berry One of the most recorded mandolinists in the last two decades, Adam Steefey, is the bluegrass artist you didn’t know you were missing out on. While traveling and performing with incredible bluegrass musicians like Alison Krauss and Union Station, The Boxcars, and Highland Travelers, Adam Steefey also recorded with countless well-known country and bluegrass artists over the years as well – from Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, and Vince Gill to Dolly Parton, The Dixie Chicks, Rhonda Vincent, and many more. Steefey’s unique style and approach to mandolin playing, known throughout his career as “Steefey-style,” is distinctive and linear, as well as melodic. Hailing from Eastern Tennessee, this five-time Grammy award-winning artist & recipient of the IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year award 11 times began playing the mandolin at age 15. He has been a member of many bands over the years while taking on the role of teacher at the Bluegrass, Old Time and Country Music Studies program at Eastern Tennessee State University (ETSU), located near his Jonesboro hometown. Before stepping down from that role at ETSU in November of 2018, Steefey focused on weekday teaching while traveling weekends with his band. According to Steefey, teaching kept him connected to the mandolin in-between bands and during brief hiatuses. No longer a part of the ETSU faculty, Steefey teaches private lessons, appreciating the ease of scheduling versus the inflexible academic setting. 50

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In January 2018, Adam Steefey and four other bluegrass musicians sharing a common love for the traditional sounds and styles of legendary bluegrass artists formed Highland Travelers, a band inspired by the pioneers and legends of bluegrass music. The mission of the group is to respect bluegrass legends while bringing original and innovative ideas to their music. They signed with Mountain Fever Records and released their debut record within six months. After being together less than a year, the Highland Travelers received great recognition for their music, but it became too much to manage for the artists. The band’s break up was announced in November of 2018. “I was tired. I thought I wanted to get out of music all together. It had become overwhelming to me, and the thought of starting up a new record just seemed like too much,” said Steefey, who, after about a month of barely touching his mandolin, took time away to appreciate his love for playing music and working in the studio. Then, an incredible opportunity presented itself—the well-established traditional bluegrass band, Volume Five, lost a band member. Known for their soulful sound, brilliant harmonies, picking perfection, pleasant melodies and rhythmic instrument interplay, Volume Five, in just over a decade, quickly became one of the most beloved bluegrass acts today. With the announcement of Colby Lane departing from the band, Volume Five swapped Jacob Burleson from mandolin to guitar and welcomed Adam Steefey on mandolin to the group. Joining this already successful band meant Steefey could just play without having to steer the ship. The new Volume Five performed their first show together on February 9 at The Ritz Theater in Sheffield, Alabama. The happy ending to a bit of a tiring and overwhelming year for Steefey has things winding down for him, like band responsibilities and teaching schedule, and winding up with the new band and its successes. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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“I am way beyond blessed. The Lord has taken care of me, and He has given me all of this. I’m beyond compensated for any effort I’ve put into it. I just do what I enjoy.”

Adam Steefey enjoys sharing his talent on the mandolin with other aspiring bluegrass musicians, but his true love is standing behind an instrument on stage. Can you guess what instrument that is?

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 Fiddler’s Porch 

Hillbilly Fever... It’s in the Water! by Emerald Butler “We’re all hillbillies’,” Mark Krider admitted when asked about his band’s name. The Hillbilly Fever Band plays a combination of traditional bluegrass, country, and western swing music. However, the pickers don’t all live on the same hill. They live a decent distance from each other. Band leader and banjo picker Mark Krider currently lives in east Texas, guitar picker Randy Gambill, mandolin player Wes Tuttle, and Bassist Butch Barker reside in North Carolina, and Bob Frankot fiddles around in Arizona. Yet, this doesn’t stop them from getting together to make music. Originally from North Carolina, Mark Krider moved to Texas a few years back to be closer to his wife’s military family. Mark had played in various bluegrass bands in the area, but unfortunately, he discovered that something was missing. 54

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“Wherever I go there’s bluegrass,” Mark stated. “People play it everywhere. They play it, but nobody can get the sound… I miss the sound of the traditional roots bluegrass.” This situation motivated Mark to form a band, to keep the traditional sound alive. Each of the band members have played in multiple bands. Randy Gambill has played with Doc Watson, Jim Lauderdale, Mark O’Connor, and toured in Europe. Wes Tuttle has also shared the stage with Doc Watson, Jerry Douglas, Kenny Baker, and he has even recorded with Tony Rice. Buch Barker has played with Wayne Henderson, Terry Baucum, and the band, Rock Bottom. Fiddler Bob Frankot has played professionally with California bluegrass band Hot Off the Press, on television and radio, and he has even entertained at Disneyland. After a few jams, previous mutual work, and recommendations, Mark pulled everyone together to form Hillbilly Fever. “I knew that this type of music was in these guys hearts, and that’s kind of the reason for it.” The guys in North Carolina can work on songs together while away from the rest of the band, but the whole band gets together about once a month. When they are together, Hillbilly Fever livens up shows while also keeping tradition alive. It’s not a surprise to see the band decked out in western attire, while playfully interacting with the audience. They’ll start with Bill Monroe’s “Blue moon of Kentucky” and then go into some Cajun fiddling with Hank William’s “Jambalaya.” “We like to play with a lot of drive,” Mark stated. The band also writes their own traditional sounding songs that they perform at their shows. Although the band doesn’t travel and perform full-time, they are hoping to add more shows to their calendar, and they are hoping to record an album this summer. They are scheduled to play the Nelson McGee Memorial Bluegrass festival in San Angelo, Texas this April. THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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No matter where or when they are together, there’s still the same sound that the band strives for. “There’s a particular sound that comes out of the Blueridge mountains, and I was raised (close to) where Doc Watson lived… and I saw him for years.” Mark recalls picking his guitar at a festival when he overheard a man from Colorado speak to Doc Watson. “Wow, you got a tone,” the man began. “I play that same song and I can never get it. You people have your own tone, and nobody can hardly capture it.” That is what Hillbilly Fever strives for. Mark believes that there’s a type of art in getting that particular tone.

“I’m not saying that you have to be from Carolina (to get the tone), but it’s kind of in the water up there.”

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 Fiddler’s Porch 

Flamekeeper: The Michael Cleveland Story

by Emerald Butler I remember the first time I saw Michael Cleveland. It was at the river front in Chattanooga, Tennessee during the Three Sisters Bluegrass Festival. After The Flamekeeper’s show, Tom Brown, a friend I’ve mentioned in previous articles, bought me a CD for Michael to sign. Tom jokingly told me, “now I’m going to lie and tell them I’m your uncle,” in case there would be any trouble in getting an autograph. There wasn’t any, and to this day I’m still a little confused to why he needed to lie, but this is instilled in my memory. Either way, thanks Tom if you’re reading this! That previous knowledge and exposure to Michael Cleveland and his fiddling proved resourceful years later, when I applied for an internship with Compass Records in THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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Nashville. My enthusiasm for this amazing musician proved even more rewarding when my friends from Compass invited me to the premier of Michael Cleveland’s new documentary Flamekeeper: The Michael Cleveland Story. Nashville is a busy town. It’s even busier when there is a Predators hockey game, which there was during this night of the premiere. Thank you to whoever decided to provide valet parking; you are a blessing. The event took place at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and as I walked into the captivating museum I became both excited and confused. I was trying to decide if the ladies at the front had invited me to walk the red carpet or just stand back and watch. Not wanting to embarrass myself, I just stood back and watched. I meandered around some tables trying to figure out what to do when I noticed the man standing at the table beside mine. “Is that Vince Gill,” I thought. Indeed, it was. Finally, after a few minutes of thinking, I stepped up to the end of the red carpet beside the press, introduced myself to them, and jumped into what Becky Buller later described as my “full official Bluegrass Standard capacity.” “It’s a huge honor. I won’t lie to you. I’m a little nervous,” Michael Cleveland admitted as he finished walking down the red carpet. The documentary uniquely tells the fiddlers’ life story and reveals difficult truths that his fans may not know. The film’s director John Presley said, “one of my goals was to create a film that Michael would be able to experience and enjoy through sound alone.” Still the documentary is beautiful in both sound and picture. Throughout the premier, the theater was filled with both laughter and awe. 58

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“I just adore the way he tears the heart out of that instrument,” Vince Gill shared. “Everybody is drawn to someone who can really play well… and that’s what’s great about him.” Flamekeeper features interviews with Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Jens Kruger, Jeff White, Andy Statman, the Bibelhauser Brothers, and Vince Gill. “I don’t know if there is a greater honor than having a documentary made about you,” Josh Richards, guitar player and vocalist for Flamekeeper, told me.

Flamekeeper: The Michael Cleveland Story will be released online through Amazon and other streaming platforms on March 1st. More information about the film can be found at FlamekeeperFilm.com

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After the viewing, Michael and the band played a few songs for the audience. Before he started, Michael told the story of the bands response to confirmation of the documentary. “Josh was like ‘man, so what do you want us to tell?’” Michael began. “I said ‘tell it all, tell it all.’” “And then he watched it and all my good funny stories about Michael got cut,” Josh Richards replied as the audience laughed.

It seems like we all have good stories to tell about Michael, but if you want to know it all, Flamekeeper: The Michael Cleveland Story is a good place to start. 60

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HillBilly Fever brings to the stage a crowd-pleasing mix of traditional Bluegrass and gospel favorites, along with a few surprises thrown in for fun. A highlight of their shows comes when Bob and Wes cut loose with some awesome twin fiddling. If you think HillBilly Fever would add a great touch to your next festival or event, contact Mark at: hillbillyfeverband@gmail.com Everybody Needs a Shot of HillBilly Fever!

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by Susan Marquez Dave Propst has always been a fan of The Country Gentlemen. “I used to play the mandolin with the record player, emulating some of those old songs. I listened to Reno and Smiley, Flatt and Scruggs, and the 1965 original version of “Bring Mary Home” with John Duffy singing. I got my grandfather’s old Victrola and that really got me into music. My dad inspired me to play. My two aunts also inspired me. One played an autoharp she got from my grandmother, and the other played guitar.” Propst played in his first band in 1974. In the early 2000s, Propst went into a room where Bill Yates was singing. Yates was a 20+ member of the Country Gentlemen. “I started singing some of the old Country Gentlemen tunes with him. On my way home, Bill called and said he was cutting a tribute CD and asked if I’d like to come into the studio.” During that time, Yates was having heart problems and had to be hospitalized. Someone called him and said there was a guy who sounds just like Charlie Waller from the original Country Gentlemen group. “It was Mike Phipps. Bill called him and Phipps drove in and we spent the next 15 hours together singing.” In the early 2000s Phipps played mandolin and sang with Jay Armsworthy and Eastern Tradition. Every now and then they played a Country Gentlemen song. “Bill Yates and friends got together picking at Cabin Fever in Virginia,” recalls Phipps. “I knew they had planned to cut a CD. Someone heard me and thought I sounded like Charlie. I got a call from Bill Yates and we arranged to meet at the Log Cabin Campground. Bill was recovering from heart surgery. We sang songs for hours in a friend’s RV. I went on home and Bill called and asked me to record with them. He wanted me to sing ‘Secret of the Waterfall’.” 62

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Phipps did sing that song and sang on several more. “They kept saying ‘do you know this one?’ so I kept singing! I ended up on 90 percent of the songs recorded in that session.” The album was called Bill Yates and Friends: A Tribute to the Country Gentlemen. It sounded so good, Yates said he wanted to do a CD release party in Virginia. The event was held in December 2006 in Berryville, Virginia and was such a success that Yates suggested they do a tour and they’ve been on the road ever since. A second album, The Country Gentlemen: Tribute II, was released in August 2009. “That meant a lot to Bill,” says Propst. “It was like he had a second musical career.” Yates toured with and fronted the band until his untimely death in January 2015, but The Country Gentlemen Tribute Band lives on in his honor. During his career, Yates performed with such greats as Red Allen, Bill Monroe, and Jimmy Martin, but he is best known for his work with The Country Gentlemen. The concept of the band is to provide a re-creative sound of various Country Gentlemen bands through the years. Today the band members include Propst on mandolin and vocals, Phipps on guitar and vocals, Rick Briggs on banjo and vocals, Geoff Gay on dobro and vocals and Eric Troutman on bass and vocals. All the members of the group live in the Washington, DC area. “This music is important,” says Phipps. Propst agrees. “I’ve been playing bluegrass since high school. We had a little family band and I picked up the mandolin in the mid-1970s. My parents loved old country. That’s what they called music.

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“I remember that The Country Gentlemen came to my high school to play. That was my first real exposure to bluegrass. I think that what we are doing is keeping the tradition alive. Bill was so tickled to have a rebirth of The Country Gentlemen sound. It’s was a good feeling for us to see him feel so good about it.” The band works to recreate each tune they perform vocally and musically as it was originally presented. The gentlemen in the band put their heart and soul into each performance as they please those who were Country Gentlemen fans from way back to the new fans they have developed. The Country Gentlemen Tribute Band has become one of the most influential bands in bluegrass history.

“I’m really proud to be a part of this musical legacy,” says Propst. “We are keeping old time bluegrass alive.”

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Musicians Against Childhood Cancer by Kara Martinez Bachman On July 24 through 27, 2019 something meaningful will happen out at the Cardinal Center Campground in Marengo, Ohio. It’s there that over 40 bluegrass and country artist will help not only get toes tapping, but also help fund research intended to save children’s lives. This is the 20th anniversary of the Musicians Against Childhood Cancer Music Festival (MACC). President and coordinator Darrel Adkins will return with a team of volunteers devoted to raising money for the charity they care about most: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Since its inception, the MACC festival has donated over $1 million to St. Jude and the Y.M.C.A. As the primary beneficiary, St. Jude is near and dear to Adkins’ heart. His late daughter, Amanda, was treated there for a brain tumor that took her life at too young an age. Since then, Adkins has felt the need to pay it forward by supporting the Memphis, Tenn. hospital that treated his family so well and that’s on the cutting edge of researching childhood disease. “In 1999, our daughter, Amanda Lynn Adkins, was found with brain tumor. She was just 20 [years old] then,” he explained. “the local hospital said there was nothing they could do.” Just after Thanksgiving of that year, the Adkins family was welcomed with open arms by St. Jude, where Amanda received treatment until June. Adkins had been a bluegrass musician and promoter for many years, and when the artist of the bluegrass community heard about his daughter’s situation, he said, “they wanted to do something for her.” This was the origin of what has become a 20-year tradition. “That year we had over 22 acts, and most of them are still coming,” Adkins said. Amanda was able to attend that first festival in 2000. “She got to come THE BLUEGRASS STANDARD

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home for the festival,” Adkins explained, an excruciating sadness in his voice. “But she didn’t get to go back to St. Jude.” The experiences his family had at the hospital stuck with Adkins, spurring him, along with his wife Phyllis, to continue the annual fundraising event in his daughter’s memory. Although Adkins didn’t say this directly, it’s clear he and those who devote their time to Musicians Against Childhood Cancer (MACC) do it because they hope to have a hand in making miracles happen. In this case, the funds are used very specifically, and with an uncommon level of accountability. “All of our money that we donate, that goes into the medical part at St. Jude, it does not go into the general fund,” he explained. “It goes into the Brain Cancer Research Department...so they use our money as seed money.” He said he receives tours of the facility and is regularly updated on what the festival’s donations are achieving in trying to eradicate childhood cancers. “Each year around December, the head of the Research Department sends us all the clinical trials that the MACC was involved with that year,” he said. “We send that out to all the artist and volunteers that are involved in the MACC.” “They get to see what they’re helping to do,” he added.” This is their festival.” Adkins said before his daughter passed away, she understood how important it would be for her parents to carry on with the festival. “I think for her to tell us not to quit, shows what she knew about the music, and how she loved it,” he said. “She loved people and had a big heart.” Today, what Adkins refers to as “the MACC family” comes together each year to pay tribute to children such as Amanda and to help build a foundation of hope for future kids afflicted with cancer. Not only does the festival attract over 40 acts, but a labor of love goes on behind the scenes as well. “It takes 60 volunteers to put this thing on, and they’ve been with us years and years,” Adkins said. The reason so many support this event comes as no surprise: they’re familiar with one of the most respected hospitals and research institutions in the nation—St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“When we were living at St. Jude,” Adkins said, “We saw a lot of miracles.”

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March Festivals & Events Dates

Event

Location

Mar 1-3

Bluegrass on the Beach

Lake Havasu City, Arizona

Mar 1-3

Winter Bluegrass Weekend

Plymouth, Minnesota

Mar 7-9

Mountain View Bluegrass Festival

Mountain View, Arkansas

Mar 8-9

Des Moines Area Bluegrass Festival

Johnston, Iowa

Mar 14-17

Withlacoochee River Bluegrass Festival

Dunnellon, Florida

Mar 15-17

Marana Bluegrass Festival

Marana, Arizona

Mar 20-24

Sertoma Spring Bluegrass Festival

Brooksville, Florida

Mar 22-23

Bristol Bluegrass Spring Fest

Bristol, Virginia

Mar 29-31

Cabin Fever Festival

Duluth, Minnesota

Mar 29-31

WinterWonderGrass

Squaw Valley, California

For the complete list with links to full info, check out our Events tab at TheBluegrassStandard.com!

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April Festivals & Events Dates

Event

Location

Apr 11-13

Big Lick Bluegrass Festival

Oakboro, North Carolina

Apr 11-14

Bender Jamboree

Las Vegas, Nevada

Apr 11-14

Big Sky Big Grass

Big Sky , Montana

Apr 11-14

Old Settler's Music Festival

Tilmon, Texas

Apr 12-13

Nelson McGee Memorial Bluegrass Fest

San Angelo, Texas

Apr 12-14

Durango Bluegrass Meltdown

Durango, Colorado

Apr 12-14

Temecula Bluegrass Festival

Temecula, California

Apr 12-14

Wilmington Bluegrass Festival

Claymont, Delaware

Apr 25-28

MerleFest

Wilksboro, North Carolina

Apr 26-27

Charm City Bluegrass Festival

Baltimore, Maryland

Apr 27

Fort Cooper Bluegrass Festival

Inverness, Florida

Apr 27

The Ladies of Bluegrass Music Festival

Green Bay, Wisconsin

Apr 27-28

Bear on the Square Mountain Festival

Dahlonega, Georgia

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from the Publisher's desk

We hope you're enjoying this month's collection of artists, from all across the bluegrass world! Next month is a Special Focus edition, covering the finest of today's musical instrument makers and audio equipment manufacturers. Don’t forget to grab your copy of the 2018 Collector’s Edition, it’s only $19.95! Keith Barnacastle — Publisher


Turnberry Records & Management • Booking 2019–2020 •

Christian Davis soulful baritone

Rebekah Long

unique & captivating, small-town Georgia Bluegrass & Americana artist

No Time Flatt

Tennessee Music Awards “Bluegrass Band of the Year”, 2017–2018

The Kody Norris Show classic bluegrass showmanship

Phillip Steinmetz & His Sunny Tennesseans crowd-pleasing nostalgia

Bluegrass Outlaws

tight, melody-driven harmonies 760.883.8160 • turnberryrecords@gmail.com 12168 Turnberry Drive, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270 www.TurnberryRecords.com

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