40 HORSE MULE
- From Nashville, Tennessee.
- Formed in 2016, the brainchild of Bennie Boling (bass). Also in the band: Billy Troy (guitar and vocals) and Steve Huber (banjo).
- Bennie Boling is a former member of the Farm Hands Quartet.
- Billy Troy (born Billy Graves) is a singer/songwriter, the son of Bluegrass Hall of Famer Josh Graves. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska.
- Their band name comes from a line in a Boling song describing a tractor “… with his ol’ 40 horse Ford Mule.”
- 2017, released first single “Hell, Fire and Brimstone” (no label).
- From Hollywood, California.
- He also goes by the name Jon David Kahn.
- He is not the same John Kahn who played bass with Old and In the Way (and the Grateful Dead).
- He is a screenwriter and country musician who has worked in the Hollywood film industry. His credits include a film called “The Chili Con Carne Club” and the movie “Girl” which was released in 1998.
- He also has a country band called The Color Green, with three albums to their credit.
- 2009, he wrote a song called “American Heart” which became an anthem embraced by the conservative wing of the Republican party (The Tea Party Movement). To protect his identity, he changed his name to Jon David.
- 2016, after performing the song in Washington D.C. with The Blinky Moon Boys, he decided to release a bluegrass version of it (produced by Aaron Ramsey at Mountain Fever Studios).
- From Graham, North Carolina.
- A family band (the Moore Family) featuring siblings Kyndal (mandolin), Morgan (guitar), Parker (banjo), Daniel (fiddle), Norah (fiddle) and Garrett (bass).
- 2017, they ranged in age from 11 (Norah) to 21 (Parker).
- They began performing together as a band in 2014.
- While they are not exclusively a gospel-singing group, their band name comes from the Bible (Matthew 5:13-16).
- 2017, released their second album “Second Course” (Whale Tone).
- From the Virginia-North Carolina-Kentucky-Maryland region.
- Formed in 2016 by four bluegrass music veterans: Shayne Bartley (mandolin), Darren Beachley (bass), Greg Luck (guitar) and David Carroll (banjo). Former bands include Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, IIIrd Tyme Out, American Drive, Unlimited Tradition, the James King Band and the Darrell Webb Band.
- Luck also performs with Alan Bibey and Grasstowne.
- 2016, disbanded after just a few months together.
Below are my picks for the best bluegrass albums of the year. The list is just one DJ’s opinion of course. I host a radio show on KSON in San Diego and these are the albums I’ve played the most during the last 12 months. If you’d like to hear my countdown show, just visit kson.com/bluegrass and it will be there through the end of January.
1. Flatt Lonesome “Runaway Train” (Mountain Home)
2. The Steep Canyon Rangers “Radio” (Rounder)
3. Band of Ruhks “Band of Ruhks” (101 Ranch)
4. Volume 5 “Voices” (Mountain Fever)
5. Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out “It’s About Tyme” (Break a String)
6. Dale Ann Bradley “Pocket Full of Keys” (Pinecastle)
7. The Gibson Brothers “Brotherhood” (Rounder)
8. The Steeldrivers “The Muscle Shoals Recordings” (Rounder)
9. Johnny Warren and Charlie Cushman “Purely Instrumental” (no label)
10. Darin and Brooke Aldridge “Snapshots” (Mountain Home)
11. Robert Earl Keen “Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions” (Dualtone)
12. Shannon and Heather Slaughter “Never Just a Song” (no label AP Direct)
13. Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver “In Session” (Mountain Home)
14. Mountain Faith “That Which Matters” (Mountain Fever)
15. Ronnie Reno “Lessons Learned” (Rural Rhythm)
16. Steve Gulley and New Pinnacle (Rural Rhythm)
17. Della Mae “Della Mae” (Rounder)
18. Ralph Stanley and Friends “Man of Constant Sorrow” (Cracker Barrel)
19. Kathy Kallick Band “Foxhounds” (Live Oak)
20. Sideline “Session 2” (Mountain Fever)
21. Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road “Country Grass” (Pinecastle)
22. Big Country Bluegrass “Country Livin’” (Rebel)
23. Hammertowne “Highways and Heartaches” (Mountain Fever)
24. Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley “Before the Sun Goes Down” (Compass)
25. Chris Jones and the Night Drivers “Run Away Tonight” (Mountain Home)
26. The Grascals “And Then There’s This” (Mountain Home)
27. Springfield Exit “That Was Then” (Patuxent Music)
28. Donna Ulisse “Hard Cry Moon” (Hadley Music Group)
29. Various Artists “Orthophonic Joy” (Sony Legacy)
30. Blue Mafia “Pray for Rain” (Pinecastle)
- From Deep Gap, North Carolina.
- Formed in 2015 by teens Liam Purcell (mandolin) and Tray Wellington (banjo) who are both from Deep Gap (home of Doc Watson). Also in the band: Elliott Smith (bass) and Casey Lewis (guitar).
- 2017, released first album “Five Speed” (no label), produced by Cathy Fink and Tom Mindte.
- From Chattanooga, Tennessee (which is in Hamilton County).
- Members: James Boulware (fiddle), James Kee (mandolin), Josh Hixson (bass), Roy Curry (guitar), Jim Pankey (banjo).
- Curry (guitar) has won the Winfield National Flatpick Guitar championship three times. He also won the Minnesota and Tennessee State Flatpicking championships.
- Boulware (fiddle) is a third generation fiddler. He has won the Tennessee State fiddle championship and has also been a featured soloist with the Murfreesboro Symphony Orchestra.
- Pankey (banjo) has won the Tennessee and Georgia banjo championships.
- 2015, released self titled album (ByGabbled).
- From Portland, Maine.
- A mandolinist who has worked with The Gibson Brothers, Joy Kills Sorrow, Mr. Sun, Jonathan Edwards, Darol Anger, Scott Nygaard and others.
- He is a mandolin instructor at the Berklee School of Music in Boston.
- 2016, released first solo project “Borderland” (no label).
- From Asheville, North Carolina. Originally from New Hampshire.
- Brothers Nick and Lucas Dauphinais (pronounced DAH-FIN-AE) are of French ancestry.
- Nick plays guitar, Lucas plays bass. Other band members: Derek Vaden (banjo), Griff Martin (mandolin) and Laura Smith (fiddle).
- Nick graduated from University of New Hampshire with a degree in jazz and orchestral trombone.
- 2015, released Empty Teardops album (no label).
- 2016, Nick joined Mountain Faith (but continues to perform with his brother. He also works occasional dates with Mark Kuykendall and Bobby Hicks).
- From Low Gap, North Carolina.
- Galyean (pronouned Galleon, like the ship) is the son of Cullen Galyean, a legendary bluegrass musician from North Carolina. The band is named after him.
- Formed in 2010 by Mickey Galyean (guitar), Rick Pardue (banjo), Brad Hiatt (bass) and Billy Hawks (fiddle).
- Galyean and Hiatt formerly played with Rich In Tradition. Pardue has worked with several bands including Carolina Road, Long & Pardue and Rambler’s Choice. Hawks formerly worked with Big Country Bluegrass, Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice.
- 2013, released Rollin With Tradition album (no label).
- 2016, released My Daddy’s Grass album (Rebel).
FERGUSON AND FERGUSON
- From Fredericksburg, Virginia and Littlestown, Pennsylvania.
- Both members of this duo are named Gary Ferguson. They are not related.
- Gary Ferguson (Virginia) is a former member of the Knoxville Grass and toured with Donna Fargo.
- Gary Ferguson (Pennsylvania) is a singer/songwriter who has released numerous albums under his own name and with other musicians including Sally Love, Jordan Tice, Emory Lester and others.
- 2014, while touring Ireland together, they decided to form a duo.
- 2016, released their first album together Some Bridges (no label).
- From Pikeville, Kentucky. Was raised in Columbus, Ohio.
- 1977, moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music.
- 1985, released his debut country album “Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc. Etc.” Since then, he has sold more than 25 million records. He has five Billboard #1 albums, twelve gold albums, and nine platinum albums. He is also the most frequent musical guest in the history of NBC’s The Tonight Show.
- 1992, recorded “Miner’s Prayer” with Ralph Stanley on his “Saturday Night Sunday Morning” album.
- 1997, recorded a cover of Clash’s “Train in Vain” with Ralph Stanley playing banjo and singing harmony.
- 2001, wrote and recorded the song “Borrowed Love” on Earl Scruggs’ “Family and Friends” album.
- 2016, released first bluegrass album Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars (Sugar Hill).
- From Xenia, Ohio (near Dayton) with roots in Sandy Hook, Kentucky.
- Plays guitar and mandolin; sings and writes traditional bluegrass songs. He has a band called True Bluegrass.
- 2013, released “Fly Me Home” album (no label), produced by Clay Hess.
- 2016, released Over You album (no label), produced by Clay Hess.
- From Westminster, South Carolina.
- They are a band rather than a banjo making business, although founder and banjo-player Steve Wilson has experience as a luthier. He worked for Gibson when he was living in Nashville and continues building instruments.
- Band members: Steve Wilson (banjo), Joey Newton (guitar), Sarah Logan (fiddle), Dylan Armour (Dobro™), Brandon Crouch (mandolin) and Rob Walker (bass).
- 2017, released first album Spirits in the Hills (Bonfire).
- From Lexington, Kentucky.
- The Urban Dictionary defines a wook as: “a hippie without any ambition, motivation, or drive other than drugs and image. They’re generally in their twenties, college students (or dropouts) at small-town liberal colleges (such as Appalachian State University) and dependent on an income other than their own.”
- Band members: C.J. Cain (guitar), Galen Green (mandolin), Arthur Hancock (banjo), Roddy Puckett (bass) and Jesse Wells (fiddle).
- 2016, won the band competition at RockyGrass and released their first self-titled album (no label).
- 2017, Wells and Green left the band; multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Aaron Bibelhauser joined.
- 2018, released “Me and the Stars Tonight” album (Gnar Vector).
- From Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.
- A singer, songwriter and guitarist, he began his career in a band called Country Generation. He also worked with Vern Gosdin, singing background vocals before launching a solo career in 1989.
- As a songwriter, he has written several hit songs including “A Woman in Love” for Ronnie Milsap, “Next to You, Next to Me” and “Rock My Baby” for Shenandoah, “Too Much Fun” for Daryl Singletary, “What’s It To You” for Clay Walker and “She’s Got a Man on Her Mind” for Conway Twitty.
- 1992, released solo country album Curtis Wright (Liberty).
- 1994, formed a band with Robert Ellis Orral called “Orral and Wright.” They released one album (Giant Records).
- 2002-2007, became Shenandoah’s third lead singer (after Marty Raybon and Brent Lamb).
- 2007, joined Pure Prairie League.
- 2016, recorded a self-titled bluegrass album Curtis Wright (Voxhall).
- From Luttrell, Tennessee (“Tater Valley”)
- Began performing at age 8.
- 1995-2009, played banjo with the gospel group New Road.
- He also has a 60-acre farm in East Tennessee where he raises Black Angus and Hereford cattle.
- 2008, formed Brand New Strings.
- 2013, joined the Dale Ann Bradley band.
- 2016, released solo project East Tennessee Sunrise (Rural Rhythm) produced by Steve Gulley.
- 2016, joined Flashback.
- From Illinois.
- Plays banjo with Bluegrass Express, a group that includes his father and grandfather, Gary and Greg.
- He began playing piano at age 5, then mandolin and fiddle at age 8. At age 13, he learned banjo and guitar. He has won numerous fiddle and banjo contests.
- 2015, at age 19, he released his second solo album “The Banjo Files” (no label)
- From Moscow, Russia. Lives in Nashville.
- Pronounced “Eel-ee-yuh Toe-shin-skee.”
- Was a founding member of the Russian bluegrass/country band Bering Strait (also known as Cheerful Diligence and Siberian Heatwave). They migrated to Nashville and recorded three albums. Broke up in 2006.
- 2004, left Bering Strait and began working as a studio musician. He is a five-time winner of the Music Row award for top guitar player and two-time winner of the ACM award for musician of the year (specialty instruments). He has performed on recordings by Carrie Underwood, Tim McGraw, Reba McEntire, Glen Campbell, the Doobie Brothers and Rascal Flatts (including their hit son “Banjo”).
- 2016, released solo banjo project Red Grass (Hadley Music Group).
- From Boston, MA.
- Formed in 2013 by Berklee College of Music students: Kathleen Parks (fiddle), Dan Bui (mandolin), Ricky Mier (banjo), Chris Sartori (bass) and Rachel Sumner (guitar).
- 2014, won band contests at the Freshgrass and Thomas Point Beach Festivals.
- They played weekly at a club called the Cantab Lounge in Cambridge, MA.
- 2016, banjo player Mier left the band.
- 2017, released self titled album (Signature Sounds).
- From Nashville and various locations in the bluegrass heartland.
- A all-female band that formed in 2015 after a jam at the Station Inn in Nashville.
- Members: Dale Ann Bradley (guitar), Tina Adair (mandolin), Deanie Richardson (fiddle), Gena Britt (banjo) and Beth Lawrence (bass).
- 2016, released self titled album (Pinecastle).
- From Martinsburg, West Virginia.
- Formed in the early 2000’s. 2015 lineup: Libby Files (bass), Brett Smeltzer (mandolin), Kenton Catlett (guitar), and Troy Stangle (banjo). Catlett and Stangle replaced previous members Ed Barney (guitar) and Darrell Sanders (banjo).
- 2010, released “Hot Off the Press” album (no label).
- 2011, released “Live in Concert” album (no label).
- 2012, released “Are You Ready” album (no label).
- 2016, released “Memories and Tears” album (no label).
- 2017, released “Live on Location” album (no label).
- From McClure, Pennsylvania.
- Formed in 2005 by Ryan Frankhouser (guitar, vocals). Other band members: Billy Lee Cox (banjo), Warren Blair (fiddle), Richard Egolf (bass) and Stanley Efaw (mandolin, banjo, guitar).
- Frankhouser and his band also host their own Remington Ryde Bluegrass Festival each July in Pennsylvania
- 2005, released “Purely Bluegrass” album (no label).
- 2008, released The Ryde album (Green Valley).
- 2010, released Grandpa Was My Guide album (Green Valley).
- 2017, released A Storyteller’s Memory album (Pinecastle), a tribute to the music of James King.
- From North Carolina. Currently lives in Minnesota.
- Started playing rock music as a teenager, then turned to folk music. In his early 20’s had a folk duo called Riggs and Rook.
- Learned to play banjo from Bobby Hicks.
- In North Carolina, performed with the Eno Ramblers and also had a group called Rook and Wood, releasing one album “Labor of Love” (no label).
- 2006, moved to Minnesota and joined Dick Kimmel & Co, playing guitar.
- 2016, released solo project “The Road Back Home” (no label).
- From Tucson, Arizona.
- Band members include brother and sister Matt Rolland (fiddle, guitar) and Grace Rolland (cello, vocals) and sisters Bekah Sandoval Rolland (fiddle, vocals) and Jen Sandoval (mandolin, vocals). When touring they also have a fifth member, playing bass.
- 2009, won the Pickin’ In The Pines band competition.
- 2011, won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition.
- 2013, appeared on “A Prairie Home Companion” with Garrison Keillor (twice).
- 2013, released “So Sang the Whippoorwill” album (no label).
- 2014, released Something to Someone album (Sky Island).
- 2016, released “I Would Fly” album (Sky Island).
- From Piney Flats, Tennessee.
- Began playing fiddle at age 3.
- By age 12, he had appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (NBC) and Little Big Shots with Steve Harvey (NBC). He has also won several youth fiddle championships.
- Formed a band called Iron Mountain with his father Jamie (guitar), Eric Marshall (banjo), Ben Marshall (bass) and Austin Tate (mandolin). Eric Marshall is Ben Marshall’s father.
- 2016, released “Christmas Time in the Country” (no label), a holiday single.
- From Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
- Formed in 2014 by C.J. Lweandowski (mandolin), Josh Rinkel (guitar), Jereme Brown (banjo) and Jasper Lorentzen (bass).
- Lweandowski (mandolin) is originally from Missouri. He previously worked with David Davis, and with Karl Shifflett and the Big Country Show.
- Rinkel (guitar) is originally from Louisville, Kentucky. He formerly worked with Tommy Brown and the County Line Grass (12 years), playing banjo and guitar.
- Jereme Brown (banjo) is the son of Tommy Brown and still plays lead guitar with Tommy Brown and the County Line Grass.
- They worked 4 months with James King as his backup band.
- They are endorsed by Pointer Brand overalls and Anchors hair pomade.
- The band had a dog named Dip Stick.
- Every band member has an antique car, mainly Cadillacs
- 2016, released first album “Back to the Mountains” (Randm).
- From Sardis (Monroe County), Ohio.
- A duo featuring twin sisters Lauren Price (mandolin) and Leanna Price (fiddle).
- They began singing at the age of 3 with their family band The Price Family. They formed The Price Sisters in 2012 at age 16.
- Lauren is the older twin by five minutes.
- Leanna does most of the lead singing.
- Lauren took mandolin lessons from Mike Compton. Leanna took fiddle lessons from Byron Berline.
- 2013, released Bluegrass Backroads album (no label).
- 2016, released self titled album on Rebel Records.
- From Belleville, IL (a suburb of St. Louis, MO).
- Formed in 2012 by Ryan Murphey (banjo) and Dustin Eiskant (guitar). Other members: Justin Wallace (mandolin), John Brighton (fiddle), Jesse Farrar (bass). Eiskant was later replaced by guitarist Rob Kindle.
- Banjo player Murphey is also a horticulturist. Farrar is a hip-hop producer and also played bass on a national tour of the Four Freshman.
- 2015, won the FreshGrass Band competition (North Adams, Massachusetts).
- 2016, signed with Compass Records.
- 2017, released self-titled album (Compass).
- From Clayton, North Carolina.
- Began playing the banjo at age 10.
- 2016, at age 16 formed his own band and was being featured at Lorraine Jordan’s Coffee House (he also works as a barista there) and appears with her on the road.
- 2017, released first album Young Man, Old Soul (Pinecastle).
- From Raleigh, North Carolina.
- An acoustic trio featuring Larry Nixon (guitar), David Blevins (guitar) and Steven Gage (bass).
- Nixon is an engineer and is also host of The Pinecone Bluegrass Show on WQDR in Raleigh. He plays a thumb-picking style of guitar.
- Blevins is also an engineer from Raleigh and plays a flat-picking style of guitar.
- Gage is originally from Columbus, Ohio and is a psychotherapist in Raleigh.
- They have released seven albums, their latest being “Pickin’ on Doc” (2016, no label), a tribute to the music of Doc Watson.
- From Powell, Tennessee (near Knoxville).
- A singer/songwriter who performed for many years as a cast member at Dollywood Theme Park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
- Her grandfather Bill Powell was a friend of Roy Acuff’s and a member of his first band.
- She was the featured baton twirler for the University of Tennessee’s “Tennessee Pride” Marching Band.
- 2014, released first bluegrass album Appalachian Angel (no label).
- 2016, released “Taking Care of Bluegrass: A Tribute to Elvis” album (no label) featuring bluegrass covers of Elvis Presley songs.
- From Dudley, Massachusetts.
- A banjo player who spent 19 years with Traver Hollow (1983-2002).
- He refers to his banjo style as “crackling banjo.”
- He has since worked with the Connecticut band Truegrass; also Gail Wade & Turning Point.
- 2005, released solo project Menzone Drive (no label), produced by Wyatt Rice.
- 2009, released second album Frostbite (no label), also produced by Wyatt Rice.
- 2016, teamed up with Wyatt Rice to release Something Out of the Blue album (Mountain Fever).
- From Boston, Massachusetts.
- Formed in 2014 by Evan Murphy (guitar), Bronwyn Keith-Hynes (fiddle), Nate Sabat(bass), BB Bowness (banjo) and David Benedict (mandolin).
- Murphy is the only Boston native (from Milton, Massachusetts). The others come from as far away as New Zealand (Bowness).
- 2017, released their first album Onward (no label) produced by Stephen Mougin.
- 2017, won the IBMA’s Momentum Award for Band of the Year.
- From Louisville, Kentucky.
- Formed in 2012.
- An old-time string band featuring Neal Green (fiddle), Derek Harris (bass, vocals), Paul Martin (banjo, mandolin, vocals) and Brian Vickers (guitar).
- 2013, released Went to the Well album (no label).
- 2014, released Brownsboro album (no label).
- 2016, released Red Horizon album (no label).
- From Missoula, Montana.
- Formed in 2010. Band members: Andy Dunnigan (dobro), Scott Parker (upright bass), Matt Cornette (banjo), Jake Simpson (fiddle) and Matt Rieger (guitar).
- 2013, won The Northwest String Summit Band Competition in Oregon.
- 2013, released The Lil’ Smokies album (no label)
- 2014, released Live on New Year’s Eve album (no label)
- 2015, won the band contest at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.
- 2016, won the IBMA Momentum Award in the band category.
- From Boston, Massachusetts.
- Members: George Clements (guitar, lead vocals), Patrick M’Gonigle (fiddle), Matt Witler (mandolin), Gabe Hirshfeld (banjo) and Charles Clements (bass). George and Charles Clements are identical twins.
- Formed in 2012. They were hired as a wedding band to perform Beatles songs bluegrass-style and decided to stay together. They called themselves BeatleGrass.
- Several of the group members are (or have been) students at the Berklee School of Music in Boston.
- 2015, won the IBMA Momentum Award for Band of the Year.
- 2016, released Deep Waters album (Rounder).
- From Lincolnton, Georgia.
- Twin sister to Lizzy Long, she played bass with the Lizzy Long and Little Roy Lewis show. She has also played bass with Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike.
- Appeared on the Daughters of Bluegrass albums produced by Dixie Hall. She was the recording engineer and graphic designer for these projects.
- 2016, released first solo album Here I Am (LUK), produced by Donna Ulisse.
BILLIE RENEE’ JOHNSON
- From Mt. Sterling, Kentucky.
- She grew up singing with her family gospel group.
- 1996, graduated from college with a degree in criminology.
- 1997, formed her own band Billie Renee’ and Cumberland Gap.
- 2006, won the band competition at SPBGMA.
- 2017, released Songs from the Heart album (Truegrass).
- From Buehl, Germany. Lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
- He learned guitar as a teenager and began performing country music in Germany in various cover bands.
- Studied classical guitar at the Stuttgart Conservatory of Music.
- 2003, emigrated to the U.S. on a Diversity Immigrant Visa program.
- After coming to Nashville, he worked with singer/songwriter Mary Gauthier and also with Nanci Griffith’s Blue Moon Orchestra, eventually producing an album for her. He has also worked with and produced albums for Bobby Bare, Maura O’Connell, David Olney, Kim Richey and others.
- His songwriting credits include several bluegrass songs including “Around the Corner” (Terry Baucom & the Dukes of Drive) and “Carolina Wind” (Irene Kelley). He teaches a songwriting class at Belmont University.
- 2011, released The 1861 Project: From Farmers to Foot Soldiers, a three-album project featuring original songs about the American Civil War.
- 2016, with Peter Cooper, wrote and produced an album of songs about Mac Wiseman called Mac Wiseman: I Sang the Song (Mountain Fever).
- 2016, released a duet album with Craig Market called Nowhere to Hide (no label).
- 2017, released a bluegrass album of original songs called Crazy If You Let It (Mountain Fever)
- From Sod, West Virginia.
- He is a tenor singer and bass player (although he can play all the bluegrass instruments).
- Worked with Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver for four years. Wrote several songs recorded by Doyle Lawson including “Light on My Feet, Ready to Fly,” “Sing Me A Song About Jesus,” and others.
- He has his own recording studio.
- Formed the Corey Hensley Band.
- From Idaho.
- Began his musical career playing fiddle with his father Glen (guitar) in a group called The Grasshoppers. Honi Deaton (then Honi Glenn) was also in the band.
- Attended South Plains College in Levelland, Texas. After graduation, he moved to Nashville where he worked with Bobby Osborne, Chris Jones, Ronnie Bowman, Jim Hurst and backed award-winning country singer Lee Ann Womack. He also released a gospel album with his father Glen.
- 2005, formed the Infamous Stringdusters.
- 2009, released solo project I Am a Stranger (Sugar Hill).
- 2014, released a solo project called The RV Sessions (no label), recorded in his RV.
- 2016, released instrumental album The RV Sessions II (Obsidian).
- From Seymour, Tennessee. Grew up in eastern North Carolina.
- A multi-instrumentalist and singer who has performed with The Larkins, Randy Parton, Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road, Jeff and Sheri Easter, Dolly Parton and several variety shows in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
- 2015, joined Sideline, playing Dobro™ and singing lead vocals.
- 2017, released solo project Next New Heartbreak (Pinecastle)
- 2017, left Sideline to pursue a solo career.
- From Asheville, NC.
- Formed in 2014 by Jesse Iaquinto (mandolin). Band members: Tommy Maher (Dobro™), Carson White (bass) and Joe Cicero (guitar).
- They are students (or former students) of East Tennessee State University, where they met in the school’s music program.
- 2015, released Shadows and Dreams album (no label)
- 2016, won the MerleFest Band cometition.
- 2017, released “Life Between the Lines” album (no label).
- From Tennessee/Kentucky.
- Formed in 2015 as a 20-year reunion of the version of J.D. Crowe and his New South band that recorded the album “Flashback.” The group included Crowe, Richard Bennett (guitar), Don Rigsby (mandolin), Curt Chapman (banjo) and Phil Leadbetter (Dobro™).
- After Crowe retired in 2016, the band continued to perform together under the name Flashback, with Stuart Wyrick joining them on banjo.
- 2017, released album Foxhounds and Fiddles (Pinecastle).
- 2017, Leadbetter retired from the group to take care of his health and to pursue a career in real estate.
- From Wells Bridge, New York.
- Began playing guitar at age 10.
- 2010, while studying business at ETSU, he enrolled in the school’s bluegrass music program
- 2015, began playing with the ETSU Bluegrass Pride Band. He also teaches music and works with a band called Dreamcatcher.
- 2016, released solo project Reaping the Blues (no label).
- 2017, released “Opening Doors” album (no label).
- From Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.
- Formed in 2012 by Nate Hilts (guitar), Scott Pringle (mandolin), Danny Kenyon (cello) and Colton Crawford (banjo).
- They blend bluegrass with folk, rock and punk influences. Their signature dress is “hillbilly-pioneer.”
- 2015, released Good Company album (Curve Music). The video from this album “In Hell I’ll be in Good Company” went viral on YouTube.
- 2016, Crawford (banjo) left the band and was replaced by Eliza Mary Doyle.
- 2016, released Illusion & Doubt album (Curve Music).
- From Amherst, Virginia.
- Formed in 1999 by brothers Justin Tomlin (guitar) and Jason “Tater” Tomlin (bass) and their childhood friend Cason Ogden (mandolin). They began playing together when they were grade school.
- After a long hiatus, the band re-formed with the addition of Andy Lowe (banjo).
- Justin Tomlin (guitar) also played guitar with Nothin’ Fancy.
- Jason Tomlin (bass) spent five years with Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice.
- 2016, released What Goes Up album (Mountain Fever).
- From LaFayette, Louisiana. Grew up in Alabama. Currently lives in Nashville.
- He is the 10th of 12 children, son of country singer Bob “Red” Droze (who recorded for Rural Rhythm Records in the 1960’s).
- Began playing guitar at age 12 and performed with his father’s band during his teen years.
- A prolific songwriter, he has written songs recorded by The Grascals, Flatt Lonesome, Junior Sisk, Marty Raybon, Daryl Worley and Jamie O’Neal.
- As a country artist, he performed and recorded as Billy Ryan. For a time he also filled in as lead singer with the country group Shenandoah.
- 2012, released Sinnin’ Man album (no label)
- 2013, released Ambassador album (Carmen Road).
- 2017, released To Whom It May Concern album (Rural Rhythm).
- From Springfield, Missouri.
- 1975, began singing with his family band The Cardwell Family (with his sisters Nancy and Susan). Nancy Cardwell is the former executive director of the IBMA.
- 1980’s, performed rock and reggae music, singing lead, playing keyboards and saxophone. Spent some time in Hollywood. Had a Missouri band called Resonance.
- 1992, returned to bluegrass with a group called Slick Nickel.
- 1994, joined the gospel group New Tradition. Moved to Nashville.
- 1996, returned to Springfield to spend time with his family and to pursue a degree in music education. Became a band and choral director, leading his students to win several national competitions. While teaching he also played with a rock/pop/reggae band called Squigglefish.
- 2016, moved to Nashville and formed a new bluegrass/newgrass band called Tennessee Moon.
- 2016, released Tennessee Moon album (Pinecastle).
- From Brevard, North Carolina.
- Formed in 2007 after the release of the album “Nothing So Blue” (no label) by Bobby Powell (guitar) and Tim Jones (mandolin). The album was produced by Woody Platt of the Steep Canyon Rangers.
- Other members of the band: Reese Combs (bass), Seth Rhinehart (banjo) and Emma Best (fiddle).
- Powell and Jones write much of the band’s original material. Jones’ song “Spring Will Bring the Flowers” was recorded by Balsam Range.
- 2011, won the South Carolina state bluegrass championship (band contest) at RenoFest. They also released an album “Live at RenoFest” (no label).
- 2016, released Goin Home Today album (no label).
- 2017, released “Sounds of Kentucky Grass” album (Poor Mountain).
- 2017, fiddle player Aynsley Porchak joined the band.
- From Baltimore, Maryland. Baltimore’s nickname is “Charm City.”
- The band consists of a bluegrass fiddler, an old time banjo picker, a Celtic accordionist, and a jazz bassist.
- Members: Patrick McAvenue (fiddle), Brad Kolodner (banjo), Sean McComskey (accordian) and Alex Lacquement (bass).
- Their music is a hybrid of Irish and old-time music.
- 2016, released self-titled album (Patuxent).
- From West Jefferson, North Carolina.
- Formed in 2015 by 15-year old Zack Arnold (mandolin), 17-year old Jacob Greer (guitar), Tyler Thompson (banjo) and Gary Trivette (bass).
- 2016, won the band competition at RenoFest.
- Claybank is the name of a community in North Carolina where they live.
- 2016, released first single “Up on Claybank” (Rural Rhythm) produced by Steve Gulley.
- From Winchester, Virginia.
- Began playing piano as a child but switched to banjo at age 11. Took lessons from Murphy Henry and Mike Munford.
- Was a finalist numerous times in the banjo competition at the Galax Old Tme Fiddler’s Convention.
- Played in a family band for several years. Her sister Malia Furtado plays fiddle in the band Circa Blue; her brother Victor is a clawhammer banjo virtuoso.
- 2013-2016, played banjo in the group Bud’s Collective.
- 2016, joined Chris Jones and the Night Drivers.
- 2017, released solo project True Colors (Mountain Home).
- From east Kentucky.
- Described as “High Heeled Bluegrass,” they were formed in 2009 by Kris Bailey Preston (mandolin), Kalyn Bradford (guitar), Stephanie May Rose (bass) and Melanie Turner (banj0).
- They have been the recipients of a National Bluegrass B.O.R.N. (Bands On the Rise Nationally) Award, been featured as “Future Stars” in the U.S. 23 Country Music Highway Travel Guide and appeared on the cover of M.E. Music Entertainment magazine.
- 2016, released their third album “No Town Like Coaltown” (no label).
- From Brooklyn, New York.
- A string band featuring fiddler and songwriter Andrea Asprelli, originally from Colorado. A classical violinist, she discovered bluegrass/old time music after moving to the east coast.
- Band members (various) include: Doug Goldstein and Hilary Hawke (banjo), Dave Speranza and Sam Weber (bass) and Mike Robinson, Jason Borisoff and Jeff Picker (guitar).
- 2011, Asprelli won the songwriting contest at the Podunk Bluegrass Festival (Hebron, CT).
- 2013, won the FreshGrass Award in North Adams, MA.
- 2014, released Cricket Tell the Weather album (no label).
- 2016, released Tell the Story Right album (no label).
- From Sevierville, Tennessee.
- Formed in 2016 by Chris Monk (banjo) and his wife Becky Webb Monk (bass). Becky is sister to Darrell Webb.
- Other members of the band: Wesley Wolfe (guitar), Evan Maynard (mandolin) and Cody Bauer (fiddle).
- Their first “gig” was the band competition at SPBGMA convention in Nashville (2016) and they took first place.
- 2016, released self-titled album (no label).
- From Raleigh, North Carolina.
- Formed in 2010 by Kevin Brown (guitar, lead vocals), Casey Elder (mandolin), Dennis Hoyle (bass), Ashley Kovacs (fiddle) and Ann Searcy (vocals).
- 2015, Kovacs left the band and was replaced by Stephen Fraleigh (fiddle and banjo).
- 2012, released Winner Winner Chicken Dinner album (Vital).
- 2016, released “Magnolia” album (Vital).