The Po’ Rambling Boys

At a time when most people feel constantly distracted by technology and barraged by the news, authenticity and straightforward honesty are paramount. There’s something about the music of The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys that cuts right through the noise of the world and speaks plainly to the soul. Formed in the Smoky Mountains, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys are at once exactly what you would expect and not at all what you would expect from a tattooed East Tennessee Bluegrass outfit. No strangers to hard work, the boys are as much at home riding in their 1965 GM Tour bus as they are crawling underneath to fix it when it needs maintenance. But they take pride in being ambassadors of their genre, and the group has brought their music from rural bluegrass festival stages to the rock clubs of Europe, with stunning results. “I think to a certain extent everyone is just craving music that they can feel, and any music that feels real will reach any audience” says CJ Lewandowski, the groups founder, “We want to put bluegrass right where it’s least expected”.

Lewandowski was working at Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery in Sevierville, TN when the band first formed. The distillery employed musicians to play for visitors seven days a week, and Lewandowski, who primarily plays Mandolin and sings, was occasionally hired to fill in when the entertainment didn’t show. Eventually, the distillery approached him about forming a band for a full time slot, so he reached out to long time music friends Jereme Brown, who plays banjo for the group, and Josh Rinkel, who plays guitar. “Jereme was doing a lot of welding work at that time, and Josh was running a sign company”, says Lewandowski, “I think we were all ready to do something new, something with our music but we didn’t know when or how”. Bassist Jasper Lorentzen happened to be working in the tasting room at the distillery, and he turned out to be the perfect final addition to the band. The four friends played multiple times a week for a year and half, honing their band sound, meanwhile word was spreading about their music. “The first gig we played out of town was a festival in Alberta, Canada, and a week later we went on a two week tour of Europe, it was crazy”, says Lewandowski.

Material for the group’s debut album “Back To The Mountains”, was a combination of original songs and old numbers that honor the group’s mentors and bluegrass heroes. “We love to dig up old songs that haven’t been heard in years and bring them back into the spotlight”, explains Lewandowski. It’s no surprise, then, that their latest single “Next Train South”, is a song cut by one of Lewandowski’s teachers from his native Missouri. “This song hasn’t been recorded since 1974, when it was recorded by Dub Crouch, Norman Ford and the Bluegrass Rounders.” he says. “Dub was a guy that I learned from back in the day. He was a close friend, and I was with him the day before he died. He was a popular guy for his region, but his music was not as well known on the national circuit. That’s why we love to sing these songs, because when we take these songs and bring them to a larger audience, our heroes and their music will not be forgotten”.

The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys passion for bluegrass is as clear as it is contagious. With a heavy touring schedule across the United States and Europe and recently signed record deal with the esteemed Rounder Records, the Boys are well on their way to becoming the quintessential bluegrass band of their generation. Despite all of their recent success, they maintain a humble perspective. “Bluegrass has left such a mark on us that we feel like we owe something back to the music”, says Lewandowski. “We want to do something for the music to show our appreciation… There’s no telling what could have happened to us, what we would have become if we hadn’t found this music. It’s gotten us through a lot, the good and the bad. When I think about all of the damn medications that I didn’t have to take because I had music to turn to. We didn’t have to go to the doctor and pay for something to make us feel better, because we had this music, so we really want to honor it by bringing it out of the shadows and onto new stages and wider audiences. Because we know that if we can bring Bluegrass to new folks, those folks will come with us and support the bluegrass community.”

https://www.theporamblinboys.com

https://www.facebook.com/poramblinboys/

CJ Lewandrowski – mandolin, vocals; Jereme Brown – banjo, vocals; Josh Rinkel – guitar, vocals; Jasper Lorentzen – bass; Laura Orshawk – fiddle

High Fidelity Band

Many folks remember the great bluegrass records from the 1950s and ‘60s. The power and soul of that music has won the hearts of people across the globe. Few bands have come along in recent years that directly draw their influence from that classic era of the music’s history. High Fidelity is a rising group whose love and devotion to that music is unsurpassed. The name alone says it all: HIGH FIDELITY. How many record albums have you seen from the ‘50s and ‘60s that bear those words? Herein lies the heart of what this group of young performers is all about.

High Fidelity formed in early 2014, and they received their first achievement in February 2014 when they took first place in the International Band Championship at the 40th Annual Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA) Awards. Their brand-new debut record, which was recorded live and in one room with minimal isolation, has been critically acclaimed.

The band consists of five stellar musicians and singers who are steeped in the sounds of tradition and outstanding in their field. Jeremy Stephens is the guitarist and lead vocalist for the group. He has worked as guitarist and singer for the world-famous gospel group The Chuck Wagon Gang, as a multi-instrumentalist on the television show Ray Stevens’ Nashville, and most recently as a banjo player and singer with Jesse McReynolds & the Virginia Boys. Corrina Rose Logston is the fiddler and first harmony vocalist. She has worked as fiddler and singer with a who’s who of today’s traditional-based bluegrass performers, including David Peterson & 1946, Jesse McReynolds & the Virginia Boys, Chris Henry & the Hardcore Grass, and Jim Lauderdale. Kurt Stephenson handles the banjo duties and second harmony vocals. He is the 2010 National Bluegrass Banjo Champion at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas, and is a staple performer of the greater west Tennessee area both as a sideman and with his own band, Stone County Connection. Vickie Vaughn is the bassist for the group. She has worked in recent years with Patty Loveless, The David Mayfield Parade, Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike, and she also fronts her own group, The Vickie Vaughn Band. Daniel Amick plays mandolin. He has won numerous contests and has worked most recently with Kody Norris & the Watauga Mountain Boys and Kenny & Amanda Smith.

High Fidelity draws much of their inspiration from bands like Don Reno & Red Smiley, The Stanley Brothers, The Louvin Brothers, Jim & Jesse, and a host of lesser known regional artists from the same era. Many have described them as the new Johnson Mountain Boys, interpreting classic era bluegrass through the fresh, young perspective of today’s generation. Maybe it is this quality that makes High Fidelity so warmly received and widely loved by every audience they perform for – both by the grandparents and the grandchildren.

http://highfidelitybluegrass.com

https://www.facebook.com/highfidelitybluegrass

Jeremy Stephens – guitar and vocals; Corrina Rose Logston – fiddle and vocals; Kurt Stephenson – banjo and vocals; Vickie Vaughn – bass; Daniel Amick – mandolin

Bluegrass Etc.

Bluegrass Etc. is a popular trio that plays, as its name suggests, bluegrass music. Since its formation, however, the outfit has progressed to embrace a more eclectic acoustic mix. The Chicago Tribune included the group’s 1999 album, Home Is Where the Heart Is, on its list of the year’s ten finest bluegrass albums. The trio features Steve Spurgin on vocals and bass; Dennis Caplinger on vocals, fiddle, and banjo; and John Moore on vocals, mandolin, and guitar. In addition to their work with Bluegrass Etc., each member of the trio has carved a separate successful career for himself.

In 1983 Steve Spurgin joined Bryon Berline, Dan Crary and John Hickman, in a band that became CALIFORNIA, after adding John Moore on mandolin. CALIFORNIA went on to earn three consecutive IBMA Instrumental Group of the Year awards and travel over much of the world performing its brand of power bluegrass.​ Steve’s true passion is songwriting. Those of you familiar with his material will recognize songs like “She Always Smelled Like Lilacs”, “Muley Was A Railroad Man”, “Band of Angels”, and “A Walk in the Irish Rain”. In 1994, after winning the prestigious “New Folk” award at the Kerrville Folk Festival, Steve began concentrating on a solo approach to his career and has become one of the most distinctive and enjoyable singer/songwriters that Texas can boast. Steve Spurgin is the genuine article.​

Caplinger is a popular studio musician in Nashville and California when he isn’t touring and recording with Bluegrass Etc. During the annual show put on by the Academy of Country Music, he plays in the production’s band. He, too, has contributed to commercials and movies. He has played on the soundtracks of animated children’s programs Histeria and Pinky and the Brain, as well as on a number of film soundtracks, among them Back to the Future III, Rio Diablo, El Diablo, and Apt Pupil. He has played on recordings by John Reischmann and Rita Coolidge.

Moore is a premier mandolinist, and his talent on the instrument helped thrust the group California into the spotlight and earn the band the title of Instrumental Band of the Year for three consecutive years beginning in 1992. He has performed on stages across the U.S., and tours have taken him to Japan, Europe, and Canada. He appeared and played in Christmas in Connecticut, and The Legend of the Beverly Hillbillies on CBS, where he played in a quartet that was rounded out by Earl Scruggs, Roy Clark, and Byron Berline, Moore’s former bandmate in California. His credits include commercials, session work, and the soundtracks for The Spitfire Grill, El Diablo, and Blaze. One of Moore’s mandolin protégés is Nickel Creek’s Chris Thile.

John Moore – mandolin, guitar, vocals; Dennis Caplinger – banjo, fiddle, vocals; Steve Spurgin – bass, vocals

The Special Consensus

The Special Consensus is a bluegrass band that has achieved a contemporary sound in their four decades of performing, making their music a modern classic.

The band is led by Greg Cahill, banjo player and recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA), and includes Greg Blake (guitar), Dan Eubanks (bass) and Nate Burie (mandolin). Special Consensus has received six awards from the IBMA and two Grammy nominations. They are four talented vocalists and instrumentalists who follow their creative desires without straying too far from their bluegrass roots.

“Rivers and Roads” (Compass Records 2018) was nominated for the 2018 Best Bluegrass Album GRAMMY award and received 2018 IBMA awards for Album of the Year and Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year (“Squirrel Hunters”). “Chicago Barn Dance”, Compass Records 2020 celebrates the 45th band anniversary and the connection of country and bluegrass music to Chicago from the time of the WLS “National Barn Dance” – precursor to the Grand Ole Opry. The title song “Chicago Barn Dance” received the 2020 IBMA Song of the Year Award.

https://www.specialc.com/

https://www.facebook.com/special.consensus/

Greg Cahill – banjo; Dan Eubanks – bass; Greg Blake – guitar, vocals; Nate Burie – mandolin

 

Lonesome River Band

Since its formation 37 years ago, the award-winning Lonesome River Band continues its reputation as one of the most respected names in Bluegrass music.  Whether performing on the famous stage of the Grand Ole Opry or headlining major concert events & festivals, their loyal fans continue to support one of the most loved and most influential acts of our time.

Lonesome River Band’s vocal and instrumental talents seamlessly come together as they perform their trademark sound that fans continue to embrace. The outstanding lead vocals and harmony by acclaimed singer-songwriter Brandon Rickman (guitar) and the 2017 IBMA Momentum Award Vocalist of the Year Jesse Smathers (mandolin) are pure magic and put over the top by the exceptional instrumentals of fiddle extraordinaire Mike Hartgrove, top-tier bassist Barry Reed; and five-time IBMA Banjo Player of the Year and Virginia Country Music Hall of Famer Sammy Shelor.

The stellar harmony of Rickman and Smathers vocals is certainly highlighted in the group’s recent albums.  In 2018, Lonesome River Band received an IBMA Album of the Year nomination for their self-produced Mayhayley’s House on the Mountain Home Music Company label. They dedicated the album to Mayhayley Lancaster, a self-proclaimed “Oracle of the Ages” who handed out “readings” and personal predictions at her home in southwest Georgia’s Heard County. The bluegrass tinkers of tradition also dedicated the album to its fans; and, to people who understand that traditions once lost are rarely recovered. The musicianship, song selection and vocals are stellar.

In 2017, Lonesome River Band performed at Jim McBride’s induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame along with Alan Jackson, Luke Bryan, Earl Thomas Conley, James LeBlanc, Lee Ann Womack, Dustin Lynch, the Bundys, Craig Campbell, Hillary Lindsey, Clint Lagerberg and Steven Lee Olsen.

This award-winning band again built on their familiar sound while adding bold progressiveness to their March 19, 2016 Mountain Home Music Company album, Bridging the Tradition that made its debut at #2 on Billboard’s Top 10 Bluegrass Album Chart.  The album received a 2016 IBMA Award Nomination for Album of the Year along with “Thunder & Lightning” for Song of the Year, “Rockin’ of the Cradle” for Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year, and Sammy Shelor for Banjo Performer of the Year. Lonesome River Band continues to evolve in the ever-changing landscape of Bluegrass and Acoustic Country music. With this album, the band once again delivered incredible, ground-breaking music that is rooted in the tradition it began decades ago.

Also in 2016, band members Sammy Shelor and Mike Hartgrove performed with actor Martin Short when Steve Martin was honored with the 43rd American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award – the highest honor for a career in film. The award was presented to Steve Martin during the gala tribute in Los Angeles, Calif. and aired on TBS. The star-studded event included: Tiny Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Conan O’Brien, Dan Aykroyd, Jack Black, Kevin Nealon, Steve Carell, and many more.

Lonesome River Band’s long career is obviously filled with numerous awards and recognitions including their 2012 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Award for Instrumental Recorded Event of the Year for their song “Angeline the Baker” from their Chronology Volume One album. Sammy Shelor received his fifth win as the IBMA Banjo Performer of the Year in 2012. The group has also received other awards from IBMA including Album of the Year, along with many from SPBGMA including Bluegrass Band of Year, Vocal Group of the Year, Song of the Year and Shelor as a 3-time SPBGMA Banjo Player of the Year award winner.

In 2011, Sammy Shelor received the 2nd Annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. Lonesome River Band with special guest Steve Martin performed on the Late Show with David Letterman and the guys also got to sit down with the late-night host where Martin presented the award check to Shelor in a humorous exchange!

Lonesome River Band has been one of the most popular and influential acts in bluegrass music since the release of their breakout album, Carrying The Tradition, back in 1991. As always, with Lonesome River Band, you can be assured their prominence as one of the most influential acts in bluegrass music is here to stay.

https://www.lonesomeriverband.com/

https://www.facebook.com/lonesomeriverband/

Brandon Rickman – guitar, vocals; Jesse Smathers – mandolin, vocals; Mike Hartgrove – fiddle; Barry Reed – bass; Sammy Shelor – banjo