Much like the bagpipe 0r an overenthusiastic tuba, while we like bluegrass music, a little of it can go a long way. There is no denying the musical mastery of a banjo and a stand-up bass when done right and consumed in the right setting, can bear ear-boggling and soul cleansing, and we are beginning to see the light. While we are not as yet fully converted, our banjo repertoire has at least advanced past the theme from Deliverance and Roy Clark on Hee Haw. And you know, after checking out some of the New-Grass bands that have emerged over the last year or so, and coming to the realization that bluegrass music goes well beyond the banjo, color us converts.
Billy Strings – Dust In A Baggie
With a moniker like Billy Strings, you had better bring the banjo and guitar goods and this up and coming artist definitely lives up to his name. Already being hailed as the future of bluegrass transcending the genre with his high-velocity picking technique. His new 2019 record, Home, is one of the best of the year, genre be damned
Molly Tuttle – Don’t Let Go
Molly Tuttle is about as gifted an acoustic and banjo player as you will find in the game today. Growing up playing in her father’s bluegrass band her flat-picking and cross-picking skills have made her a much-in-demand session player. Her 2019 Record, When You’re Ready, shows off her string virtuosity as well as her songwriting skills.
Mandolin Orange – The Wolves
There is a real intimate feel in the music that North Carolina duo of singer-songwriter Andrew Marlin and multi-instrumentalist Emily Frantz makes collectively as Mandolin Orange. There is a real Appalachian vibe on many of their songs which adds to the purity of their instrumental interplay.
Lula Wiles – Nashville Man
A real up-and-coming new band, this Boston-based folk trio made up of Isa Burke, Eleanor Buckland, and Mali Obomsawin make traditional Folk-Roots music serving it up on a plate of contemporary subject matter, millennial angst, and semi-subversive undertones. Keep your ears poised for these guys to hit the mainstream in 2020.
Old Crow Medicine Show – Wagon Wheel
Ok, we get it, Old Crow Medicine Show has been around a very long time so one would ask why we are featuring them in a piece that is bringing to light newer Bluegrass bands. You know. like the sign says, New-Grass. Well, the answer is we liked everything about their 2019 release, Live at The Ryman, and yes sad to say, this band was new to us. Everything about the album sparkles. The Darius Rucker cover of “Wagon Wheel” sparkles, their version of “CC Rider” is best played loudly, and their own song “Methamphetamine” is stellar. For us, this year, this is one of those where have you been all our loves sort of band.