2019 Pickin’ in the Pines Lineup:
If joy were a person, he’d bring both peace and frenzy. He’d be full of music, light, and energy that soothes even as it stirs us up. Eyes closed, wire-rim glasses in place, mandolin pressed against his ribs, joy would be Sam Bush on a stage. “I feel fortunate that when it’s time to play, no matter how I feel physically or mentally, once the downbeat starts, my mind goes to a place that’s all music,” says Bush. “The joy of the music comes to me and overtakes me sometimes––I just become part of the music.”
That rapt merging of life and art fills Bush’s new album Storyman, a freewheeling collection that gleefully picks and chooses from jazz, folk, blues, reggae, country swing, and bluegrass to create a jubilant noise only classifiable as the Sam Bush sound. Many of the songs are stories––several of them true––and the legendary mandolin player co-wrote every one of them with friends including Guy Clark, Emmylou Harris, Jon Randall Stewart, Jeff Black, and others.
“I’m hoping it just kind of flows for people and makes them go, ‘Hey! It’s a Sam record. It sounds like Sam and the band,’” Bush says. “But for the first time ever, I also find myself thinking, ‘I hope you enjoy the stories.’ It’s my singer-songwriter record.” The Father of Newgrass and King of Telluride has long since established himself as roots royalty, revered for both his solo and sideman work, which includes time with Harris, Lyle Lovett, and Béla Fleck. But instead of kicking back and soaking up honors such as an Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award and suite of Grammys and International Bluegrass Music Association trophies, Bush still strives relentlessly to create something new.
Raised on a farm just outside of Bowling Green, Kentucky, Bush grew up plowing tobacco fields in the Southern summer heat alongside his family. He started playing mandolin when he was 11 years old. “I believe growing up on a farm probably helped me channel my energy into learning music and being so interested in it,” Bush says. “Me and my sisters, we all loved it. I’ve often wondered if that’s because growing up on a farm, you couldn’t go ride your bike all over town and horse around like the other kids.”
For Bush, a lifetime of channeling his energy has led to stylistic innovations that have changed the course of bluegrass and roots music alike. Bush took about four years to record the latest installment in that legacy. “It’s still important to me that all of the songs fit together on an album,” he says. “I’m well aware that people buy individual tracks digitally, and that’s good. But I still think of it as an album––a body of work. And I’m really satisfied with these songs. It’s taken a while, but I sure am happy with them.”
Del McCoury & David Grisman
Del McCoury met David Grisman met at the first show Del ever played (on banjo) with Bill Monroe in the spring of 1963 at New York University in Greenwich Village. Three years later, Del & Dawg played their first gig together in Troy, NY at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. They both celebrated the arrival of first-born sons, Monroe Grisman and Ronnie McCoury, within a month of each other.
Through the years they have shared the stage at venues and festivals across the country and in 2012 released Hardcore Bluegrass, a unique collection of bluegrass classics, made at two Dawg studio jam sessions in the 1990s, Del & Dawg celebrates the nearly 50-year bluegrass friendship that these two legendary musicians have shared.
Sierra Hull, the singer, mandolinist and former child prodigy who signed with Rounder at age 13 and distinguished herself by becoming the first bluegrass musician to receive a Presidential Scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music, released ‘Weighted Mind,’ her first new album in five years, on January 29, 2016.
15-time Grammy winner Béla Fleck produced the recording, which features eleven compelling new compositions written or co-written by Hull, and one traditional tune for which she and Fleck provided a new arrangement. While Hull’s ethereal voice and fluid playing take center stage here, she receives ample support from bass marvel Ethan Jodziewicz. Béla Fleck’s banjo adorns the elegant “Queen of Hearts/Royal Tea,” and Alison Krauss, Abigail Washburn, and Rhiannon Giddens add enchanting harmonies.
Though she is best known for her work as a mandolin player, Hull reveals in these songs her abundant gifts as a composer and lyricist. Themes of loss and restoration run through the album, starting with the muscular opening number, “Stranded,” and continue on the stirring “Compass,” on which she declares, “I’ve thrown away my compass, done with the chart… I’ll just step out, throw my doubt into the sea, for what’s meant to be will be.” The gentle, dissonant title track ponders existential questions, while the haunting “Birthday” and “Fallen Man” offer somber reflections on strained relationships and impossible choices. The album closes on an optimistic note, with the sweetly assertive “I’ll Be Fine,” and the uplifting, philosophical closer, “Black River.” Fleck, Giddens, Krauss, and Washburn all guest on this track, on which Hull reflects, “A thousand years is but a day, and maybe in a thousand years, I’ll find my way.”
Highly esteemed bluegrass band Blue Highway has earned a collective 28 IBMA Awards, 6 SPBGMA Awards, one Dove Award, plus three Grammy nominations as a band, in addition to two prestigious Grammy Awards among its current members.
Blue Highway’s 2016 album “Original Traditional” was nominated for a 2017 GRAMMY Award for Best Bluegrass Album. The band was voted the Favorite Bluegrass Artist of All Time by the readers of Bluegrass Today in April 2016.
Wayne Taylor was the 2016 Inductee into the Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame, alongside legends like Patsy Cline, the Statler Brothers, Jimmy Dean, Mother Maybelle Carter, and Roy Clark. Tim Stafford received honors as as 2015 SPBGMA Guitar Player of the Year, and 2014 and 2017 IBMA Songwriter of the Year. Shawn Lane was nominated as 2015 IBMA Songwriter of the Year, while past member Justin Moses was named 2017 IBMA Dobro Player of the Year.
Blue Highway charted the Most Radio Airplay of any Bluegrass Artist in 2014, per the 2014 Bluegrass Radio Airplay Chart, storming national airplay charts with their heralded album The Game. The Game topped multiple charts at #1 including reigning at #1 for 7 consecutive months on the Bluegrass Unlimited Album Chart, and was named the # 1 Bluegrass Album of the Year by critic Daniel Mullins in his end of the year Top 20 Albums of 2014 list in Bluegrass Today. The 2012 IBMA Vocal Group of the Year also sent the title track of The Game to #1 on multiple charts including Bluegrass Todayand Roots Music Report, as well as holding at #1 for three consecutive months on the national Bluegrass Unlimited Song Chart (Aug-Oct 2014).
Blue Highway has been praised by peers, fans, and media alike, with one of the most powerful descriptions of the Bluegrass super group being shared by Country Standard Time: “Wayne Taylor sings with the emotion of a man who escaped the coal mines and ain’t planning on going back. Tim Stafford continues to craft songs with depth .. The instrumentation is perfect. From the get go, Jason Burleson opens with the unique style that defines Blue Highway banjo.. Shawn Lane exemplifies modern mandolin, yet nods to the Monroe legacy. Three lead singers.. rich harmony .. songs of forgotten homeless veterans, fallen heroes, and heartbroken families. Blue Highway personifies modern acoustic music with respect for tradition. Highly recommended, highly respected.”
Blue Highway celebrates their 25th Anniversary of Touring in 2019, with four of its original members still intact. As momentum continues to build for the 25 year strong powerhouse band, Blue Highway is rolling on with a rich legacy, carried on by three powerhouse songwriters and vocalists in Tim Stafford, Wayne Taylor, and Shawn Lane, whose harmonies soar over the dynamic banjo of Jason Burleson and the tasteful dobro of Gary Hultman.
Becky Buller Band
Becky Buller is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and producer from St. James, MN, who has traversed the globe performing bluegrass music to underwrite her insatiable songwriting habit. Her compositions can be heard on records by Ricky Skaggs, Rhonda Vincent and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, to name just a few. Becky co-wrote “Freedom,” the lead-off track of The Infamous Stringdusters 2018 Grammy-winning album Laws of Gravity. Two of Becky’s co-writes are featured on 2019 Best Bluegrass Grammy nominated albums: “The Shaker” (Travelin’ McCourys) and “She Took The Tennessee River” (Special Consensus Rivers And Roads).
Touring extensively with the Becky Buller Band, she recently released Crêpe Paper Heart, her 4th solo album, and her second recording on the Dark Shadow Recording label. It reached #1 on the August 2018 Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine Top 15 Bluegrass Albums chart. Becky is the recipient of 8 IBMA awards, including the 2016 Fiddler and Female Vocalist Of and the 2018 Gospel Recorded Performance for the song “Speakin’ To That Mountain”. Equally passionate about bluegrass music education, Becky has 20 years experience teaching fiddle, singing, and songwriting at workshops and camps around the world. She currently serves of the board of the IBMA Foundation.
Mike Marshall & Darol Anger
Mandolinist Mike Marshall and violinist Darol Anger have no respect for musical boundaries. Former members of the fusion group, Montreux, they’ve each recorded in wide ranging settings from classical to jazz, South American music to bluegrass. Marshall’s Modern Mandolin Quartet and Anger’s Turtle Island String Quartet were paragons of eclectic folk classicism. Collectively, they chart a new kind of acoustic music that draws on tradition, but finds new trajectories that posit a neoclassical world where bluegrass and polskas (not polkas) dance in aerial pirouettes. When speaking about Darol Anger and Mike Marshall’s live performances, people often use phrases like “synergy,” “breathtaking” or “space travelers.”
Darol and Mike have created their own way of speaking – through their instruments,a connection and a shared repertoire that goes very deep, developed over 35 years of music-making in a wide variety of music styles. A Marshall Anger Duo performance is nothing short of breathtaking.
Old Salt Union
A great band is more than the proverbial sum of its parts, and in the pursuit of becoming something that can cut through the clutter of YouTube stars and contest show runner-ups, a great roots music band must become a way of life. Less likely to rely on production or image, they’ve got to connect with their audience only through the craftsmanship of their songs, the energy they channel on the stage and the story that brings them together.
Old Salt Union is a string band founded by a horticulturist, cultivated by classically trained musicians, and fueled by a vocalist/bass player who is also a hip-hop producer with a fondness for the Four Freshmen. It is this collision of styles and musical vocabularies that informs their fresh approach to bluegrass and gives them an electric live performance vibe that seems to pull more from Vaudeville than the front porch.
In 2015 they won the FreshGrass Band contest and found the perfect collaborator in Compass Records co-founder and GRAMMY winning banjoist and composer, Alison Brown, whose attention to detail and high standards pushed the group to develop their influences from beyond a vocabulary to pull from during improvisation and into the foundation of something truly compelling in the roots music landscape.
Violinist John Brighton mentions some names familiar to the Compass roster as key influences, musicians like Darol Anger, Edgar Meyer, Mike Marshall and Mark O’Connor, all of whom have collaborated with Brown in the past. Primary vocalist and bassist, Jesse Farrar (for the indie rock heads – yes, he’s related – Son Volt front man Jay Farrar is Jesse’s uncle) brings an alternative rock spirit as well as his unique formative experiences as a hip hop producer and bass player for a national tour of The Four Freshmen. The band’s self-titled Compass debut combines these instrumental proclivities with pop melodies and harmonies into a coherent piece of work that carves out a road-less-travelled for the band in the now crowded roots music genre.
Perhaps most surprisingly, the band was founded by banjoist Ryan Murphey, the aforementioned horticulturist who came to bluegrass music and the banjo later in life. Finding a kindred spirit in Dustin Eiskant, the band’s former guitarist and Farrar’s cousin, the pair started the band in 2012 and Murphey played the banjo and led the band’s business through its early incarnations, including the recruitment of Farrar in 2014.
At this point, the future of the band seems marvelously unclear. The album closes with “Here and Off My Mind” which seems like the bluegrass song that Conor Oberst never wrote featuring a lyric that ends with the promise of “a better life” though from the all-hands-on-deck jam session that breaks out in the middle (is that a kazoo?) one gets the sense that the band can’t imagine a better one than they have in the beat up Winnebago they currently call home.
Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
With chops so hot, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen were named IBMA’s 2016 Instrumental Group of the Year for the second time, with a third nomination in 2017. Their critically acclaimed album Cold Spell earned a 2015 GRAMMY nomination for Best Bluegrass Album of the Year, yet the accolades don’t end there.
Solivan, with banjoist Mike Munford, 2013 IBMA Banjo Player of the Year, award-winning guitarist Chris Luquette and bassist Jeremy Middleton, simmer a progressive bluegrass stew of infinite instrumental, vocal and songwriting skills soon to be featured once again on their new album If You Can’t Stand the Heat slated to drop January 25th, 2019.
Since leaving the cold climes of Alaska for the bluegrass hotbed of Washington, D.C., Frank Solivan has built a reputation as a monster mandolinist — and become a major festival attraction with his band, Dirty Kitchen. Their respect and deep understanding of the tradition collides, live on stage, with jazz virtuosity creating an unforgettable, compelling performance.
Sprouting from the musical foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville, Virginia, Love Canon has been touring the mid-Atlantic since 2010 bringing their own raucous blend of bluegrass to the masses. The band’s diehard fans are music lovers first and foremost, drawn to the beautiful high-lonesome stylings of Jesse Harper’s guitar and vocals paired with banjo master Adam Larrabee, mandolin pickin’ by Andy Thacker with Darrell Muller holding down the low-end on standup bass. The band is augmented with the sweet sounds of resonator guitar king Jay Starling on the Beard MA-6.
Love Canon released their 4th album, Cover Story, July 13, 2018, on Organic Records. They are master instrumentalists with a charismatic lead vocalist, and they cleverly bring their acoustic-roots sensibilities to the electronic-tinged pop hits of the 80s and 90s to create a fresh set of classics. A plethora of special guests join in on the album including Dobro master Jerry Douglas, Aoife O’Donovan, Keller Williams, Michael Cleveland, and Eric Krasno, among others.
Love Canon pleases audiences of many walks of life, which is testified by early listens in publications running the gamut of genres including Bluegrass Today, JamBase, The Boot, and Cover Me Songs! Cover Story debuted at #1 on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart and at #20 on the Billboard HeatSeekers Chart shortly after its release!
The band’s individual members have shared the stage and studio with many notable acts over the years. Harper and Muller were members of acoustic supergroup Old School Freight Train and they performed shows with David Grisman (who also produced one of their albums), Ricky Skaggs, and Merle Haggard. As a band, Love Canon was the backing band for Keb Mo and Jason Mraz at SPARC performance Live Art event in Richmond and they also performed as the house band at the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam a couple of years in a row with sits in from Bruce Hornsby and Warren Haynes among others. They’ve toured with Josh Ritter, Keller Williams, and The Infamous Stringdusters and have played festivals around the country including LOCKN’, Jam Cruise, FloydFest, Bourbon and Beyond (as part of Bluegrass Situation Stage) and Gathering of the Vibes as well as having performed live on the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and RTE radio (Raidió Teilifís Éirean – Irish Public-service Broadcasting). Individual members have made their rounds on the music scene and have performed with KD Lang, Emmylou Harris, Sara Bareilles, John C. Reilly, Madeleine Peyroux, Colbie Caillat, among others.
“Love Canon doesn’t cover the music of the ’80s as much as kidnap it and take it on a bluegrass-tinged joyride. It’s a general rule of American culture that it takes 20-40 years for a decade to shed its stale stench and get its groove back… Love Canon refreshes and extends the originals with affectionate humor and effortless virtuosity. The players… add layers of depth to the still-appealing pop hooks,” says Style Weekly. “There’s no shortage of clever musical re-enactors giving the first generation of MTV an ironic makeover: a fool’s errand, given that the music already was soaked in postmodern irony.”
Born and raised in Hawai’i, Makana is an internationally recognized master of the rare Hawaiian art of Slack Key Guitar. Not to be confused with steel (slide) guitar, slack key is older than the blues and was created by Hawaiians in the early 1800s as a way of simulating 3 guitars in one by playing bass, rhythm and melody in beautiful “open” tunings unique to the islands. A protégé of various Hawaiian slack key legends, Makana uses over a hundred tunings to fashion a massive, resonant, symphonic sound without use of loop pedals or other trickery. His repertoire is diverse and accessible- this is not the Hawaiian music from 1930s Hollywood! Out of slack key Makana has fashioned a hybrid style of slack key, blues and bluegrass he calls “Slack Rock”. He has supported acts ranging from Santana and Sting to Jason Mraz, Joe Walsh of The Eagles, Bad Company, Leon Russell, Chris Isaak, Chris Botti, Elvis Costello, Common, Gotye, Jack Johnson and many others. A former TEDx presenter, Makana recently graced the cover of Frets magazine, the acoustic companion to the world’s most popular guitar magazine Guitar Player.
His music has been featured on 3 Grammy®-nominated records including the soundtrack for Academy Award-winning film The Descendants. Makana’s sound ventures into the folk/ bluegrass/ acoustic rock realm. His voice is reminiscent of Tracy Chapman/ Jeff Buckley. Guitar Player magazine voted him one of the Top 3 guitarists in America in 2008, and Esquire Magazine said “Slack key guitar, indigenous to Hawai’i, is older than the blues, and Makana is considered the greatest living player.”
The Freight Hoppers
The Freight Hoppers are a four-piece string band presenting hard-driving old time music with an emotional, raw excitement that keeps one foot planted in the past and the other in the present. Of course that’s only when they keep their feet still!
The band started presenting their energetic take on fiddle band music four times a day, seven days a week at the Great Smoky Mountains Railway shortly after forming in 1992. Their repertoire includes music that was first recorded in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s and spans geographically from Mississippi to West Virginia.
The heart of the band is the driving mountain fiddling of David Bass complemented by the clawhammer banjo and vocals of Frank Lee, with rhythm section of Amanda Kowalski on string bass and Allie Lee on guitar and vocals. Based out of the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, The Freight Hoppers draw from a deep source of rural southern music for their inspiration, and they are proud to present this music that is still meaningful today.
Sugar & The Mint
Sugar and the Mint’s spirited take on folk and bluegrass excites audiences across the country. The band synthesizes genres into a sparkling repertoire of original songs, balancing first-time singalong hooks with robust musicality. Sugar and the Mint’s unique vocal approach features complex, ethereal harmonies supporting accessible melodies. Informed by everything from bluegrass to baroque to current pop and country, the traditional blend of guitar, violins, mandolin and bass instrumentation is anything but standard-fare acoustic music.
In 2017, the band took first place in the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Contest. The Arizona group has since toured coast to coast and recorded two albums: Just Past Midnight (2018) and Grape Flavored (2017). The original music on these records showcases the band’s energy, songwriting artistry, and fresh perspective on folk and bluegrass.
Sugar and the Mint has shared festival bills with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Emmylou Harris, Punch Brothers, Jerry Douglass, Tommy Emmanuel, and the Sam Bush Band and many more. The band’s festival booking history includes Telluride Bluegrass Festival (2018), Ogden Music Festival (2017, 2018), Pagosa Folk and Bluegrass Festival (2018), Rapidgrass Festival (2018), and Pickin’ in the Pines Acoustic Music Festival (2017).
Sugar and the Mint hails from Prescott, Arizona. The acoustic string quintet consists of Matt Tatum Haynes (mandolin, vocals), Johan Glidden (lead vocals, guitar, violin), Glory Glidden (violin, vocals), Keenan Hammack (guitar, vocals), and Cosimo Bohrman (bass, vocals).
Old Blue Band
Old Blue is a bluegrass band. They play bluegrass music the old fashioned way, with much attention paid to the original music of the founders of the style. Folks like Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers, Flatt and Scruggs. The band is dedicated to the preservation of the music from the past and the continued presentation of its character in the present day. They leave the future development of this music to a new generation.
Old Blue Band are seasoned professionals who have played this style for decades. They are some of the best in the business from the western United States. Band members are: Dick Brown on banjo and vocals, Thomas Porter on guitar and vocals, Jim Govern on mandolin and vocals, Bob Denoncourt on bass and vocals, Marty Warburton on guitar and vocals, and Alvin Blaine on dobro (and other instruments). These gentlemen present bluegrass music the way it was in the early days.
Fans will experience the music the way it used to be, and still is…played by “OLD BLUE”.
Swing Coco is an acoustic swing and gypsy jazz quartet inspired in part by legendary gypsy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and virtuoso jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli. Swing Coco formed in Flagstaff, AZ in 2018 when three long time friends and musicians began playing well-known 1940’s gypsy jazz and swing tunes together. Their weekly jam sessions got famous among friends who started dropping by to hang out and listen while they performed. Pretty soon a band was formed consisting of renowned veterans of the Flagstaff music scene: Kristin Straka on violin, Brad Bays on guitar, Jordan Butler on guitar, and Keith Gomora on stand-up bass. This band is sure to get your toes tapping so put on your dancing shoes and come swing with Swing Coco!
Mark Miracle & Steve Spurgin
Award winning mandolinist Mark Miracle has been playing Bluegrass/Americana music for over 40 years. Traveling the globe, his stylings and expertise has made him a sought after bandmate, guest artist and teacher. Having roots deep in traditional Bluegrass, this only bears as the foundation for what Mark brings as a contemporary musician and vocalist. As such, Mark explores all music – not limiting himself to simply his genres forefathers, but instead embraces the ways of his heroes who have breached the boundaries of Jazz, Classical and have been responsible for creating their own sub-genres, such as Newgrass. Mark continues to pursue his place in the music world, but without agenda, as his musical adventures have exceeded far beyond his expectations.
Steve Spurgin has gained, and earned, a worldwide reputation as a Texas singer/songwriter deluxe. As a former Nashville staff writer for Gene Watson and Reba McEntire, he may already be familiar to you as the writer of the big country hits “Speak Softly, You’re Talking to my Heart” and “Carmen”. He is also a three-time IBMA award winner with the bluegrass super-group, California (Berline, Crary, Hickman, Spurgin, Moore). His rural and folksy approach brings you songs that make you laugh, cry, ponder and reflect. With only his guitar, polished voice and wry sense of humor, Steve hits the stage as a powerful entertainer.
Crying Uncle was founded in 2016 by Quale brothers Miles (age 14, on fiddle and vocals) and Teo (age 12, on mandolin and vocals). The brothers, who are State and National fiddle and mandolin champions, have been featured on KQED’s The California Report, performed at venues such as IBMA’s World of Bluegrass Festival and CBA’s Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival, and have toured with sibling music duo and mentors, Tashina and Tristan Clarridge. They’ve performed on stage with bluegrass bands Sideline and Special Consensus and renowned guitarist George Cole; and with their former band, Rambling Minors, they’ve opened for fiddler Michael Cleveland. Miles and Teo are also part of the band, Jubilee.
Originally, Crying Uncle invited guest musicians to collaborate with them. Crying Uncle Bluegrass Band (CUBG) realizes the band members’ expansive take on bluegrass music. The bluegrass band was formed in 2017.
Crying Uncle Band Includes Andrew Osborn, age 15, on bass and vocals. Known for his rock-solid rhythm and fiery bass solos, Andrew began studying music at age 4 and at age 11, fell in love with the string bass. He has had guest appearances with a number of Bay Area bluegrass bands, including 35 Years of Trouble and Savannah Blu, and has performed at Good Old Fashioned Festival and IBMA’s World of Bluegrass Festival. He is a regular member of the band, Festival Speed . John Gooding, age 16, is on guitar and vocals. John’s only 16 but you’d never guess that from his superb flatpicking guitar work. John has been playing bluegrass for many years with his two brothers and dad, and was selected to represent the California Bluegrass Association at the prestigious IBMA conference in 2014, 2015 and 2017. He was CBA’s Teen Ambassador in 2016 and 2017. He regularly performs with his other band, The Blue J’s .
CUBG has opened for prestigious bands such as The Del McCoury Band and David Grisman Bluegrass Experience. As members of other bands and individually, they have played at venues such as IBMA’s World of Bluegrass Festival (as guest musicians), CBA’s Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival and the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, CA. CUBG is based in Northern California. CUBG is the 2018 Winner of Pickin’ in the Pines Festival Band Contest.