2020 Pickin’ in the Pines Lineup:
Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder · The Infamous Stringdusters · Yonder Mountain String Band
Steep Canyon Rangers · The SteelDrivers · Missy Raines
Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley · John Reischman & The Jaybirds
Amanda Cook Band · Fireside Collective · Stillhouse Junkies
The Sonoran Dogs · Nolan McKelvey & Muskellunge
SLO County Stumblers · Jam Pak Band
Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder
Fifteen-time GRAMMY® Award-winner Ricky Skaggs’ career is easily among the most significant in recent country music history. If Skaggs’ burgeoning trophy case full of awards wasn’t already enough evidence of that fact, consider that legendary guitarist Chet Atkins once credited Skaggs with “single-handedly saving country music.” His life’s path has taken him to various musical genres, from where it all began in bluegrass music, to striking out on new musical journeys, while still leaving his musical roots intact.
Born July 18, 1954 in Cordell, Kentucky, Skaggs showed signs of future stardom at an early age, playing mandolin on stage with bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe at 6 and appearing on TV with Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs at 7. He emerged as a professional bluegrass musician in 1971, when he and his friend Keith Whitley were invited to join the legendary Ralph Stanley’s band the Clinch Mountain Boys.
Skaggs then went on to record and perform with progressive bluegrass acts like the Country Gentlemen and J.D. Crowe & the New South, whose self-titled 1975 Rounder Records debut album was instantly recognized as a landmark bluegrass achievement. He then led Boone Creek, which also featured Dobro ace and fellow New South alumnus Jerry Douglas.
But Skaggs turned to the more mainstream country music genre in the late ‘70s when he joined Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band, replacing Rodney Crowell. He became a recording artist in his own right in 1981 when his Epic label debut album Waitin’ for the Sun to Shine topped the country charts and yielded a pair of #1 hits. Overall, his productive stay at Epic Records would result in a total of 12 #1 hits. Additionally, he garnered eight Country Music Association Awards–including the coveted Entertainer of the Year trophy in 1985.
Skaggs, of course, fit right in with young “new-traditionalist” ‘80s artists like Randy Travis, and helped rejuvenate the country music genre after the worn-out “Urban Cowboy” period. But Skaggs put his own stamp on the country format by infusing his bluegrass and traditional country music roots into the contemporary Nashville sound.
Skaggs’ 1997 album Bluegrass Rules!, released on his newly-formed Skaggs Family Records label, marked a triumphant return to bluegrass—which he’s solidified ever since with a series of GRAMMY® Award winning albums, recorded with his amazing bluegrass band, Kentucky Thunder (8-time winners of the IBMA ‘Instrumental Group of the Year’). Skaggs’ label has also served as a home for similar bluegrass and roots music-oriented artists including The Whites.
In the past decade, he has been honored with inductions into the Gospel Music Association’s Gospel Music Hall of Fame and the Musicians Hall of Fame. In 2018, a landmark year, Skaggs was also awarded membership into the National Fiddler Hall of Fame, the IBMA Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and country music’s greatest honor, the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Ricky struck his first chords on a mandolin over 50 years ago, and he continues to do his part to lead the recent roots revival in music. Clearly his passion for it puts him in the position to bring his lively, distinctively American form of music out of isolation and into the ears and hearts of audiences across the country and around the world. Ricky Skaggs is always forging ahead with cross-cultural, genre-bending musical ideas and inspirations.
The Infamous Stringdusters
Formed in 2005, the Nashville-based Infamous Stringdusters balance a fluency in old-timey bluegrass and indie jamgrass sensibilities, with an emphasis on strong instrumental work plus a sound that is both organic and groove friendly. The band earned a stellar reputation among bluegrass fans right out of the box, earning three International Bluegrass Music Association awards after the release of their 2007 debut album, Fork in the Road, and they began exploring a more ambitious musical approach with 2010’s Things That Fly. The Stringdusters’ genre-spanning approach got a workout on 2016’s Ladies & Gentlemen, in which they collaborated with 11 different female guest musicians, and they earned a GRAMMY® for 2017’s Laws of Gravity.
The Infamous Stringdusters rise to new heights on their ninth full-length record Rise Sun. For the album, the GRAMMY® Award-winning quintet—Andy Falco [guitar], Chris Pandolfi [banjo], Andy Hall [dobro], Jeremy Garrett [fiddle], and Travis Book [double bass]—expanded their signature sound by perfecting their seamless fusion of All-American-bluegrass and rock.
Once again sail into uncharted territory moored only by their expressive patchwork of All-American bluegrass threaded together with strands of rock, jazz, funk, country, old-time, and more.
Yonder Mountain String Band
For the past 20 years, Yonder Mountain String Band has redefined bluegrass music, expanding the traditional acoustic genre beyond its previously established boundaries by steadily pushing the envelope into the realms of rock n’ roll and improvisation. YMSB has always played music of their own design, in the process attracting a devout following of fans that often resembles a tight-knit family on an epic musical journey as Yonder traverses the country with an ambitious tour schedule. Yonder is a quintessential ensemble honing its craft night after night on the road, and the fans are there to experience it in real time. The result is music that doesn’t stand still, it’s always progressing and breaking unprecedented ground.
Yonder Mountain String Band’s last new album, LOVE. AIN’T LOVE (2017) is undeniably the Colorado-based progressive bluegrass outfit’s most surprising, creative and energetic studio excursion (of their 12 studio offerings) to date. Songs like “Chasing My Tail” and “Alison” are rooted in tradition but as current as tomorrow, animated by electrifying performance, vivid production, and the modernist power that has made Yonder one of the most popular live bands of their generation. Melding sophisticated songcraft, an irrepressible spirit, and remarkable instrumental ability, LOVE. AIN’T LOVE is a testament to Yonder Mountain String Band’s organic, dynamic, and intensely personal brand of contemporary bluegrass-fueled Americana. Of the album, Rolling Stone said it’s “modern bluegrass and punctuated by genre-jumping excursions into world music, reggae and all points in between.” And having logged well over 2,100 shows together, the band has amassed devoted fans and critical acclaim along the road, with Glide Magazine hailing them as “a cast of likeable characters that let their joyous spirits and ace instrumental capabilities do the talking.”
The band hit the road in 2019 armed with new material that was first road-tested and will get the studio treatment later this year. This material will undoubtedly be in line with what you’d expect from Yonder Mountain String Band: edgy and genre-defying music without boundaries.
Yonder Mountain String Band is Adam Aijala, guitar/vocals, Allie Kral, fiddle/vocals, Ben Kaufmann, bass/vocals and Dave Johnston, banjo/vocals.
Steep Canyon Rangers
Steep Canyon Rangers are Asheville, North Carolina’s GRAMMY winners, perennial Billboard chart-toppers, and frequent collaborators of the renowned banjoist (and occasional comedian) Steve Martin. Today the band has shared the results of what is perhaps their most singular musical partnership to date – teaming with Philadelphia soul legends Boyz II Men and their hometown Asheville Symphony to completely overhaul the Rangers’ original “Be Still Moses,” which was first recorded on their 2007 breakout album Lovin’ Pretty Women.
The premiere coincides with the announcement that Steep Canyon Rangers have re-signed with Yep Roc Records. “It feels like coming home,” says Graham Sharp of the partnership. “The Yep Roc family was among the first to welcome Steep Canyon Rangers when we were just pups. As we’ve grown, so have they. We’re incredibly excited for the future and all the music it holds.”
Steep Canyon Rangers released their North Carolina Songbook album on Record Store Day, 11/29/19. This is a recording of their live performance of all North Carolina Songwriters performed at Merlefest in 2019.
The Rangers are made up of Woody Platt on guitar and vocals, Graham Sharp on banjo and vocals, Mike Guggino on mandolin/mandola and vocals, Nicky Sanders on fiddle and vocals, Mike Ashworth on drums and vocals, and Barrett Smith on bass and vocals.
The Steeldrivers Richard Bailey (banjo), Tammy Rogers (fiddle), Mike Fleming (bass) and Brent Truitt (mandolin) have been musical colleagues and friends for more than three decades, which is to say nearly all their adult lives. They were bringing their instrumental, vocal and songwriting skills to various bands, ad hoc gigs, picking parties and recording sessions long before The Steeldrivers first came together. That happened in 2005 when Nashville veteran Mike Henderson and Chris Stapleton, a young gun on Music Row had co-written a batch of songs that felt right for bluegrass instrumentation. Some casual get-togethers with Bailey, Fleming and Rogers led to a run of shows, a deal with historic Rounder Records and critical acclaim.
In a story now well-known, Stapleton hit a streak of rocket-ride success as a solo country artist and the Steeldrivers resoled to continue maintaining the overall soul-grass feeling of that founding voice without hiring a clone. Henderson stepped aside as well with many things on his plate. The band made of sturdier stuff than one voice or part called on Truitt to play mandolin. The search for a new singer after Gary Nichols was trickier. They wanted to keep their cards close to the vest and they weren’t looking for a mainstream bluegrass singer. It wasn’t easy but one day says Tammy Rogers, “My daughter found him on YouTube.” This designee was bound to be unconventional, and he was, a 25-year-old rock and roll singer from Berea, KY named Kelvin Damrell.
That a quintet could sound so consistent over time, while adding new repertoire and even new lead singers is a testament to a classically Nashville way of thinking. “I always say we just happen to use traditional instruments but we’re really a singer-songwriter band,” Rogers says. One regularly hears the edict to “serve the song” among top tier players in Music City but because this is bluegrass and this is the Steeldrivers, the truth is that often, serving the song means you gotta play like hell.
Missy Raines was named 2019 International Bluegrass Music Association Bass Player of the Year for the 8th time, more than any other bass player in the history of the organization. Missy Raines has proven herself without doubt as an iconic bluegrass instrumentalist. But with her newest release, Royal Traveller, Raines has stepped into the spotlight as a songwriter for the first time. The album digs deep into Raines’ family life and her upbringing in West Virginia. Featuring previous and current members of her live band, as well as cameos from other bluegrass greats such as Stuart Duncan and Tim O’Brien, the album is a gorgeous look into the perspective, history and musical influences of one of Nashville’s most beloved musicians, Missy Raines.
Royal Traveller is Raines’ third album for Compass Records, and the first produced by Compass’ owner and founder and renowned banjo player Alison Brown. “I went into this project with Alison with the mindset that I wanted to stretch myself and see what I could do. I think we achieved what I was looking for, which is something further reaching and bigger than what I would have accomplished on my own,” says Raines.
In 1998, Raines became the first woman to win IBMA’s Bass Player of the Year award and she went on to win the title repeatedly for the next several years. Royal Traveller highlights this particular piece of Raines’ history with the standout track “Swept Away,” which features the 5 first women to win IBMA instrumentalist awards, Raines, Brown, Sierra Hull, Becky Buller and Molly Tuttle. “Swept Away” was named 2018 IBMA Recorded Event of the Year.
Missy’s version of the iconic Flatt & Scruggs “Darlin Pal(s) of Mine” (from Royal Traveller) was named 2019 Instrumental Recording of the Year by the IBMA. The tune features Alison Brown on banjo, Todd Phillips on Bass and Mike Bub on bass.
With her new album, Raines tells her story with a vulnerability and bold honesty that rings clear, spoken through beautiful arrangements and well-chosen musical collaborations. With nods to many of the varied and challenging chapters of her life, the songs speak volumes of Raines tenacity and musicianship and her ability to rise to bluegrass fame despite the various confinements of the times. The listener is presented with a striking window into the up and down ride of a very royal traveler, the one and only Missy Raines.
Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley
Take a 15-time IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) Dobro Player of the Year and a Tennessee-born guitar prodigy who made his Grand Ole Opry debut at the age of 11, and you have Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley, a powerhouse acoustic duo that has electrified the acoustic music scene.
Known for their white-hot picking, stone country vocals with soul and world class live musicianship, Ickes and Hensley meld together blues, bluegrass, country, rock and other string band music of all kinds to form a signature blend of music that defies restrictions of genre. They are equally at home on stages of prestigious performing arts centers, theatres and the Grand Ole Opry as they are on Americana, jamgrass, bluegrass and jam band festivals.
Ickes co-founded the highly influential bluegrass group Blue Highway and has been a sought-after Nashville session player and live performing musician for decades, with credits to his name such as Vince Gill, Earl Scruggs, Merle Haggard, Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire and Alison Krauss. Hensley has been called “Nashville’s hottest young player” by Acoustic Guitar magazine and his soulful baritone vocals have received acclaim as well. Influenced by repertoires as diverse as The Allman Brothers Band, Ray Charles, Merle Haggard and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hensley has shared stages with artists such as Johnny Cash, Steve Wariner, and Peter Frampton. As a duo, Ickes and Hensley have shared the stage and collaborated with Tommy Emmanuel, Taj Mahal, David Grisman, and Jorma Kaukonen & Hot Tuna — all enthusiastic admirers of the duo — as well as Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi All Stars, Molly Tuttle, and many more. The duo were key players on “Original,” the recent highly lauded Compass album by bluegrass giant Bobby Osborne; their participation garnered a Recorded Event Of The Year Award for Bobby’s version of “Got To Get A Message To You” on that album at this year’s IBMA Awards; they also were on the 2016 Recorded Event winner, ”Fireball,” featuring Special Consensus, in 2016.
John Reischman & The Jaybirds
Like the powerful mandolinist and composer at its helm, John Reischman and the Jaybirds fashion a stylish take a bluegrass that seamlessly blends original songs and instrumentals with Appalachian old-time music for a truly unique band sound. With Patrick Sauber, guitar, Trisha Gagnon, bass, Nick Hornbuckle, banjo and Greg Spatz, fiddle the Jaybirds are now in their 20th year, with seven acclaimed albums and two Juno nominations, the Jaybirds are simultaneously innovative and unadorned, sophisticated and stripped-down, happily old-fashioned and 21st-century contemporary.
“The Jaybirds put their own particular stamp on bluegrass, old time and acoustic roots music, with a satisfying blend of traditional and modern styles, and they also give the impression they really enjoy playing together. There’s plenty here to please both bluegrass traditionalists and lovers of modern American folk music, especially for those with an appreciation of great harmony singing as well as masterful instrumental playing.” – Folk Radio U.K.
Amanda Cook Band
Originally from Florida, now making her home in the Virginia mountains Amanda Cook acquired a love of bluegrass from her father who played banjo throughout her childhood. In early 2007, Amanda formed bluegrass group High Cotton with her father and received her first taste of performing, fueling a fire to continue on a professional level. In 2013, determined to create her own sound, Amanda stepped out on her own and released her first solo album One Stop Along the Road. The project made it to the top 150 Roots Music Bluegrass Album Charts for 2014 and 2015 (#61 for 2015 #56 for 2014). The self-released album also brought Amanda significant regional attention and furthered the desire to grow her brand, resulting in the addition of a full touring band. In early 2017, Amanda signed with Mountain Fever Records and recorded her debut album on the label “Deep Water.” Amanda was excited for her 2nd album project, especially that she and band member Carolyne VanLierop co-wrote the title track Amanda has created quite a loyal fan-base through her palpable delivery of a soul-wrenching song and her light-hearted, down-to-earth style helps her create an undeniably strong connection with her audience. In late 2018, Amanda signed a long term 7-year, 5 album contract with Mountain Fever. Her 2nd project with Mountain Fever, “Point of No Return” was released in April of 2019. Blazing into 2020, Amanda and her amazing band released a hard-driving bluegrass tune “Get on Board” on February 7. Her newest project “Narrowing the Gap” will be released summer of 2020!!!!
“If fresh modern bluegrass mixed with an equally vibrant country voice is your thing then Amanda Cook’s Point of No Return is sure to satisfy.” – Americana Music Show
The Amanda Cook Band is Amanda Cook, guitar/vocals, Carolyne VanLierop-Boone, banjo/vocals, Joshua Faul, bass, George Mason, fiddle, Aaron “Frosty” Foster, guitar/vocals and Troy Boone, mandolin/vocals.
A quintet who cheerfully disregard every kind of one-dimensional label that might be attached to their music, Fireside Collective has been on a roll since emerging five years ago from the fertile roots music scene of Asheville, North Carolina. In quick order, the progressive bluegrass group released its debut, won the 2016 Band Contest at MerleFest, earned an International Bluegrass Music Association Momentum Band of the Year nomination and embarked on an ambitious touring schedule that’s earned an enthusiastic reception from traditional bluegrass to wide-ranging, eclectic music festival audiences alike.
Blending the characteristic interplay of bluegrass instrumentation and harmonies with strong original material and exuberant energy, Fireside Collective has drawn on folk, blues, funk and a wide variety of bluegrass sounds to create a distinctive body of work that’s all their own. Each member—Joe Cicero (guitar); Alex Genova (banjo); Jesse Iaquinto (mandolin); Tommy Maher (resonator guitar) and Carson White (upright bass)—brings a strong, original voice to his instrument, and the unique contributions of different lead and harmony vocalists complement the variety in the group’s many original songs.
“Depending on where you come from and your experience with folk music, you may think we’re very traditional, or on the other hand, consider us a progressive act,” says Iaquinto. “We appreciate both ends of the spectrum and may lie on a different end on any given night.” But whether they’re bringing the classic sound of bluegrass or exploring new musical territory, Fireside Collective delivers a fresh, energetic approach and a blast of enthusiastic creativity that’s electrifying audiences across the country.
Born in a distillery in Durango, CO, Stillhouse Junkies consist of Alissa Wolf, vocals and fiddle, Cody Tinnin, vocals and bass and Fred Kosak, vocals and guitar. The Junkies play a delirious, head-spinning mixture of original roots, blues, funk, swing, and bluegrass music. With all three band members sharing vocal duties and swapping instruments, the Junkies conjure a wide range of tonal landscapes that pay tribute to the iconic sounds of Gillian Welch, the Allman Brothers, Tim O’Brien, the Wood Brothers, John Hiatt, and countless others while breaking new musical ground with their genre-bending original material.
The Sonoran Dogs
Formed in 2011, The Sonoran Dogs have exploded upon the bluegrass scene! They have performed and headlined many festivals and concert venues in the Southwestern US, touring as far as Australia, from Melbourne to Brisbane and beyond.
The “Dogs” are made up of seasoned veterans who have come together to enjoy bluegrass music and friendship, often times adding one or more “strays” on fiddle, dobro and even accordion! You can even see them with the BIG band, which includes drums and pedal steel – quite the experience!
With every show, The Sonoran Dogs play with expertise, often improvising and showcasing original songs, traditional and contemporary music as well as an eclectic mix of Bluegrass, Folk, Americana, Celtic, and Newgrass.
The Sonoran Dogs are: Peter McLaughlin, guitar/vocals, Mark Miracle, mandolin/vocals, Tyler James, banjo/vocals, Nick Coventry, fiddle and Brian Davies, upright bass/vocals.
Nolan McKelvey & Muskellunge
Over the course of his twenty-year career, Nolan McKelvey has covered nearly every corner of the country and traversed all roads of Americana. From the pavement of alt-country to the dusty trails of bluegrass to the gravel roads of classic-country to the interstate highway of straight up rock-n-roll, Nolan has traveled over a ton of ground and received critical acclaim along the way from magazines like No Depression, Country Standard Time, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, and Performer Magazine among many others.
Muskellunge is a contemporary, American acoustic band originally formed in Flagstaff, AZ; their music incorporates the traditions of the past into the topics of today. Muskellunge consists of Nolan McKelvey (vocals/guitar), Aaron Tyler (mandolin/vocals), Tim Hogan (bass/vocals), Frank Dedera (banjo).
SLO County Stumblers
The SLO County Stumblers are an energetic American string band based in California’s Central Coast. The band features fiddler Casy Meikle (formally of Hogslop Sting Band), guitarist Stuart Mason, banjo player Daniel Bohlman, and banjo builder Jerry James on bass. The band formed in 2018 when Meikle returned to California after several years in middle Tennessee where he became steeped in the region’s musical traditions, traveling extensively with a variety of Southern string bands and with buckdancer Thomas Maupin. The Stumblers play hard-driving old time fiddle tunes and spirited songs, heavily influenced by the golden-era string bands of the 1920s and 30s. Their performance is filled with humorous stories and banter and is guaranteed to get feet moving across the dance floor. In the short time since the band’s formation, the Stumblers have been hard at work, performing at a variety of folk and bluegrass festivals, square dances, old-time fiddler’s conventions, as well as hosting the annual Pozo Old-time Music Gathering. Each member contributes a unique role, educating and sharing their love of traditional music and craft.
Jam Pak Band
In 1994, Anni Beach serving as a substitute teacher in Chandler, Arizona, took her mandolin and new-found passion for bluegrass music to every classroom in which she taught. Following a day of teaching at Galveston Elementary a block from her home, two little boys knocked on her door asking if she would play and sing some more with them. She wanted to do something good for her bread and butter, immigrant- filled neighborhood and with the support of her husband Vincent, Jam Pak was born the very next week with six little kids in the front yard.
It quickly grew to numbers up to thirty children each week. They made their own instruments, learned to sing lots of bluegrass and old-time songs and took their happy show to nursing homes, the Chandler library, and eventually attracted the attention of the Arizona bluegrass community. After four years of playing canjos and harmonicas and singing their hearts out, donations of bluegrass instruments began arriving. Coaches came, and soon after the name expanded to Jam Pak Blues ‘N’ Grass Neighborhood Band. The band was invited to their first bluegrass festival in 1998 and became a hit
The band has evolved over the years into a music community. Enfolded in the love of music, community, food, travel, and love itself, this unique band of all ages, races, and walks of life makes bluegrass music. In the home of Anni Beach (Vincent, the Father of Jam Pak, passed away in 2010) they teach each other, gather twice a week, practice, dance, entertain, and at the center maintain the singular goal to make themselves and others happy with their music.
Jam Pak has small bands within this big band and young people hone their band skills, make their own arrangements, and also perform. These small bands include Cabin John, Morning fire, Fair Black Rose, and The Would Bees. Professional level bands have emerged from Jam Pak including Cisco & the Racecars and Greenwood Sidee.
Jam Pak had to make a critical move in 2017 in order to make the band sustainable now and for the future. The band became a Non-profit 501c3 organization and qualifies as an Arizona Charitable Organization. Susan Anderson, a mentor and encourager of Jam Pak, made it clear over the years that Jam Pak must grow and risk.
Beach House Reviews are held several times a year in the unique backyard setting complete with a stage, canteen, and lighting. Jam Pak Productions produces small festivals and other musical adventures such as The Bluegrass Camp for Tempe Festival of the Arts. Jam Pak Sunflower Publishing has published a book titled, “Home Grown Bluegrass-A Guide to Making People Happy with Music”. An active website is maintained as well as an e-mail list, some marketing through friends of Jam Pak, and most of all fans and families who support and love what Jam Pak means to them.
The mission, indeed, the singular goal, of this organization is to make people and ourselves happy with our music. Everything we do revolves around this goal. And from that, many good things follow.
In recognition of her outstanding work, Anni Beach was awarded The Mentor of the Year award in 2019 by The International Bluegrass Music Association.