Wintergrass 2017 Performers-Darlingside

Darlingside first toured as a five-piece indie rock band with drums, but finding the right delicate balance of voices and instruments was a challenge early on. Then, in 2013, the band parted ways with their long-time friend and drummer. “In our first few shows without Sam, we felt naked,” says Auyon. Listening to the current quartet, you can hear fingers on strings, breathing in the singing, squeaks and pumps from a harmonium. The band now performs the songs the same way they practice and write them—seeing them live is like sitting in their living room. There are still vestiges of the rock format: electric guitar fuzz and ambient feedback creep into otherwise acoustic arrangements. But in the new format, voices and melody have shifted to the forefront—a shift that has become important to the band. Harris explains, “we try to write songs that exist out of the context we set them into, songs that can just be sung.”

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After six years of playing together and a decade-plus of knowing each other, the band’s collaborative process has evolved side by side with their friendships. “We’ve become intimate with each other’s childhoods, families, fears, goals, insecurities and body odors,” Auyon notes. “That kind of closeness is typically limited to romantic relationships. It’s gotten to the point where we often mistake each other’s stories and memories for our own.” Birds Say is a patchwork of the artistic and personal visions of four equal songwriters—a mashup of their individual and collective experiences and dreams. “The process is so entangled,” Don says, “I sometimes can’t remember what I wrote, or what anyone else wrote. We don’t consider a song finished until we’re all satisfied with it. It may not be the fastest process, but we know that when we all agree on something, it’ll sound like us.”

 

DON MITCHELL‘s oldest memory (age 2) is of a colorful dragon kite that folded down into a can on his parents’ sailboat ‘Acacia.’ More pertinently, he remembers growing up in rural Connecticut, where his musical training began as a boy alto in Chorus Angelicus and as a liberally-freckled cast member of such regional theater productions as “How to Eat Like a Child.” Adolescence came and went in its unflattering way, leaving Don with a repository of skillz including guitar, juggling, and uncanny Dr. Claw impressions. At college, he studied songwriting, music theory, and animal tracking, each of which is indispensable to him now as his alter-ego Doug, the band’s official Road Food Scout. Doug’s greatest finds, which include a vegan/vegetarian buffet located inside a Hare Krishna Temple in Dallas and a toothsome kombucha bar-cum-sandwich shop in Richmond, are traditionally celebrated with hearty pats on the back and rousing cheers for “More Doug!”

A feeble child, young AUYON MUKHARJI‘s lack of athleticism and physical prowess prompted his parents to enroll him in music classes at the tender age of three in the hopes that he might one day be a well-rounded college applicant. He proceeded to play the violin at a mediocre level throughout his youth, drifting in and out of youth symphonies and orchestra summer camps. He began mixing with the wrong crowd in college, which inevitably led to a years-long stint of a cappella singing and frequent experimentation with the mandolin. Upon graduation, he traveled around the world for a year as a vagrant musician, studying folk music in Ireland, Brazil, and Turkey. Auyon has been referred to as “naïve, without financial wherewithal, and most probably very anxious to return home” in the LA Times, and as “an embarrassment and a hooligan” by his mother, Jyoti. He serves as the band’s Director of Special Projects.

HARRIS PASELTINER has been playing cello classically since age 6. He has also played guitar self-taughtingly since sometime in high school. In his spare time, he enjoys playing Dave’s bass, or the organ he discovered at the town dump, or his erhu, or Auyon’s mandolin, or the organ that the band was given in Illinois, or perhaps Auyon’s saz, or Don’s banjo. As the old adage goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Regarding music, Harris is like a horse that drinks substantial amounts of water whenever it is available. And regarding other things, Harris is often like a horse that is very thirsty and would you mind taking it back to the water, please? (Harris will also happily drink a pour-over, or scotch, or a nice pu-ehr if you were to lead him to one of those.)

As a child, DAVID SENFT would cry at the thought of going to college because he thought that singing was mandatory (his older cousins having all been in college singing groups). Young Dave preferred doodling in class, naming individual trees, and anything involving computers. His first website, at the age of 15, was devoted to the number 8. In college, Dave chose his extra-curricular activities based on which organizations seemed to need a new website, and wound up in a singing group after all. Soon after, he enrolled in a songwriting course with two friends, made a website for the class, and never looked back. Dave then spent two years after college as an itinerant street performer, and began learning bass when the band formed in 2009. If he’s not making music, or this website, he’s often found preparing breakfast, or looking for anything at all that might have been grass-fed.

 

Wintergrass 2017 Performers-Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley

This unique collaborative effort between two uniquely gifted musicians is bound to be a revelation to traditional music fans on several counts. Rob Ickes is a longtime, well-established instrumental giant, and Trey Hensley is newly arrived in Music City, bursting with talent both as a vocalist and guitarist. Their new album, Before the Sun Goes Down, is slated for release this winter.trey-hensley-rob-ickes-bluegrass-from-the-forest-2016-watermarked-5

From his powerful yet sympathetic vocal interpretations of traditional and contemporary material to his jaw-dropping instrumental skills on both acoustic and electric guitar and considerable songtrey-hensley-rob-ickes-bluegrass-from-the-forest-2016-watermarked-10writing talents, Trey Hensley is bursting at the seams with freshness and musical excitement. His resonant baritone voice is rich, expressive, and equally at ease with classic bluegrass, traditional country, and original compositions. Raised in Jonesborough, Tennessee, Trey began playing guitar and singing when he was 10 years old. Invited by Marty Stuart and joined from the wings by Earl Scruggs, Trey Hensley landed on the Grand Old Opry when he was only 11. To this day, Marty Stuart remains a fan and booster. Trey has already in his young life played with Johnny and June Carter Cash, Charlie Daniels, Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner, The Oak Ridge Boys ,and Janie Fricke. He’s appeared on bills with Sara Evans , Charlie Daniels, Peter Frampton, Randy Owen, Steve Wariner, and Marty Stuart, and has appeared before President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Rob Ickes has been playing bluegrass with his much-decorated band Blue Highway for over twenty years, during which time he has been adjudged Bluetrey-hensley-rob-ickes-bluegrass-from-the-forest-2016-watermarked-4grass Dobro Player Of the year fifteen times. Rob has played on countless sessions, recording with artists such as Merle Haggard, Dierks Bentley, Patty Loveless, and Alison Krauss. He has also helped form a jazz –oriented trio, Three Ring Circle, along with Andy Leftwich and Dave Pomeroy. His most recent album Three Bells is a true dobro summit, collaborating with fellow greats Jerry Douglas and the late Mike Auldridge. He even once received a surprise phone call from admirer, jazz guitar and harmonica master Toots Thielemans! In Before the Sun Goes Down, the listener will have the chance to view Rob Ickes, by now an acknowledged master of the dobro and lap steel guitar, outside of the box.

Rob has been a supporter since he first heard Trey, a happening that came about in an unusual way. He became aware of the young man’s enormous vocal talent when he heard his scratch vocal (suggested by the album’s engineer) on Rob’s band Blue Highway’s album The Game. Wayne Taylor and Tim Stafford of Blue Highway penned the song “My Last Day In The Mine.” The band had initially hoped to have a prominent lead singer outside the band to perform a guest vocal of the song for the album but found themselves falling in love with the youthful Trey’s evocation of the world-weary working man’s fears of leaving the only job he’d ever known. Trey was 22 at the time. Trey’s vocal was used on the completed product and has since received considerable positive notice, as has the entire album. Shortly thereafter, Trey and his wife Amber relocated to Nashville, and Rob has been showing Trey the ropes.
Before the Sun Goes Down promises to be a breath of fresh air on the country music scene today while bringing traditional country and bluegrass music to the forefront. Accompanied by some of the finest, most accomplished musicians in Nashville , Rob and Trey tackle a diverse group of songs, put a fresh spin on some old ones, polish up some more recent hits, and offer up an original from Trey – all the while drawing influence from artists as diverse as Jimmy Martin, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Billy Joe Shaver, Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, Buddy Emmons, Jimmie Rodgers, and Bob Wills. In addition to Rob, Trey’s sterling vocals are bolstered by a band which includes Aubrey Haynie or Andy Leftwich on fiddle, the ubiquitous (and mighty fine) Nashville acoustic bassist Mike Bub, and drummer John Gardner. Others featured are Jon Randall, Susanne Cox, Dan Tyminski, Shawn Lane, and Ron Block.

Before the Sun Goes Down was recorded mostly live with minimal overdubs, fixes, punch-ins, or even very many takes, and with all the musicians in one room in only a few days of studio time. Rob, the driving force behind the album and the man largely responsible for its creation, says that his favorite albums by the pioneers of the music, the ones that made him want to make music in the first place, were made in the same manner. The spontaneity and sheer joy of creation among a small group of master musicians is palpable in listening to the completed product.

Wintergrass 2017 Performers-The Kruger Brothers

Kruger-Bros-grayscale-Aug-2014.jpgBorn and raised in Europe, brothers Jens and Uwe Kruger started singing and playing instruments at a very young age. Growing up in a family where music was an important part of life, they were exposed to a wide diversity of musical influences. The brothers were performing regularly by the time they were eleven and twelve years old, and they began their professional career in 1979. Jens’ and Uwe’s first public performances were as a duo, and in just a few years they were busking on the streets of cities throughout eastern and western Europe.

CBS Records contracted with Jens and Uwe when Jens was just seventeen years old, and shortly thereafter, the Krugers hosted a radio show on SRG SSR, the Swiss Public broadcast group. Several years later, the brothers teamed up with bass player Joel Landsberg, a native of New York City who also had a very extensive musical upbringing in classical and jazz music (studying with jazz great Milt Hinton), thus forming a trio that has been playing professionally together since 1995. Together, they established the incomparable sound that The Kruger Brothers are known for today. The trio moved to the United States in 2002 and is based in Wilkesboro, NC.

Since their formal introduction to American audiences in 1997, The Kruger Brothers’ remarkable discipline, creativity and their ability to infuse classical music into folk music has resulted in a unique sound that has made them a fixture within the world of acoustic music. The honesty of their writing has since become a hallmark of the trio’s work.

In their ever-expanding body of work – Jens Kruger (banjo and vocals), Uwe Kruger (guitar and lead vocals), and Joel Landsberg (bass and vocals) – The Kruger Brothers personify the spirit of exploration and innovation that forms the core of the American musical tradition. Their original music is crafted around their discerning taste, and the result is unpretentious, cultivated, and delightfully fresh.

In addition to their regular concert schedule, The Kruger Brothers perform these classical pieces regularly with select symphony orchestras and string quartets throughout the country.

Through their numerous CD releases, radio and television performances, lectures, and collaborative efforts, The Kruger Brothers’ powerful artistic statement continues to inspire and enlighten audiences and musicians around the world.

Wintergrass 2017 Performers- Caitlin Canty

Caitlin Canty delivers her songs with a dusky alto and a 1930’s Recording King guitar. Her breakout record Reckless Skyline features an all-star band on twelve songs that veer nimbly between country ballads and straight-up rockers, dark blues and sparsely arranged folk. Produced by Jeffrey Foucault, Reckless Skyline garnered glowing praise from NPR, among others. The San Francisco Chronicle lauded Canty’s, “casually devastating voice and unshakable poise,” and her “easy way with folk, blues and country motifs.”

Both on the road and on her records, Canty creates a sound that harnesses the grit and spark at the very heart of American music, tempered with a voice both haunting and distinct.

A constant collaborator, Canty writes and performs with several bands including Down Like Silver, her ongoing duo with Peter Bradley Adams. Prior to Reckless Skyline, she independently released the full-length Golden Hour, a gently produced and Western-tinged album tracked live in Maine in the winter of 2012. Her song, “Get Up” received a Song of the Year nomination in the International Folk Music Awards, and she is the winner of the 2015 Telluride Troubadour songwriting contest.

Raised in small-town Vermont, the daughter of a school teacher and a house painter, she spent her early years in New York City as a backup singer and performing her own songs at Lower East Side music halls. Caitlin now lives in East Nashville, Tennessee.homepage-cc

Wintergrass 2017 Performers-Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons

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The history of American roots music in the early 20th century could never fit into an encyclopedia.  it’s too ramshackle, too rambunctious, too radical.  Fiddlers, guitarists, banjo players, and all kinds of folks rambled those early roads, learning from each other, inspiring each other, and pushing the music in new directions.  Music constantly switched back and forth across the racial divide, beholden only to the beat and the dance.  It’s this fevered period of musical exchange that inspires Northwest roots music duo Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons.  The songs on their new album, The North Wind & The Sun, tap into everything from Memphis Jug Band blues to work songs recorded in Southern prisons.  They also touch on an 1861 composition used to recruit black troops for the Civil war, an original adaptaton of old topical songs about corrupt clergymen, and an early jazz composition of Duke Ellington.  All of these traditions are tied together in the swirling musical whirlpool of pre-war American music. In January of 2016, the Washington Blues Society sent Ben and Joe to the 26th annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN. There, they were awarded 1st place—out of 94 solo/duo acts representing 16 countries—for their unique blend of pre-blues a cappella field hollers, fiddle & banjo breakdowns, and duet distillations of early jazz.

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Ben and Joe have been playing together for almost 5 years, the last 3 of which sent them to the Port Townsend Acoustic Blues Festival, learning at the feet of the elders of the acoustic blues tradition.  They found an affinity in the many branches that tied into the blues and created this duo as a way to explore these branches.  Their musical kinship and sense of joy in interpreting this music is evident and was the basis of an invitation Dom Flemons (formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops) to tour and record for his album Prospect Hill. Last year, they launched an ongoing documentary film project to explore modern day music along the Mississippi River. Rather than thinking of their music as blues, it’s best to situate Ben and Joe as American songsters. A songster traditionally refers to an artist whose repertoire is much broader than the old blues, and spans many of the genres that Ben and Joe Inhabit. Uncle Dave Macon and Robert Johnson are classic examples of songsters.  Whatever you want to call it, Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons make American music.  They make music that hews to the rough-and-tumble collisions of musical inspirations from the early 20th century; music that paved the way for everything we enjoy today.ben-hunter-and-joe-seamons-wintergrass-2016-watermarked-8

Wintergrass 2017 Performers-Love Canon

Sprouting from the musical foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville, Virginia’s LOVE CANON currently resides in full bloom. The musicians, led by guitarist Jesse Harper, are five seasoned virtuoso string players fused together by wood and wire to become LOVE CANON.

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With a passenger van and a trucker’s atlas, LOVE CANON has been touring the mid-Atlantic since 2010 bringing their own blend of raucous bluegrass to the masses. The band’s diehard fans are music lovers first and foremost, drawn to the beautiful high-lonesome stylings of 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 upright bass. The band is augmented with the sweet sounds of resonator guitar king Jay Starling on the Beard MA-6.

Wintergrass 2017 Performers-Balsam Range

Balsam Range to a group of five outstanding acoustic musicians and singers from North Carolina. For their band name, they thoughtfully and respectfully adopted the name of a majestic range of mountains that surround part of their home county of Haywood, NC where the Smokies meet the Blue Ridge, the Balsam Range.

Adding to an already impressive list of awards and honors, the band received numerous top honors in the 2014 IBMA Awards, including Entertainer of the Year. Balsam Range was also honored at Vocal Group of the Year. Buddy Melton was named Male Vocalist of the Year, and Tim Surrett received a Mentor Award.

The band’s fifth album, Five, made its Billboard Chart debut at #4 and remained on the Billboard chart for an impressive 6 weeks. Additionally, Balsam Range consistently tops radio airplay lists with its history of top singles.

Balsam Range is comprised of five gifted friends who all hail from Western North Carolina. Tim Surrett delivers entertaining MC work as well as seasoned lead and harmony singing. Tim plays bass and he will occasionally share his talents on the resonator guitar. He charms with spontaneity, wit and professionalism. A stellar fiddler, Buddy Melton is also one of the most gifted tenor voices in Bluegrass and Americana today. His range and tone give Balsam Range its identifying sound. With his envied guitar style, Caleb Smith has been called “one of the top young guns of guitar.” He sings with both power and control, delivering a high energy song or a tender ballad with equal vocal skill. Darren Nicholson is a gifted mandolin player and harmony singer with tremendous enthusiasm for American heritage music. That twinkle in Darren’s eye says it all. He is usually up to something! Grammy Award winner, Marc Pruett brings more than 40 years of entertainment experience to the group. He brilliantly complements the ensemble with the intuitive, traditional three finger style that has made him one music’s most admired banjo players.

Elements of jazz, country, gospel, swing and old-time music are all infused into the fresh sound of this unique Southern band. It’s five distinct personalities creating one remarkable musical experience. It’s the award-winning Balsam Range.

Accolades

  • 2015 IBMA Vocal Group of the Year WINNER
  • 2015 IBMA Song of the Year WINNER, “Moon Over Memphis”
  • 2014 IBMA Entertainer of the Year WINNER
  • 2014 IBMA Vocal Group of the Year WINNER
  • 2013 IBMA Album of the Year WINNER, Papertown
  • 2011 IBMA Song of the Year WINNER, “Trains I Missed”
  • 5 Consecutive Months at #1 on the Bluegrass Unlimited National Airplay Album Chart
  • 7 National #1 Songs. Including: “Last Train To Kitty Hawk”, “Caney Fork River”, “Trains I Missed”, “Gonna Be Movin”, “Row By Row”, “Could Do You Some Good”, & “Any Old Road”
  • “Papertown” album #2 in “PopMatters Best of Bluegrass 2012”
  • “Papertown” album #2 in CMT Edge 10 Favorite Americana Albums of 2012
  • 2011 IBMA Emerging Artist of the Year nominee
  • 2011 IBMA Album of the Year nominee, Trains I Missed
  • 2010 IBMA Emerging Artist of the Year nominee
  • WNCW, the #1 flagship bluegrass station, voted Trains I Missed as #1 on their Top 50 Bluegrass CDs of 2010, and #5 on their top 100 overall from any genre (ahead of Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and Robert Plant)
  • Voted Best Old-Time/Bluegrass Band of 2012 in Asheville’s Mountain Xpress Newspaper
  • Part of the 2012-2013 Zac Brown Band Southern Ground Music Festival lineup (www.zacbrownband.com)
  • First band to play at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, NC
  • Balsam Range was presented the “keys to the city” in Canton, NC where they were honored with an official declaration of “Balsam Range Day” in their home county for their positive contributions to their community
  • Balsam Range has raised over a half-million dollars for various regional and national charities