Wintergrass 2016 Performers-The Steel Wheels


Some things come to be in their own time, of their own accord. Such has been the case with The Steel Wheels. In the beginning, it was simply a matter of four young men who’d happened to cross paths at a formative moment in each of their lives reveling in the shared experience of plucking acoustic instruments and blending their voices. But over the years, what had begun organically as a pure lark evolved into a mission: to fuse the personal with the universal, the deeply rooted past with the joys and sorrows of everyday existence.

Steel Wheels 1-1.jpg

These thematic and stylistic vectors intersect powerfully on Leave Some Things Behind (released April 14 on the band’s own Big Ring label), a deeply human, emotionally authentic work that interweaves timely songs with timeless sounds. On the album, co-produced and engineered by Ben Surratt, the four band members—lead singer/guitarist/banjo player Trent Wagler, standup bass player Brian Dickel, fiddler Eric Brubaker and mandolin player Jay Lapp—are joined on various tracks by rootsmusic luminary Tim O’Brien, Nashville-based singer/songwriter Sarah Siskind (who co-wrote two songs and sang on another), drummer Travis Whitmore and Hammond B3 player Ethan Ballinger. Together, they’ve wrought a work that is musically intricate and conceptually resonant, the sounds serving the songs at every moment.

Memorable original tunes like the sorrowful “Heaven Don’t Come by Here,” the anxious “End of the World Again,” the a cappella tour de force “Promised Land,” the indigenously metaphorical “Find Your Mountain,” the autobiographical “Rescue Me, Virginia” and the climactic “Every Song Is a Love Song” are bound by a plainspoken eloquence and an unforced urgency, while the dual kickers “We’ve Got a Fire” and “Warm Wool, Soft Leather” seem tailor-made for the Grand Ole Opry stage circa 1968—as if intimating some of those precious things we’ve left behind.

The band’s genesis dates back to 2004, when Wagler, Dickel and Brubaker were college students in Harrisonburg, Virginia, which sits in the Shenandoah Valley an hour’s drive from Charlottesville. “The school we met at is Eastern Mennonite University,” Wagler recalls, punctuating the reveal with a wry chuckle. “That begs the next question, which is, ‘Why in the world did you go to Eastern Mennonite University?’ One of the unique things about our band is that all four of us grew up in Mennonite families—and I hesitate to even use the word because many people who don’t have much experience with Mennonites see that as Amish, but that’s not accurate. It was more of a secular Mennonite upbringing. So that was where the three of us met, but we didn’t start the band right away.”

As undergraduates, Wagler played bass and Dickel guitar in a punk-leaning alternative band, but over time they developed an interest in acoustic music, as Trent learned flatpicking and began writing songs, while Brian studied guitar making at a school for aspiring luthiers. They began performing casual gigs as a duo, and it wasn’t long before Brubaker began playing with them, expanding the nascent group’s sound with his fiddle and bass voice, which enriched the harmonies. Once Wagler crossed paths with mandolin player Jay Lapp on the local folk circuit, the lineup was complete— although none of them realized at the time that these four like-minded friends had begun the process of becoming a going concern. After making an album together under Wagler’s name, they continued to play informally for the next half decade, while also recording a 2007 LP as Trent Wagler and the Steel Wheels. Concurrently, they worked day jobs and started families.

Finally, they took the leap of faith, throwing their lots together as The Steel Wheels, a band name redolent of steam-powered railroad trains, America’s industrial age and the buggies of their Mennonite forebears. Their initial offering as a committed unit, 2010’s Red Wing, put the newly minted full time band on the map at the dawn of the folk-music renaissance; the LP spent 13 weeks on the Americana Music Association’s Top 40 chart, while the track “Nothing You Can’t Lose” was named Best Country Song at the Independent Music Awards. The Steel Wheels’ visibility continued to increase via 2011’s Live at Goose Creek, 2012’s Lay Down, Lay Low (the IMA’s Album of the Year) and 2013’s No More Rain (the last-named containing live-off-the-floor re-recordings of pre-Red Wing material), they spent much of their time traveling the blue highways and interstates behind these records, while Wagler found the time to build a stockpile of new songs.

Leave Some Things Behind stands as the culmination of these five years of maturation and intensive roadwork. Whereas the previous albums were essentially collected snapshots of The Steel Wheels at certain points in time, the new work turns on a concept that dates back to Homer—and the Old Testament.

“We had more songs for this record than ever before,” Wagler points out, “and that caused us to ask, ‘How does all this stuff fit together, and what’s it about?’ A theme emerged, which I’d been somewhat conscious of as I was writing—the Exodus theme. I don’t want to overstate the biblical aspect, but those biblical metaphors are big metaphors in our lives regardless of the institutions they come from. I was fascinated by the notion of going away from home to look for something. But the further we go toward something, the further we’re inevitably going away from something else, meaning those ideals come at a cost, sometimes small and mundane, sometimes huge. You see the theme running through the album, overtly in ‘Promised Land,’ hopefully in ‘Rescue Me, Virginia,’ and existentially in ‘Heaven Don’t Come by Here,’ which opens with the image of an unmarked grave. And ‘End of the World Again’ is about the things you leave behind when you leave home, and in following what you’re seeking, not knowing whether there’s gonna be anything left when you come back.

“That narrative of following your dreams and stepping against your own comfort zone was replayed for me in the lives of my parents and grandparents, and I left home, too,” he continues. “It’s hardly a unique story; we live in a transient culture, and we move for many different reasons. That’s the personal side, but I think this music also connected to the other guys in the band in that all four of us are dads now. We travel and tour; that is our livelihood, and when we’re gone we’re really gone. But when we come off the road, we’re really home. So we live with that push and pull.”

Home, family, community (further evidenced in the band’s annual Red Wing Roots Music Festival, the third edition of which will take place in July), a sense of belonging, seeking and finding, the pendulum of gains and losses—these are the Big Issues embedded into the fabric of Leave Some Things Behind, an album that promises to be as enduringly relevant for the listener as it will always remain for the dedicated artists who poured their hearts and souls into its creation.

“What sets The Steel Wheels from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia apart from many bands is the combination of their stellar instrumentals, accentuated by the one of a kind lead vocal of Wagler, and keenly supported by strong harmonies. Eric Brubaker on fiddle, Jay Lapp on mandolin, and Brian Dickel on bass weave in and out intricately throughout this record, painting vivid imagery which flows effortlessly, just teasing the lyrics enough to allow them to resonate within you.”

Country Standard Time

Wintergrass 2016 Performers-Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver

There is so much you can write about both Doyle Lawson and his band Quicksilver so we will just post a condensed version. For more information on this Doyle and Quicksilver here is a link to his website.DLQ-front11

With nearly 40 albums to their credit, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver have multiple Grammy, Dove, ICM, IBMA and SPBGMA Award nominations, and are 7-time winners of IBMA’s Vocal Group of the Year. Lawson is reigning SPBGMA Mandolin Player of the Year, and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver are the reigning Inspirational Country Music Association (ICM) Vocal Group of the Year, crowned in October 2012 at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center, on the heels of Lawson’s induction into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame at the Ryman Auditorium on September 27, 2012.

From Doyle’s website:

I met Jimmy Martin when I was 14 years old. He is from Sneedville, TN where we had moved to in 1954. Around that time, I made up my mind that I wanted to play music for a living, and realized that only playing one instrument was somewhat limiting, so I made it a point to learn how to play the banjo and guitar, too. Four years later, in February 1963, I went to Nashville and got a job playing banjo with Jimmy Martin. In 1966, I started working with JD Crowe in Lexington, KY. I first played guitar and later switched to mandolin. In 1969, I was back with Jimmy Martin for about six months playing mandolin and singing tenor but then went back with J D Crowe until August of 1971. I started with the Country Gentlemen on September 1, 1971 and stayed with them until March 1979. By this time, I had played in bands for more than 10 years, that had their “sound” before I joined them. I wanted to put together a group that would have “my sound”.

To that end, in April 1979, I formed a group that I first named Doyle Lawson & Foxfire but soon changed to Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. I was looking for “our sound” and that first group tried many different types of songs. I wanted a strong quartet like the ones my dad used to sing with. In the next few months, Terry Baucom, Jimmy Haley, Lou Reid and I laid the foundation for what has become the Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver sound. The makeup of my band has changed many times in the last 27 years. I jokingly tell folks that Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver is the “farm team” for bluegrass. I try to integrate each member’s special talents into my group, while not sacrificing the Quicksilver sound. While the sound changes a bit with the introduction of a new band member, it is important to me that people hear what they expect to hear when we take the stage, no matter who is in the group.

And about Quicksilver:

Stephen Burwell:fiddle-

Stephen was born in Angleton, TX on March 5, 1994, son of Edwin and Cheryl Burwell. He has five brothers and 2 sisters. His mother home schooled all of them! His family lives in Maple Valley, WA, but he relocated to North Carolina in early September 2014, to pursue a career in bluegrass.

His violin playing started at age 8, when he began group lessons at his church. A bit later, he wanted to get into the quicker, happier side of the fiddle, he studied with Pete Martin for five years. Stephen counts Stuart Duncan and Aubrey Haney as early influences. He played and won many contests in the Northwest, and he especially loves Texas-style fiddle.

Though his career has been relatively short, Stephen has played with several bands…North Country, Faust & Blair, and Brother’s Keeper, a gospel group. Along with his sister, Sarah, his brother, Seth, and friend, James Meyers, he formed the Christmas band, Twelfth Night. Stephen has appeared at SPBGMA and IBMA events.

In his spare time, Stephen plays music and enjoys all aspects of recording. As the newest member of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Stephen feels like God sent him east at just the right time.

Josh Swift: Dobro –

Josh was born on September 25, 1986 to Randy and Rhonda Swift.  His dad was and still is a phenomenal musician so Josh loves music naturally.  At 6 months old, Josh was making noises with his mouth in time with music he was hearing.  He started playing drums when he was 2 years old and eventually started traveling with his family on the Southern Gospel circuit. When he was 16, Josh was playing a session when he saw a dobro for the first time.  He just HAD to have one!  About a year later, Gibson Guitars gave him his first dobro.  At 17, Josh played with a local group called Set Apart.  He fell in love with Mountain Gospel while traveling with those guys.  At 18, he became a part of Carrie Hassler and Hard Rain.

At 19, he had left CHHR and was filling in with some friends in Gatlinburg, TN when Doyle Lawson rounded the street corner and listened for nearly a half hour.  Little did he know that he would soon be invited to jam with DLQ and that that jam turned out to be a showcase at IBMA.  Doyle asked him if he knew a song of his and Josh replied “I’ll know it by the time it gets to me.”  Doyle hired Josh that night on October 5, 2007.

He says, “This gig is an absolute BLAST and I am honored not only travel with DLQ, but to find myself constantly learning life’s lessons.  God has been so so so good to me and I give him ALL the glory.” On July 24th 2008, Josh married his first love, Tobi.  They are expecting their first child in 2011.  Josh and Tobi live in middle Tennessee and go to church at Cookeville First Assembly.  They have two dogs, Henry and Peanut.  Josh spends lots of time with his family when not on the road and he loves to play golf.  Italian food is his favorite.

Josh’s favorite Bible verse is Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Josh plays a multitude of instruments…dobro, lap steel, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, mandolin, banjo, drums, and piano. He uses D’Addario strings… EXP42’s,  EXP17’s, and EXP74’s.

Joe Dean:banjo-

Joe Dean was born on July 18, 1989 to Joe Dean Sr. and Tammy Dean of Granite City, IL. His parents soon realized he had an interest in music when Joe saw The Eagles perform on televison at 4 years old. Joe told his parents he wanted to be just like Don Henley and play in front of people and write songs. He received a guitar for his 5th birthday and from there learned to play mountain dulcimer, mandolin, and finally banjo by age 12. Joe spent his teen years playing at local bluegrass festivals in and around the St. Louis area. In 2006, he joined Barry Scott and Second Wind and played on their Grammy Nominated gospel release “In God’s Time.” After graduating high school in 2007, Joe landed a job with Dailey and Vincent as the founding banjo player and bass singer, and spent 5 years there. In April 2012 Joe was asked to be part of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. Along with being a multi instrumentalist and vocalist, Joe has been developing his craft as a songwriter over the last couple years penning songs with Mike Rogers, Tom Botkin, Kevin Denney, and Walt Gabbard.

Joe met his wife Ashley in 2009 backstage at the Grand Ole Opry and they have been together ever since. They reside in Cookeville, TN and attend Smithville Freewill Baptist Church. In his spare time, Joe enjoys the outdoors. Hunting and fishing are his two main activities. He is also an avid hockey fan.

Dustin Pyrtle:guitar-

Dustin Pyrtle was born July 25, 1990 to Anthony and Lisa Pyrtle of Westfield, NC. Born into a musically talented family, Dustin took interest in music at age 8. His dad taught him to play the guitar. It wasn’t until around age 10 that his family noticed he loved to sing and was pretty good at it! It took a couple years and a lot more self-confidence before Dustin recognized the scope of his talent.

On his 14th birthday, Dustin received his first guitar, a Martin D2R, which he continues to play today. With the help of his uncle, Randy Pyrtle, and family friend, Kent Smith, Dustin learned to play upright bass. This was the instrument he played with bands Broken Wire, No Speed Limit, Riverview and The Josh Williams Band.

Dustin’s music career took a turn when the teenage band, Broken Wire (which consisted of Nick Keen, Houston Caldwell, Asa Gravely and Courtney Burroughs), heard him at The Rex Theatre in Galax, VA. Later that year, they invited him to the Galax Fiddlers Convention and this is when he was invited to play in their band. These members and their families have been very supportive of Dustin and his career. And for this Dustin will be forever grateful.
Other bands Dustin has played with include Amber Collins and No Speed Limit, Ashlee Blankenship and Blades of Blue, Riverview, Grasstowne, and The Josh Williams Band. Influences have been Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out, Keith Pyrtle, Lou Reid, Doyle Lawson, Tony Rice, Adam Steffey, Lonesome River Band, Ronnie Bowman, Blue Highway just to name a few.

Dustin has had the opportunity to meet so many friends along this journey and looks forward to meeting so many more. With God’s grace, he has been so blessed to be able to follow his dreams.

He resides in Danbury, NC and plans to wed Nicole Clark in the fall of 2013. He attends Minnie’s Chapel Wesleyan Church in Stuart, VA. With his spare time, Dustin likes to duck hunt, deer hunt, turkey hunt, fish and spend time with his family.

(In loving memory of Houston Caldwell and Randy Pyrtle. Gone but not forgotten.)

Eli Johnston:bass-

Eli Johnston was born to Alycia and David Johnston on March 1, 1986, and raised in the Tri State area of southeast Kansas. His parents now live in the Branson, MO area, and he has two younger brothers, Adam and Isaac. Eli started playing and writing music at the age of 15, when his Grandpa gave him his first guitar. Soon he began playing bass and banjo, and tagged along with his Dad to many bluegrass events in the area.

After high school, he pursued his music career by playing with several bands in the area. When Eli was 21, he took a job in a theater production show called the Tennessee Shindig, and stayed there for about five years. In the last few years, Eli has been performing with Midnight Flight, Monroeville and Firewater Junction, and in Gatlinburg, TN. Eli cites J. D. Crowe, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Tony Rice and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver as his musical influences.

Eli is currently living in Hartford, TN. In his spare time, he loves to write songs and fish. Eli enjoys movies (Happy Gilmore, Beverly Hills Ninja) and especially likes a good fish fry.

Eli is more than excited to start a new chapter in his career with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. He says, “I’ve never had the opportunity to play with this caliber of players and singers. Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver is a well-oiled machine and I’m honored to be part of the group!”

Wintergrass 2016 Performers-Joe Craven and The Sometimers

Joe Craven has found a couple of hot young pickers worthy of his chops: wild man bassist Jonathan Stoyanoff and Bruce MacMillan dazzling with crafty dobro, acoustic guitar pickin’ and angelic voice. With Joe’s wildly eclectic musicality, the sonic possibilities are unlimited. I just saw this new trio and… WoW!

                                                  – PBS television producer Peter Berkow

J“Joe Craven and The Sometimers” featuring Bruce MacMillan and Jonathan Stoyanoff, adhere to a “no genre left behind” policy of music making while leaping from a springboard of Americana. They perform impressively credentialed and possess enough poetic license to operate heavy machinery. Their analog/power tool box includes both upright and electric bass, various guitars, Dobro, lap steel, mandolin, octave mandolin, fiddle, more cowbell and who knows what else. This new NorCal roots music trio is celebration for a new framework of POP music, as in “Pursuit of Possibility” music. Give ’em a listen and you just might do a little dance while you’re at it!

Multi-instrumentalist Joe Craven is an award-winning creativity educator, former museum curator, actor, music festival emcee, Director of RiverTunes Music Camp, a Co-Director for the Wintergrass Youth Academy. Joe Craven’s love of performing music has put him in many musical genres and alongside many musicians, from Jerry Garcia, David Lindley, Howard Levy and Jason Marsalis, to fusion banjoist Alison Brown and groups such as Psychograss and The Horseflies. For 17 years, he was percussionist and violinist for mandolinist David Grisman. Joe’s unique education programs have inspired; communities in Costa Rica, corporate heads in Contra Costa, CA, a dozen different music camps, thousands of school kids from Stockton to Scotland and college students from Alaska to Alabama. Whether jamming with musicians from Morocco or Mendocino, performing solo, with his daughter Hattie, The Joe Craven Trio, Mamajowali, The Sometimers or playing Carnegie Hall to busking on Cannery Row – Joe’s at home and loving every minute!

Jonathan Stoyanoff is a much in demand bassist who is a fan of, trained in and very proficient at, a wide variety of vernacular music. He attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA on a performance scholarship and, since then, Jonathan has helped form and perform in a variety of musical projects. He has played and/or shared bills with Larry Coryell, B.B. King, Robert Cray, Huey Lewis, Dave Mason, Jackie Greene, Ozomatli, Spearhead, Maceo Parker and many more. Jonathan has also played at some of the nation’s most prestigious festivals including the Monterey Jazz Festival, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and the High Sierra Music Festival. He brings a high level of skill and enthusiasm to Joe Craven & The Sometimers.

Bruce MacMillan is a wonderfully intuitive musician dedicated to the holy temple of American Roots Music. His passion for the history and variety of America’s musical heritage has resulted in a versatility across many musical genres. From Blues to Bluegrass, Country to Jazz and Rock & Roll, Bruce plays with wonderful energy and artistry. He has performed upon many stages and at many music festivals, including the Strawberry Music Festival, High Sierra, and California Worldfest. With his wife Sally, they have two fine music stores in Chico and Redding, CA, known as The Music Connection where Bruce displays his chops as an educator, repairman and salesman. Bruce’s impressive skills on vocals plus all manner of guitars, Dobro and lap steel, bring a broad palette of sound to Joe Craven & The Sometimers.

Joe Craven and the Sometimers kicked off our Peacetown Summer Concert Series with a big bang. Folks danced, sang, and cheered the music of these incredible musicians.

-Jim Corbett,  Promoter / Educator

 

 

Wintergrass 2016 Performers-Helen Highwater Stringband

It was just another night in Nashville: four friends—revered acoustic musicians—got together in a living room. The music bounced, danced, gathered strength, and lifted them in a way that only happens with the right players. So, they formed a band and named it Helen Highwater—the tough, whimsical goddess of string band music. It’s David Grier on guitar, Missy Raines on bass, Mike Compton on mandolin, Shad Cobb on fiddle, and power vocals from all four. All are bluegrass music veterans.  helen highwater-900x292

These are musicians who have performed for decades. Their music is rooted but not frozen, recognizable but not predictable, comfy but not smug. It’s also a steel-railed groove of steam-powered drive—Gid Tanner and Bill Monroe stoking the coal car and one band barreling ahead, eyes around the curve.

David Grier was named an Artist of the Decade in 2000 by Guitar Player magazine, has received the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Guitar Player of the Year award 3 times, and has played on 4 Grammy award-winning albums.

Missy Raines is a 7-time IBMA Bass Player of the Year and a former member of the Claire Lynch and Eddie & Martha Adcock bands. She played as a duo with Jim Hurst and now fronts her own ensemble, The New Hip.

Mike Compton is known as the Monroe-style mandolin player and has played with John Hartford and the Nashville Bluegrass Band. Mike received Grammy awards for his work on O Brother Where Art Thou and played on projects for Dr. Ralph Stanley and Elvis Costello.

Shad Cobb is a powerful and nuanced fiddler who draws from deep traditions and has played for the Osborne Brothers, Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Marty Raybon, Mike Snyder, and the John Cowan Band.

Wintergrass 2016 Performers-The Bumber Jacksons

The Bumper Jacksons are hot and sweet, painting America’s story from New Orleans’ brothels to Appalachian hollers. Unafraid to scrap together new sounds from forgotten 78’s, the Bumper Jacksons boldly and elegantly balance paying homage to the traditions while fashioning their own unique, DIY style.   Recognized as the region’s “Best Traditional Folk Band” at the 2013 and 2014 Washington Area Music Awards, the Bumper Jacksons are playfully creative with their originals and re-imagining roots music with both power and tenderness.  Bursting at the seams with some of the richest threads of old America, Bumper Jacksons bring you into the center of a party where everyone’s invited and the dance floor never sleeps.

Jess Eliot Myhre -clarinet . vocals . washboard . songwriting
A native Floridian, Jess Eliot grew up singing in church and swinging from banyan trees.  After performing in hip hop and funk bands at Wesleyan University, she moved to New Orleans and became mesmerized by the big, uproarious glory of the old sounds of the street bands and second lines. She dusted off her lonely old clarinet, built herself her iconic frog washboard, and turned a 180 towards the traditional. She now performs all over east of the Mississippi, playing her original songs and traditional American Roots music in performance halls, swing dances, contradances and square dances, house concerts, and busking in your city’s streets.  She’s a two-time winner of the Mid-Atlantic Song Contest in the jazz and vocal categories.

bumper logo
Chris Ousley-guitar . vocals  .  tenor banjo . songwriting
A Maryland boy, Chris tramped off to the hills of western Pennsylvania to study the 3 B’s: books, beer and banjos. There he woodshedded with old hill cats in barns outside of abandoned steel and coal towns playing any instrument he could take a turn on.  Hitting mountain trails, biking over rough terrain, rafting down rivers, all with a bottle of whiskey and a banjo on his back.  Chris’s deep jazz pocket and graceful Kentucky-style banjo is only outmatched by the snarlyness of his beard.  He was the one bold enough to believe that he and Jess could make music for a living and is solely responsible for all of the shenanigans that embody the Bumper Jacksons.
Together, Chris and Jess Eliot form the core of the Bumper Jacksons in 2012.  Their initial meeting fueled a riotous impromptu jam on the lawn of a radical bike house in Washington, DC.… The music never quit since.

Alex Lacquement-bass . harmony vocals  Alex swears that it was beautiful sirens who lead him to the upright bass at the impressionable age of seventeen. With lots of practice under his belt and two degrees in music education from Eastman(MM) and James Madison University(BA) he has found a home laying down some groovy bass lines with the Bumper Jacksons. His first music love which lead him to the upright bass was jazz music, something he studied vigorously.  Years later he found himself chasing every opportunity to play some happy thumping lines with bluegrass and old-time string bands.  Alex is now an invaluable third leg of the Bumper Jacksons, tasked not only with bass-playing dutioes and helpng with arrangements, but also keeping Chris in line for over three years now.
Dan Samuels-drums  .  suitcase percussion  It’s clear that a man who’s birth took place in a speeding car (headed to the hospital in Trenton, NJ) was meant for a life on the road and keeping people on their toes. What better way to do this than being the drummer and suitcase percussionist [in training] for the Bumper Jacksons? As the newest member of the group, he brings a wealth of diverse musical chops and expressions from his time in Baltimore-based funk/soul/hiphop groups.  When Dan isn’t playing on stage with the BJ’s he can be found in Baltimore working on his afro-cuban folkloric suitcase percussion, organizing community events and concerts, or on his roof trying desperately to turn his thumb from brown to green.

Wintergrass 2016 Performers-The Earl Brothers Hillbilly Trance

The Earl Brothers, based in San Francisco and led by banjo master Robert Earl Davis, have been delving into the dark side of bluegrass for more than a decade now, and their fifth and latest album, Outlaw Hillbilly, takes them further down that rough road.

Earl Brothers B_W 350dpi  2015They’re not a good time bluegrass band – they’re more interested in exploring the really bad times – but their music, like the blues, has that paradoxical effect of taking you so deep into the mire that you come out feeling a little better than you did before. These guys are very talented musicians, vocalists, and songwriters, but their sound is raw,” says the website Country Standard Time, which praises their “terrific new album”, “Outlaw Hillbilly”, as “jarring in its intensity” and “simply the next step in the steady progression of a band that continues to gain ground within the bluegrass community.”
Their raw and ravaged sound brings to mind Ralph Stanley at his bleakest – and that’s a good thing!
“The Earl Brothers have got the soul and the songs and the attitude that brought us all into bluegrass music in the first place,” says Chris Hillman of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers. “Their songs cry of the mountains, of the people, and of the traditions down through the ages. Bluegrass music is alive and well.”

Wintergrass 2016 Performers-Stumptown Swing

Tim Connell (mandolin and voice) and Mike Burdette (guitar) of Rio Con Brio formed Stumptown Swing after nearly a decade of playing pick-up gigs with Portland’s best acoustic string musicians.  They snapped up the hottest upright bass player in town, Keith Brush (Stolen Sweets, Pete Krebs Trio, Blue Cranes) and are proud to feature their long-time friend and collaborator, the absolutely pyrotechnic violinist, Ben Blechman.

Named after their hometown, Portland “Stumptown” Oregon, the quartet is closely associated with the network of Lindy Hop, Balboa and Swing Dance clubs that have made Portland a major center of the Swing Dance revival.  They are in demand as a live band for the almost nightly swing dance events throughout Portland.  In addition to Stumptown’s thumping dance-oriented set, the group frequently performs a concert set featuring a wider variety of tempos and styles, appearing at both jazz and world music festivals.

Stumptown Swing released its debut album in 2014 and has been performing on concert stages and dancehalls throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Tim Connell

A graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music and a virtuoso mandolinist with over twenty years professional performing experience, Tim Connell has created a sophisticated and original global mandolin style.  Widely regarded as one of the top North American interpreters of Brazilian choro, Tim has also developed his own unique voice for the instrument, described in a recent Mandolin Magazine cover story as “fiery and energetic, soulful and evocative.”

Tim regularly tours Europe and North America in the international mandolin supergroup The Ger Mandolin Orchestra. He has been a featured guest artist at national conventions of the Classical Mandolin Society of America; he has been on staff at the prestigious Mandolin Symposium for several years and performs and teaches all over the country.  Tim has performed with a roster of the greatest living mandolinists, including David Grisman, Mike Marshall, Avi Avital, Caterina Lichtenberg, Don Stiernberg, Rich Del Grosso, Chris Acquvella and many others.

Tim is a restless and prolific bandleader and arranger, sideman and studio musician, currently touring with his Brazilian choro duo Rio Con Brio, 1930’s-era swing quartet Stumptown Swing, world mandolin duo Mando Planet and guitar wizard Eric Skye. In addition, Tim is an integral member of Americana songsters The Old Yellers, currently riding high on their new release “Ten from Town”. In his solo act, Tim shares his career-long exploration of the world’s many musical styles as realized on the mandolin and voice.

Mike Burdette

Mike Burdette has been performing Brazilian choro and gypsy jazz guitar for the past seven years with many of Portland’s best, including Tim Connell, Jason Okamoto, David Stassens, and Joseph Appel. His pursuit of excellence in these styles has led him to study with many of today’s leading players, including Mike Marshall and Choro Famoso, Dudu Maia, Douglas Lora, and Don Stiernberg. He also builds and repairs instruments for many of Portland’s finest players at Portland Fretworks, and pickers throughout the Northwest enjoy playing on frets he has installed. He lives in rural Newberg, Oregon, with his beautiful wife, Katherine, his chickens, and his honeybees.

Ben Blechman

Ben Blechman with a fiddle in his hands is a man on fire.  Possessed of flawless classical technique and an endless imagination, Ben is a master of improvisation and groove.

He has played with the Santa Cruz Symphony, the Monterey Jazz Festival Orchestra with Roy Hargrove and Terrence Blanchard, and various other symphonies, string quartets and opera companies. Ben played extensively with the Hot Club of San Francisco (filling in for Evan Price).   Since that time, Ben has played with various bands including, Frizz, Hot Club Pacific, Route5, Water Bear, the Djangophiles, Clambake, Vagabond Opera, and the 12th Ave Hot Club.

Keith Brush

Everyone’s favorite bassist….
A veteran of venerable Portland bands such as Pete Krebs and the Portland Playboys, the Blue Cranes, and the Stolen Sweets, Keith Brush is in constant demand as one of Portland’s top bassists, and Stumptown Swing is thrilled to have their long-time friend and collaborator on board.  Swing dancers are known to high-five each other when they see him enter the room with his bass because they know he will keep the dance floor thumping.