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Great musicians will always find a way to make good music, but for great musicians to make great music, they must form a bond – one that, more often than not, goes beyond the purely musical to the personal. For The Grascals, that bond has been forged at the intersection of personal friendships, shared professional resumes and an appreciation for the innovative mingling of bluegrass and country music that has been a hallmark of the Nashville scene for more than forty years. As their releases prove, The Grascals’ rare musical empathy gives them an unerring ear for just the right touch to illuminate each offering’s deepest spirit – whether they’re digging into one of their original songs or reworking a bluegrass classic or pop standard.
The Grascals are among the most beloved and acclaimed bands on today’s bluegrass scene, having won SPBGMA’s Bluegrass Band of the Year award in 2010, the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Emerging Artist of the Year award in 2005 and earning its Entertainer of the Year honor in both 2006 and 2007.
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.
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 songwriting 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 Bluegrass 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.
The Snyder Family Band features the talents of siblings Zeb and Samantha Snyder from Lexington, NC. Backed by their dad, Bud, on upright bass, this band has delighted and surprised audiences at venues including Merlefest (Wilkesboro, NC), Music City Roots (Nashville, TN), Bristol Rhythm & Roots (Bristol, VA/TN), the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree (Nashville, TN), the Musicians Against Childhood Cancer Festival (Columbus, OH), and the Red White and Bluegrass Festival (Morganton, NC). They have also appeared on the “WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour” (Lexington, KY) and twice on the PBS TV program “Song of the Mountains” (Marion, VA).
Samantha, now sixteen, began playing classical violin at age three. In 2007 she won first place at the Jimmy Edmonds Homecoming Competition in Galax, VA. In 2008 at age nine she became the youngest ever to win the prestigious Fiddler of the Festival award at Fiddler’s Grove, NC. She also won the 2011 Adult Bluegrass Fiddle competition at the Old Fiddler’s Convention held in Galax, VA. In addition to playing fiddle, Samantha sings both lead and harmony vocals.
Zeb, now sixteen, began classical guitar lessons at age seven. In 2007, he won the top prize, a Wayne Henderson guitar, at the Jimmy Edmonds Homecoming Competition in Galax, VA. In 2011 he became the South Carolina Guitar Champion at RenoFest in Hartsville, SC. He also placed first in the adult guitar competition at the 2011 Old Fiddler’s Convention in Galax, VA. In addition to guitar and mandolin, Zeb also plays banjo, bass, and dobro and sings lead and harmony vocals.
The Snyder Family’s latest CD, titled “Stages,” was released in October 2011 on the Mountain Roads Recordings record label. Samantha wrote the title track as well as two other songs and Zeb wrote two instrumentals on this project. There is even a bonus track featuring Owen, the youngest member of the family.
The Honey Chasers is a project built around the original music of Cameron Owens. Cameron along with his long time musician friend Meade Richter have been playing music together since early childhood. When the time came along for the boys to head to college they decided to attend East Tennessee State University’s Old Time and Country Music Program. This is where Cameron and Meade met the rest of the band.
Meade Richter left for college a local legend, he went on to earn his Master Fiddler title at the Fiddlers Grove fiddle contest, after already being a world champion fiddler at the age of 16. Meade has been apart of countless groups at ETSU such as the Celtic Pride Band and the Country Pride Band. Meade’s astonishing fiddle sounds are a crucial element to The Honey Chasers sound.
Cameron Owens began playing music at the age of eight years old, he began playing originally with his family band on a one year long tour traveling to 18 different countries playing an electric bass. After 3 summer tours and and 1 album Cameron and Meade decided it was time to create a project that could involve more of Cam’s original material, and could openly push the boundaries of bluegrass music.
With that in mind, we recruited a hometown friend from Boone North Carolina Zach Smith. Zach has already toured over 15 states playing as an upright bass player. With his broad influences on the upright bass, he is a perfect fit for us to perform all of the types of music.
Jeff Ingersoll (guitar/harmony singing) much like Zach has a very wide spectrum of influences on his instrument. Former guitar player for progressive bluegrass projects such as The Ingersoll Brothers, brings flavors of traditional string jazz to The Honey Chasers’ unique sound.
From the music-rich Blue Ridge Mountains, ClayBank plays traditional bluegrass with a modern twist. This award winning, four-piece band combines dynamic instrumentation with powerful vocal abilities that have been opening eyes and ears across North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Formed in early 2015, ClayBank is living proof that raw, young talent combined with a wealth of musical experience and expertise can prevail. The band features Gary Trivette from Boone, NC on bass, Tyler Thompson from Mountain City, TN on banjo, Jacob Greer from Jefferson, NC on guitar, and Zack Arnold from West Jefferson, NC on mandolin. From a hard-driving bluegrass song to an a‘Capella gospel ballad with impressive harmonies, there’s always something for every listener at a ClayBank show.
Currently emerging with his debut EP whose title, I Was Born, boldly asserts his presence as a compelling new voice on the traditional American roots music scene, Andy Ferrell grew up in the small Blue Ridge Mountain town of Boone, North Carolina, not far from the birthplace and home of his greatest musical influence, bluegrass/country/folk music legend Doc Watson.
It would make perfect sense for an artist from this region to create a modern equivalent to a sound Watson once called “traditional plus.” Ironically, it took a lengthy journey “On The Road” far from home — an extended soul searching stay in New Zealand, to be exact – for Ferrell to decide to defy conventional expectations and pursue his musical dreams. After attending Florida State and later enrolling in the renowned music program at East Tennessee State, he quit school altogether, formed his trio Oncoming Train (anchored by upright bassist Zach Smith) and began recording and performing. He still enjoys performing alone on occasion, but likes the extra dimensions and danceability that the trio brings to his songs.
Amantha Mill is a community oriented folk/bluegrass act that is based out of Boone, North Carolina. Becca Eggers-Gryder formed Amantha Mill and derived our name from the small mill community of Amantha, NC from which her family comes. The original mill that we are named after washed away many years ago in a flood, but if you’re driving through Cove Creek you can still see part of its footing. We hope you enjoy the musical heritage that the old Bingham roller mill gave us to share.
Amantha Mill has honed their sound and performance to include musical types from traditional Bluegrass to Swing, Cowboy, Country, and Americana/Roots. There is something in each of our shows that will satisfy everyone.
Kim and Pete McWhirter’s songs come from life’s experiences, and tell stories of love, loss, and inspiration. For the past ten years they have been performing their music all around North Carolina, from Oakracoke to Bryson City. In 2004 Kim joined her husband to share the songs she had written.
The blending of their mountain voices and guitar styles are a natural development of who they are, and where they grew up in Yancey county North Carolina. They have recently renamed the duo “Broke Holler”, and have released their second CD on the “Airborn” record label titled “Mountain Songbook”, a collection of mountain favorites made famous by artists including Doc & Merle Watson, Dr. Ralph Stanley, and the Carter Family.
You might remember them from years past as” He Said She Said”, or “Doc Hill”, both entities have played the Music Fest stages. Their music has been featured on WNCW’s “Local Color” , “This Ole Porch”, and at Merle Fest. Pete and Kim are also potters in Yancey County, continuing the McWhirter family business that has thrived since 1963 Look for them to the left of the main stage, and on the Solar Stage at this years Music Fest n Sugar Grove
Cane Mill Road is a youth bluegrass band from the Appalachian Mountains. Some of the best young bluegrass players in the states of North Carolina and Virginia come together to play in this band. The band plays bluegrass, old-time Appalachia, newgrass, and progressive bluegrass music, but specializes in preserving the traditional bluegrass music of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The band has been featured on more than 500 radio stations across the world on National Public Radio’s Woodsongs Old-time Radio Hour, and will be featured this year on television across America on the same show when it airs on PBS Public Broadcasting System).
The band has played major festivals including in Nashville for two showcase performances at the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America, Red White and Bluegrass Jam, and Heartwood. The band will play HoustonFest, Linville Falls Winery, Merlefest Acoustic Kids, and The Doc Watson MusicFest in Sugar Grove later this year. The band has a demo and is recording at Castleford Studios.
The band pulls it members for each performance from an eclectic group of the best young players in the region who sing and play guitar, fiddle, mandolin, bass, banjo, and Dobro. Band members include blue ribbon winners at major festivals including one of the oldest and biggest, The Galax Old Timers Fiddlers Convention.
Band members have performed at the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) convention and MerleFest. Band members have played on stage with bluegrass legends from J.D. Crowe to Pete Wernick to the Krüger Brothers to Rhonda Vincent. Band members range in age from 12 to 17 years.
Raised in the coalfields of western Virginia, Jim Lloyd now makes his home in Rural Retreat, Va., where he operates Lloyd’s Barber Shop, a local gathering spot for collecting and trading tunes, stories, and songs. His musical roots extend back through at least four generations of fiddlers, guitar players, dancers, and singers from the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia. Jim is known especially for his skills on guitar and banjo. Through the influences of his extended family and fortunate upbringing in the Heart of Traditional Mountain Music, Jim has “old bones” with a knowledge and appreciation for the “old ways” well beyond his years.
In his youth Jim was recognized for his great talent and was part of a 300 person troupe that were contracted to perform in the Marti Gras (Carnaval) in Nice, France in the mid 1990’s. Then he went professional and was the guitarist for The Konnarock Critters.
Jim was not only a consummate musician spreading old time music with his guitar but also a radio DJ on WBRF radio at Galax and hosted a live band show called “Blue Ridge Backroads” for a year. He then moved to The William King Arts Center and hosted an NPR show “Living Traditions” for 3 years on 50 stations across the nation. It was through Jim’s show, “Living Traditions”, that he worked with Matthew Saunders and Polly King Ewell and became one of the first musicians to perform on the internet.
He is truly an old soul in a younger body and has been teaching the traditional music methods for years. He has won prizes in both guitar and banjo competitions at notable fiddler’s conventions such as Galax and Fiddler’s Grove. He shares his heritage not only by performing, but also as a teacher to many local students ranging from ages 6 to 70. He has taken his knowledge and talents to music camps such as the Augusta Heritage Festival, the Swannanoa Gathering, and Camp Holiday Lake. He has held workshops in Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, Tennessee, Minnesota, and England.
Mike is a Resident of Rural Avery County that regularly plays venues around the High Country. Composing Original Songs drawn from experience’s and covering Traditional Folk, Blues, Gospel and Irish Ballads Mike enjoys the songs that tell a Story and Paint a Picture. Don’t be afraid to Sing along if you know the Tune!
many more to come….