Back in September, we took a look at up-and-coming jam bands that are setting themselves up to be the next big thing. It was tough picking out just five, as the jam scene is already hugely diverse and always in a state of growth, with acts synthesizing influences ranging from EDM to bluegrass. That got us thinking about how we could show some love to up-and-comers in the other genres we cover while giving our readers the heads-up of who to keep an eye out for; thus, for your reading pleasure, for our next installment in the series, we’ve sat down and picked out five of our favorite bluegrass rising stars who should be on your radar.
Bluegrass is a dynamic genre, as explained by this wonderful essay by Chris Pandolfi of The Infamous Stringdusters detailing the history behind the two diverging sects of the genre: old-school traditionalists and those of the inventive “newgrass” mindset. Pandolfi writes, “Bands like Yonder Mountain String Band, the Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Punch Brothers, and Railroad Earth [are] now all prominent members of the thriving progressive music world. These groups have origins in bluegrass, but our metric for success has little to do with how authentically ‘bluegrass’ we are. . . . In 2016, progressive bands are hitting that stride and changing people’s idea of what’s possible. Right behind us is a long line of quality young acts, all with their own original acoustic sound, eager to be a part of a growing bluegrass-rooted scene. From this side of the divide, bluegrass has never looked healthier.”
We have to agree with the infamous stringduster. We love the new acts that are being born out of the genre and rising the ranks, and we’re constantly excited by the innovation that young players are bringing to the table. The competition was fierce and this list is by no means complete, but make sure to keep an eye on these newer names on the bluegrass circuit, as we expect you’ll be hearing a lot more about them in the future. We love these acts for their ability to tap into bluegrass’s roots while simultaneously using music as an expression of themselves and captivating and converting contemporary audiences. We think you’ll love them too.
Horseshoes & Hand Grenades
Wisconsin’s Horseshoes & Hand Grenades formed in 2010, and since then have been grinding away, slowly building a name for themselves with their exceptional songwriting, stellar picking, and near-constant touring schedule. Having shared the stage with Merle Haggard, the Del McCoury Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Trampled By Turtles, Yonder Mountain String Band, and more, it’s clear that other bluegrass musicians are also feeling the group’s high-energy and progressive twist on the basic elements of old-time and bluegrass.
The group consists of David C. Lynch (harmonica, accordion), Russell Pedersen (banjo, fiddle), Adam Greuel (guitar, dobro), Sam Odin (bass), Collin Mettelka (fiddle, mandolin), who consistently woo fans with the undeniable fun-lovin’ and foot-stompin’ spirit they bring to their frequent live performances. You can check out Horseshoes & Hand Grenades when they hit the American Beauty in New York City this Friday (tickets available here) before continuing on their tour that runs from now through the end of August (see, we told you they tour a lot!). Watch one of their live performances below to see what we mean about their high-octane bluegrass stylin’s, and check out their website here for more information and additional tour dates!
[Video courtesy of wklitz1]
This year has been very good for the Kitchen Dwellers, the Montana-based quartet featuring Joe Funk (bass), Shawn Swain (mandolin), Torrin Daniels (banjo), and Max Davies (guitar), only confirming the upward trajectory of the band since their inception in 2010. Fans of all musical persuasions love their fusion of psychedelia and jam-band elements into their bluegrass-rooted sound, creating a unique jamgrass synthesis the Kitchen Dwellers call “galaxygrass,” while their undeniable musicianship both as writers and players grounds the band and gives them the foundation that allows them to innovate.
Last week, they released their latest album, Ghost In The Bottle, produced by Andy Thorne of Leftover Salmon and featuring members of Greensky Bluegrass, Railroad Earth, Twiddle, and Little Feat, with a giant two-day 4/20 blowout across Colorado’s front range. With the success of their album release parties, the band is riding high as they look to their summer tour, dates for which can be found here. Check out a live performance from the Kitchen Dwellers below, and make sure to keep your eyes peeled for these boys when they hit a town near you.
[Video courtesy of Kontagium]
Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys
Born in 2009 in Michigan, Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys were born, and their intelligent and dynamic blend of Americana, roots, jazz, and bluegrass has allowed them to rise the ranks and gain notoriety within the scene. Even their name speaks to their cross-generational bluegrass appeal, having earned the title after a fellow musician announced “It’s good to see you Flatbellys out here pickin’ with us Greybeards” late-night during a bluegrass festival. Lindsay Lou’s voice is soulful and cuts straight to the heart, while Joshua Rilko (mandolin), PJ George (bass), and Mark Lavengood (guitar) are responsible for weaving the gorgeous and delicate instrumentation of the band.Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys seem to be primarily interested in honoring their own musical vision, which is clearly working considering the steadily rising numbers in their fan base. You rarely find them breaking out into frenetic bluegrass pickings like others in the list, but it’s all for the better, as the talented musicians are honing in on a truly unique sound rooted in bluegrass tradition.
You can check out a performance of the quartet below, and mosey over to their website for more information. Also, friends hitting The Aiken Bluegrass Festival should make sure to see Lindsay Lou & The Ladies, a special set featuring all the ladies of the festival, including Allie Kral (Yonder Mountain String Band), Mimi Naja (Fruition), Jenny Keel (Larry Keel Experience), and Mackenzie Page (Gipsy Moon).
[Video courtesy of Audiotree]
The guitarist Billy Strings is young, but he’s good. He’s stupid good. The Kentucky-born Michigan-transplant is only now rounding into his mid-20’s, and he leaves those who see him play with their jaws on the floor. He’s cut his teeth playing bluegrass since a young age, and it shows with his raw and energized playing while sharing the stage with the likes of Don Julin and Greensky Bluegrass. He can pick with the best of them, though the guitarist imbues his playing and stage presence with a distinctly rock ‘n’ roll style, a sensibility that enraptures eager audiences and can get a room amped up and energized in record speed. You can check out a video of a full performance of his with the Billy Strings Band below, as well as hit up his website here for upcoming dates for his aggressive touring schedule this summer.
[Video courtesy of wklitz1]
Snagging the last spot and rounding out our not-very-extensive list is Kind Country, the Minneapolis-based jamgrass band forged in 2012. Originally started as a four-piece string band, the band expanded into six-member ensemble featuring Mitch Johnson (guitar), Brandon Johnson (guitar), Max Graham (mandolin), Joe Sheehan (bass), Chris Forsberg (violin), and Chris Wittrock (drums). These guys have some thing special going on, with the addition of drums allowing the group to go deeper in exploring how bluegrass can morph and intersect with other genres and giving them the freedom to create a sound that is truly their own. However, they still stay true to their string-band origins and bluegrass roots, with their energetic playing and the talent among the six players more-or-less guaranteeing a foot-stompin’ good time.
You can watch Kind Country performing below, and check out their website for more information and their upcoming tour schedule here.
[Video courtesy of Ocooch Mountain Music]