Billy Strings finished out a three-night stand on Saturday in Cary, NC, where he played the traditional Celtic-inspired fiddle tune “Blackberry Blossom” for the first time in five years. Perhaps most recognizable from the version on Tony Rice‘s Manzanita, the song appeared on a Billy setlist just one other time, when he played Delfest on 5/26/18 (561 shows ago), per Billybase.

Saturday’s run closer at the Koka Booth Amphitheater started with a bang as Billy Strings, Jarrod Walker (mandolin), Billy Failing (banjo), Royal Masat (bass), and Alex Hargreaves (fiddle) started the show with “Meet Me At The Creek”. The deep jam proved to be somewhat of an outlier as Strings worked his way through the 28-song setlist. The cover-heavy performance leaned on bluegrass pillars like Peter Rowan (via Old & In The Way’s “Lonesome L.A. Cowboy”), Ralph StanleyJohn Hartford, and Bill Monroe throughout the first set.

Billy Strings – “Meet Me At The Creek” [Pro-Shot] – 7/15/23

Halfway through the second set, Strings waved off his ace backing band for a brief and increasingly-common solo interlude. After picking his way through the folkish “Catch and Release” and grabbing his clawhammer banjo on “Georgia Buck”, Jarrod Walker rejoined his fearless leader with the mandolinist picking up an acoustic guitar and Billy holding onto his banjo for a change of pace on Henry Reed‘s “Frosty Morn”.

Related: Billy Strings Hangs With Fans In The Parking Lot Ahead Of North Carolina Opener [Videos]

The rest of the band soon filed out, returning to full strength for “Love Like Me” and Carson Robison‘s “Open Up Them Pearly Gates”. Coming out of a particularly exploratory “Hollow Heart”, a stop-start jam soon coalesced into the recognizably Celtic flavor of “Blackberry Blossom”. Also recorded by Doc Watson, the song has long been a favorite of traditional musicians in Ireland and the States alike.

Billy Strings – “Hollow Heart” > “Blackberry Blossom” (Traditional) – 7/15/23

After such a cover-heavy show, Strings finished out the second set with back-to-back originals, a spacey and longing “Home” followed by the rambunctious “Red Daisy”. Returning to the Koka stage to finish off their second-annual run in Cary, the band huddled around a single mic for a final “Freedom”.

Check out fan-shot videos from Billy Strings in Cary, NC from gmorakis777. His tour continues Wednesday in Norfolk, VA. For tickets and a full list of tour dates visit his website.

Billy Strings – “End Of The Rainbow” (Frank Wakefield) – 7/15/23

Billy Strings – “This Old World”, “Black Mountain Rag” (Leslie Keith) – 7/15/23

Billy Strings – “Georgia Buck” (The Hill Billies) – 7/15/23

Billy Strings – “Frosty Morn” (Henry Reed) – 7/15/23

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Setlist: Billy Strings | Koka Booth Amphitheater | Cary, NC | 7/15/23

Set One: Meet Me At The Creek, Lonesome L.A. Cowboy (Old & In The Way), Libby Phillips Rag, A Robin Built A Nest On Daddy’s Grave (Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys), In The Morning Light, End Of The Rainbow (Frank Wakefield), Ice Bridges, Alberta (Traditional), With A Vamp In The Middle (John Hartford) > Doin’ Things Right > Southern Flavor (Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys) > Dealing Despair

Set Two: This Old World, Black Mountain Rag (Leslie Keith), Ridin’ That Midnight Train (Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys), Show Me The Door, On The Line > Train 45 (Traditional), Catch and Release [1], Georgia Buck (The Hill Billies) [2], Frosty Morn (Henry Reed) [3], Love Like Me, Open Up Them Pearly Gates (Carson Robison), Hollow Heart > Blackberry Blossom (Traditional) [4], Home, Red Daisy

Encore: Freedom [5]

[1] Billy Strings solo
[2] Billy Strings solo on clawhammer banjo
[3] Billy Strings on clawhammer banjo with Jarrod Walker on guitar
[4] Last Played 2018-05-26 | 561 show gap
[5] Full band around single mic