Lightning-quick guitar-picking sensation Billy Strings kicked off the closing run of his winter tour at the Andrew J Brady Music Center in Cincinnati, OH on Thursday with an all smiles “Howdy howdy howdy ” to the crowd. The show began in earnest with a  quick combo of “Dusty Miller” > “Secrets” > “Away From The Mire” that zipped by so quickly it’s a wonder that the band and crowd managed to keep from passing out from oxygen deprivation. Thanks to, which made the entire weekend’s run of shows free to any and all as part of their 30-day free taste, at least fans at home could fall back on their couches and catch their collective breath.

Billy Strings – “Dusty Miller” > “Secrets” [Pro-Shot] – 3/16/23

When Strings sings about being all around the world, as he does in “New Country Blues” he comes close to being literal. His spring is not far off and his summer tour will shortly follow that but this winter tour has been non-stop and action-packed to the point of exhausting.

There’s something to be said for striking when the iron is hot and right now Billy and his band are practically glowing white from the heat on them, so it makes sense, but you worry about burnout for the guitar wunderkind. Luckily he has plenty of firepower and support from the rest of his sparkling quintet. Fiddle player Alex Hargreaves helped set the menacing tone of “My Alice” before the tempo picked back up and didn’t seem to slow back down for the next 30 solid minutes.

Fan and tour faves flew by with equal speed with a stand-out “Fire Line” > “Thirst Mutilator” > “Hollow Heart” and a “This Old World” so fast it makes you wonder if he gets paid by the note. At times it seemed like the rest of the band is paid less for playing with him than for simply keeping up with the mercurial pace of their band leader. Luckily they’re more than up to the task. That said, the night was moving so quickly it seemed but a blink or two later and Strings and Co were finishing up a “Pyramid Song” > “Paul & Silas” and heading off for a set break that, if nothing else, allowed their instruments a few moments to collectively cool down.

Related: Billy Strings Welcomes Duane Trucks At Stellar Athens Benefit Concert [Videos]

With a scant few minutes to catch their breath, the joyous fans were cheering the full band’s return and the familiar strains of Keith Allison‘s “Freeborn Man” were filling their ears. Bassist Royal Masat gave his high-speed picking partners a stopwatch precise as father time and the rest of the band spun around the gravity of his tone with an intensity that would rattle most in his position.

By the fourth song of the second set, there was finally a hint of the more psychedelic elements of Strings’ repertoire with “Thunder” but even this was at best a sense-shattering non-stop crescendo building and breaking that seemed to nod toward the runaway train feel of the entire evening to that point.

As if remembering out of nowhere he had a voice that matched his guitar prowess, Strings gave an emotional read on a wistful and heartfelt “Love Like Me” that dissolved into a take on “Whisper My Name” that gave mandolin player Jarrod Walker a chance to blow off some steam as well.

Noting that his momma was in the house, Strings wryly opined she might enjoy the next one, an expansive and trilling “The Letter Edged In Black” a song about receiving word of your mother’s death. After a quick but by-the-numbers “Gone A Long Time” the crowd was given the tiniest peak into the heart of Billy Strings with an earnest rendition of Crystal Gayle’s “Ready For The Times To Get Better” that seemed to hint at something deeper than just the exasperated lyrics expressed.

Though it doesn’t get mentioned as often as it should, the length and breadth of the band’s command of the complete bluegrass songbook allow for some pretty wildly eclectic set lists, not to mention the ability to pick and choose tunes that fit unmentioned themes.

After a breakneck “Red Daisy”, Billy seemed to get a little bit distracted by an “offer he couldn’t refuse” from the crowd—a joint for a guitar pick—that set off some sterling crowd work where he took a passel of requests. This influx of solicitations included an always enjoyable “Preacher & The Bear” before Hargreaves had his number called to lead “Kissimmee Kid” in place of legendary songwriter Vassar Clements by way of Jerry Garcia‘s Old & In The Way. As the second set was drawing to a close, Billy dutifully took a moment in between Larry Sparks covers to introduce the band before closing out the night with a deceptively named runaway version of “Slow Train”.


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The lack of an encore would lead one to guess that this Thursday weeknight show had a rock-solid time restriction that may have led to the outright insane pace of the evening’s festivities. One of the best parts of any run of shows is the chance it gives artists to vary the types of shows they deliver. If this barn burner of a show is an indication of what’s to come it’s a good thing Cincinnati is a river city because the whole dang place is in danger of catching fire before the weekend is through!

Billy Strings returns to the Andrew J Brady Music Center in Cincinnati tonight, March 17th, for a sold-out St. Patrick’s Day show. Join the waitlist for tickets here and check Cash or Trade for face-value buying and trading. Check out some fan-shot videos of Friday’s show from Doug Heck.

Billy Strings – “Away From The Mire” – 3/16/23

Billy Strings – “Paul & Silas” (Traditional) – 3/16/23

Billy Strings – “Freeborn Man” (Keith Allison) > “Ernest T. Grass” (Bowman & Tyminski) > “Must Be Seven” – 3/16/23

Billy Strings – “Thunder” (Robert Hunter) – 3/16/23

Billy Strings – “The Letter Edged In Black” (Hattie Nevada) – 3/16/23

Billy Strings – “Ready For The Times To Get Better” (Allen Reynolds) – 3/16/23

Billy Strings – “Psycho” (Eddie Payne) – 3/16/23

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Setlist: Billy Strings | Andrew J Brady Music Center | Cincinnati, OH | 3/16/23

Set One: Dusty Miller (Traditional) > Secrets > Away From The Mire [1], New Country Blues (Emmitt-Nershi Band), My Alice, Billy In The Lowground (Traditional), Fire Line > Thirst Mutilator > Hollow Heart, This Old World, Likes Of Me (Jerry Reed) > Pyramid Country [2] [3] > Paul & Silas (Traditional)

Set Two: Freeborn Man (Keith Allison) > Ernest T. Grass (Bowman & Tyminski) > Must Be Seven > Thunder (Robert Hunter) [4], Little Sadie (Traditional), Love Like Me, Whisper My Name (New Grass Revival), The Letter Edged In Black (Hattie Nevada), Gone A Long Time, Ready For The Times To Get Better (Allen Reynolds), Red Daisy, Psycho (Eddie Payne), The Preacher & The Bear (George Fairman), Kissimmee Kid (Vassar Clements), I’ve Just Seen The Rock Of Ages (John Preston), Slow Train (Leroy Drumm, Cal Freeman)

[1] “Must Be Seven” fake-out intro
[2] “Salt Creek” tease
[3] “Day Tipper” (The Beatles) tease
[4] “Inspector Gadget” (Theme Song) jam