Billy Strings and his band rolled into Louisville, KY on Friday and Saturday night for a pair of shows at Headliners Music Hall featuring sit-ins from Michael Cleveland, the blind fiddle player who took home this year’s Grammy Award for “Best Bluegrass Album”.
William Apostol (Billy Strings), Royal Masat, Billy Failing, and Jarrod Walker kicked things off on Friday with a geographically relevant cover of Grandpa Jones‘ “Eight More Miles To Louisville” before moving into a rendition of Belá Fleck‘s “Slipstream”. Strings originals “Enough To Leave” and “Running” came next, followed by takes on Dan Fogelberg‘s “Along The Road” and Doc Watson‘s “Streamline Cannonball”.
The Billy Failing-penned “So Many Miles” contained a Sanford & Sons tease before segueing to “Everything’s The Same”, from the 2019 release, Home. Covers of Jeff Austin‘s “Run Down” and Larry Sparks‘ “These Old Blues” led to a set-closing segue from “On The Line” into the traditional “Train 45”.
Billy Strings had a big surprise for his Louisville fans as fiddler extraordinaire Michael Cleveland made his way to the stage for the opening song of set two. After a run through the traditional “Sally Goodin”, the quintet rolled on to “Must Be Seven” and a massive, segued segment of “While I’m Waiting Here”, “Pyramid Country”, and Bill Monroe‘s “My Rose Of Old Kentucky”.
It quickly became evident that Cleveland wasn’t going anywhere as the quintet moved through another string of songs, this time coming in the form of two John Hartford originals, “Today” and “All Fall Down”. Another Larry Sparks tune, “John Deere Tractor” took them to the set-closing “Turmoil & Tinfoil”. They encored with the second of many Bill Monroe covers on the weekend, “Kentucky Mandolin”.
Below, watch a selection of fan-shot videos from the Friday night Billy Strings show featuring Michael Cleveland.
Billy Strings ft. Michael Cleveland – “Sally Goodin” – 2/7/20
Billy Strings ft. Michael Cleveland – “Must Be Seven” – 2/7/20
Billy Strings ft. Michael Cleveland – “While I’m Waiting Here” > “Pyramid Country” > “My Rose Of Old Kentucky” – 2/7/20
Billy Strings ft. Michael Cleveland – “All Fall Down” – 2/7/20
Billy Strings ft. Michael Cleveland – “John Deere Tractor” – 2/7/20
[Videos: Music City Maven]
Strings must’ve had a ball playing with Cleveland on Friday night, as the fiddler joined the band for the entire show on Saturday. After jump-starting the performance with a fan-favorite, “Dust In A Baggie”, the five-piece moved through four straight covers. Jerry Reed‘s “Likes Of Me” preceded the Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter collaboration, “Bird Song”. Mel Tillis‘ “I Haven’t Seen Mary In Years” set up Tony Rice‘s “Tipper”, taking the band to the midway point of set one.
“Doin’ Things Right” sat before “Dos Banjos”, which saw both Strings and Failing appropriately play the banjo. “Taking Water” came before set-ending covers of The String Cheese Incident‘s “Black Clouds” and Bill Monroe’s “Back To Old Kentucky”.
Another Monroe cover, “Dusty Miller”, opened the second set on night two. Following Home‘s “Highway Hypnosis”, a traditional cover of “Footprints In The Snow” worked towards a cover of Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys‘ “I Only Exist”. The Billy Strings Home staple, “Away From The Mire”, followed before moving into “Long Forgotten Dream”.
Dierks Bentley‘s “Fiddling Around” allowed Cleveland to let loose before the second set ended with a cover of the Stanley Brothers‘ “Nobody’s Love Is Like Mine” and the original “Meet Me At The Creek”. Billy Strings and Michael Cleveland capped the two-night run with a fifth and final Bill Monroe cover, “Roll On Buddy, Roll On”.
Below, watch a selection of fan-shot videos from the Saturday Billy Strings show in Louisville featuring Michael Cleveland.
Billy Strings ft. Michael Cleveland – “Bird Song” – 2/8/20
Billy Strings ft. Michael Cleveland – “Meet Me At The Creek” – 2/8/20
Billy Strings ft. Michael Cleveland – “Doin’ Things Right” – 2/8/20
Billy Strings & Billy Failing – “Dos Banjos” – 2/8/20
Billy Strings ft. Michael Cleveland – “Black Clouds” – 2/8/20
Billy Strings ft. Michael Cleveland – “Highway Hypnosis” – 2/8/20
Billy Strings ft. Michael Cleveland – “Footprint In The Snow” – 2/8/20
Billy Strings ft. Michael Cleveland – “Away From The Mire” – 2/8/20
Billy Strings ft. Michael Cleveland – “Fiddlin’ Around” – 2/8/20
[Videos: Music City Maven]
Scroll down to read setlists for both shows.
Billy Strings has several shows left in February, including an opening slot for Umphrey’s McGee at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, NC (2/14, 2/15) and his recently-announced Family Strings shows featuring his father, Terry Barber. Click here for tickets and more information.
Setlist: Billy Strings | Headliners Music Hall | Louisville, KY | 2/7/20
Set One: Eight More Miles To Louisville (Granpa Jones), Slipstream (Belá Fleck), Enough To Leave (Dan Fogelberg), Running, Along The Road, Streamline Cannonball (Doc Watson), So Many Miles > Everything’s The Same, Run Down (Jeff Austin), These Old Blues (Larry Sparks), On The Line > Train 45 (traditional)
Set Two: Sally Goodin (traditional), Must Be Seven, While I’m Waiting Here > Pyramid Country > My Rose Of Old Kentucky (Bill Monroe), Today (John Hartford) > All Fall Down (John Hartford), John Deere Tractor (Larry Sparks), Turmoil & Tinfoil
Encore: Kentucky Mandolin (Bill Monroe)
 Sanford & Sons teases
Entire second set and encore with Michael Cleveland
Setlist: Billy Strings | Headliners Music Hall | Louisville, KY | 2/8/20
*Entire show with Michael Cleveland
Set One: Dust In A Baggie, Likes Of Me (Jerry Reed), Bird Song (Jerry Garcia), I Haven’t Seen Mary In Years (Mel Tillis), Tipper (Tony Rice), Doin’ Things Right, Dos Banjos, Taking Water, Black Clouds (The String Cheese Incident), Back To Old Kentucky (Bill Monroe)
Set Two: Dusty Miller (Bill Monroe), Highway Hypnosis, Footprints In The Snow (Dave Walker), I Only Exist (Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys), Away From The Mire, Long Forgotten Dream, Fiddling Around (Dierks Bentley), Nobody’s Love Is Like Mine (Stanley Brothers), Meet Me At The Creek
Encore: Roll On Buddy, Roll On (Bill Monroe)
 Billy Strings and Billy Failing banjo duo