Tag Archives: Bluegrass

Artist Profiles: Kristin Scott Benson

Kristin Scott Benson

Kristin Scott Benson grew up in South Carolina, surrounded by a musical family. After receiving a much-anticipated banjo for Christmas when she was thirteen, Kristin became enthralled with the instrument and spent her teen years studying the playing of all the banjo greats from Earl Scruggs to Bela Fleck.

After high school, she attended Nashville’s esteemed Belmont University, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BBA in Marketing and a minor in Music Business.

She was a member of the Larry Stephenson Band for seven years. In 2008 she joined Nashville bluegrass band the Grascals, replacing Aaron McDaris.

After 13 years in Nashville, she relocated back to the Carolinas with her husband and young son. Her solo release, Second Season, features eight instrumentals (half of them originals) and four vocal performances. The album showcases her powerful banjo playing, while still appealing to fans that aren’t motivated solely by instrumental prowess.

is the four-time International Bluegrass Music Association’s Banjo Player of the Year (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011).

Kristin Scott Benson is the 2018 winner of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. “My family and I are overwhelmed with gratefulness!” said Benson. “Getting to know my banjo heroes, many of whom are on the board, is prize enough, but Steve Martin’s graciousness is a huge blessing. We don’t know how to adequately say thank you for something like this!”


Straight Paths (Pinecastle, 2002)
Second Season (Pinecastle, 2009)
Life Finds A Way, with the Grascals (Mountain Home, 2012)
When I Get My Pay, with the Grascals (Mountain Home, 2013)
…and then there’s this, with the Grascals (Mountain Home, 2016)
Stringworks (Mountain Home, 2016)
Before Breakfast, with the Grascals (Mountain Home, 2017)


Artist Profiles: Rhonda Vincent

Rhonda Vincent

Rhonda Vincent was born July 13 1962 in Kirksville, Missouri. Vincent was raised on bluegrass first taking the stage with her family’s band the Sally Mountain Show when she was barely five years old. She started learning mandolin at age eight, which was also when she released her first single, an arrangement of ‘Mule Skinner Blues’ that Vincent still performs.

Learning the nuances of harmony arrangement and stage presence by playing with the Sally Mountain Show throughout her childhood, Vincent grew into a formidable musician (mandolin, fiddle, guitar and most anything else with strings) and a remarkable lead singer able to deliver both overpowering up-tempo numbers and soulful introspective ballads.

Her early bluegrass solo albums led to a Nashville recording contract, and the experience of making her two commercial country efforts taught her essential lessons about the inner workings of the music industry.

Rhonda Vincent – Back Home Again

Vincent triumphantly returned to bluegrass with her 2000 Rounder debut Back Home Again. That same year the bluegrass community welcomed her back with Female Vocalist of the Year honors at the International Bluegrass Music Association (I.B.M.A.) awards ‘ her first of an unprecedented six consecutive wins in that category.
She received the coveted Entertainer of the Year award from I.B.M.A. the following year concurrent with the release of her second Rounder album The Storm Still Rages.

One Step Ahead followed in 2003 and included ‘You Can’t Take It With You When You Go ‘ a top-five video hit on CMT.

Rhonda Vincent – Ragin’ Live

At the same time, Vincent was refining her supporting group the Rage. When the lineup evolved to include guitarist and mandolinist Josh Williams, fiddler Hunter Berry, bassist Mickey Harris and banjo player Kenny Ingram, Rhonda felt the time was right to document the excitement of their live concerts on CD and DVD. Ragin’ Live was released in 2005 and featured a selection of prior instrumental and vocal favorites along with several previously unrecorded songs that found Vincent working with a small string section in a more intimate evocative style.

Ragin’ Live was nominated for a 2005 Best Bluegrass Album Grammy award.

Rhonda Vincent – All American Bluegrass Girl

Her next album was All American Bluegrass Girl (2006) “I did intentionally want to make sure that this album had more of a classic sound,” she said “since we ventured away from that style a little bit on Ragin’ Live. But I always hope to have a good balance of everything ‘ from in-your-face bluegrass to softer acoustic country sounds. I approached this album like I do our live performances and try to have something for everybody.”

Good Thing Going was released in 2008. The twelve tracks included five originals or co-writes along with contemporary and classic cover tracks.

Vincent left Rounder Records and released “Taken” on her own label, Upper Management Music in 2010. “Taken” included special guests like longtime friend Dolly Parton, Richard Marx and Little Roy Lewis.

In 2011, Vincent and celebrated country artist Gene Watson released a duet album titled Your Money and My Good Looks.

Sunday Mornin’ Singin’, an album of old time gospel classics, was released in 2012.


New Dreams And Sunshine (Rebel Records, 1988)
A Dream Come True (Rebel Records, 1990)
Bound For Gloryland ‎(Rebel Records, 1991)
Timeless And True Love ‎(Rebel Records, 1991)
Written In The Stars (Giant Records, 1993)
Trouble Free (Giant Records, 1996)
Back Home Again (Rounder Records, 2000)
The Storm Still Rages (Rounder Records, 2001)
One Step Ahead (Rounder Records, 2003)
All American Bluegrass Girl (Rounder Records, 2006)
Beautiful Star : A Christmas Collection (Rounder Records, 2006)
Good Thing Going ‎(Rounder Records, 2008)
Destination Life ‎(Rounder Records, 2009)
Taken (Upper Management Music, 2010)
Your Money And My Good Looks, with Gene Watson (Upper Management Music, 2011)
Sunday Mornin’ Singin’ Live! ‎(Upper Management Music, 2012)
Only Me (Upper Management Music, 2014)
Christmas Time ‎(Upper Management Music, 2015)
American Grandstand, with Daryle Singletary ‎(Upper Management Music, 2017)


Artist Profiles: Becky Buller

Becky Buller in 2016

Becky Buller grew up in Minnesota. She played fiddle with her parents and Gordy and Roxy Shultz in the group Prairie Grass. She studied classical violin with both Patti Tryhus and Charles Gray and participated in the Mankato Area Youth Symphony and the Minnesota All-State Orchestra while in high school. Becky won the junior division of the 1996 Minnesota State Old Time Fiddle Championship in Cotton, Minnesota.

She graduated in 2001 with a public relations degree from East Tennessee State University (ETSU), where she took part in the prestigious Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music program. That same year, Becky’s songwriting won first-place in the bluegrass category of the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in Wilksboro, North Carolina.

Her journey as a professional musician included ten-years with Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike. She is featured on several of that group’s recordings, wrote for the group and toured internationally with them as well. She also produced several of Val’s records.

Becky was also a significant part of three albums with the award-winning Daughters of Bluegrass: Pickin’ Like A Girl (2013), Bluegrass Bouquet (2008), and Back To The Well (2006), which won the 2006 IBMA Recorded Event Of The Year award.

In 2018, Becky performed with the all-female bluegrass super-group, The First Ladies Of Bluegrass, which includes all the first women to win in their respective categories at the IBMA awards: Alison Brown (banjo, 1991); Becky (fiddle, 2016); Sierra Hull (mandolin, 2016); Missy Raines (bass, 1998); Molly Tuttle (guitar, 2017). This configuration took home the 2018 IBMA Recorded Event Of The Year award for their work on “Swept Away”, written by Laurie Lewis and recorded by the First Ladies on Missy Raines’ solo album, Royal Traveller.

Crêpe Paper Heart, Becky’s fourth solo album and second release for the Dark Shadow Recording label, came out on Valentine’s Day 2018. The album featured Becky’s renowned road band: Ned Luberecki (banjo); Professor Dan Boner (mandolin/guitar/vocals); Brandon Bostic (guitar); Daniel “Hulk” Hardin (bass/vocals); and Nate Lee (fiddle); along with award-winning guests Rhonda Vincent, The Fairfield Four, Sam Bush, Frank Solivan, Claire Lynch, Rob Ickes, Stephen and Jana Mougin, and Erin Youngberg (FY5).

In 2018, Becky Buller released a music video featuring special guest artist, Sam Bush. “The Rebel And The Rose,” co-written by Buller, appeared on her Crepe Paper Heart album. “This song is special to me on so many levels, from writing it with my dear friend, Tony Rackley, to recording it with my hero, Sam Bush,” Becky said. “The message of hope in this song is timeless; not one of us is so broken that love can’t mend us.

Becky Buller and Sam Bush

Becky is very active in the bluegrass music business community, serving on the IBMA Foundation board. She was on the IBMA Board of Directors from 2013-17 and did a three-year term as chair of the IBMA Songwriter Committee from 2013-16.


Little Bird (Bell Buckle Records, 2004)
Rest My Weary Feet (2000)
Here’s A Little Song, with Valerie Smith (Bell Buckle Records, 2007)
Tween Earth and Sky (Dark Shadow Recording, 2014)
Crêpe Paper Heart ‎(Dark Shadow Recording, 2018)


The Enthralling Intensity of Michael Cleveland’s Fiddle

Michael Cleveland – Tall Fiddler (Compass Records, 2019)

Fiddler Michael Cleveland is one of the essential instrumentalists in the current bluegrass scene. On his album Tall Fiddler, he treats the listener to as tasty mix of well-constructed traditional and contemporary bluegrass, country and what is known as jamgrass (a mix of bluegrass and improvised acoustic music).

Tall Fiddler features an impressive cast of bluegrass musicians, some of the biggest names, including Del McCoury on vocals; Jerry Douglas on dobro; Tim O’Brien on vocals, banjo and mandolin; Bela Fleck on banjo; Sam Bush on vocals, mandolin and slide mandolin; Tommy Emmanuel on lead guitar; and the Travelin’ McCourys.

Michael Cleveland – Tall Fiddler

Cleveland has won the Fiddle Player of the Year bestowed by the International Bluegrass Music Association. This year, he added two more awards at the recently held 30th Annual IBMA Awards. Cleveland won the Fiddle Player of the Year. In addition, Cleveland and his band, Flamekeeper, were named Instrumental Group of the Year.

In 2019, Cleveland’s remarkable career was celebrated with the release of Flamekeeper: The Michael Cleveland Story, a documentary on his life.

Buy Tall Fiddler


Remarkable Latin American and Bluegrass Alchemy

Che Apalache – Rearrange My Heart (Free Dirt Records, 2019)

Che Apalache is a fascinating band from Buenos Aires (Argentina) that brings together Argentine, Mexican, East Asian, Spanish, Gypsy swing, and American bluegrass influences.

The group is led by American vocalist, fiddler, musical instructor and global traveler Joe Troop, born and raised in North Carolina.

In Argentina, Troop came into contact with three outstanding musicians from Hispanic America, guitarist Franco Martino (Argentina), mandolinist Martin Bobrik (Argentina) and banjoist Pau Barjan (Mexico).

Rearrange My Heart was produced by the great banjo innovator Béla Fleck. “I love to work with music that intrigues, excites and inspires me,” Fleck says, “and that describes Che Apalache to a T! We first met at my Blue Ridge Banjo Camp last year. They had come from Buenos Aires and asked to play for me. I was blown away and they blew away the crowd a few days later. It’s been a blast to get to know them in the creative environment; together we’ve come up with what I believe is a truly striking album. I hope you’ll enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed producing.”

Che Apalache – Rearrange My Heart

The vocals are in English and Spanish, with Troop on lead vocals and his colleagues on Appalachian-style vocal harmonies. Troop’s lyrics reflect his social justice concerns: anti-immigrant rhetoric in the USA coming from the White House, the building of the border wall in the United States’ southern border with Mexico and the drama of the Dreamers (undocumented immigrants taken to the USA when they were young children).

Che Apalache is an exciting rising talent in the world music scene, an example of skillful hybridization and impeccable acoustic music craftsmanship.

Buy Rearrange My Heart


Artist Profiles: Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens was born February 21, 1977 in Greensboro, North Carolina. She is a renowned multi-instrumentalist, composer, singer-songwriter and researcher, best known as one of the founders of the country, blues and old-time music band Carolina Chocolate Drops, where she was the lead singer, violinist, and banjo player.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ album Genuine Negro Jig won the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.

One of the essential part of Giddens’ work is her research of folk instruments and traditions of the African-American diaspora.

Rhiannon Giddens – Photo by Dan Winters

A MacArthur “Genius” Grant recipient, Rhiannon has performed for the Obama’s at the White House and acted in two seasons of the hit television series Nashville.

In February 2015, Giddens released her debut solo recording
Tomorrow Is My Turn on Nonesuch Records to widespread critical acclaim. Produced by T Bone Burnett, the album includes songs made famous by Patsy Cline, Odetta, Dolly Parton, and Nina Simone.

In addition to her solo recordings and her albums with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon recorded Out On the Ocean: Music of the British Isles (2004) and Northern Lights (2005) with Gaelwynd; Lost on the River: The New Basement Tapes (2014) as The New Basement Tapes; and Songs of Our Native Daughters (Smithsonian Folkways), a collaborative album that tells the stories of historic black womanhood and survival. Rhiannon has European American, African American and Native American background.

In 2016, Rhiannon received the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.

In 2018, Rhiannon Giddens collaborated with Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell released a critically acclaimed American folk banjo album titled Songs of Our Native Daughters.

Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell – Songs of Our Native Daughters

in 2019 she collaborated with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi. They released an album titled There Is No Other.


With Carolina Chocolate Drops:

Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind (Music Maker, 2006)
The Great Debaters Soundtrack, with Alvin Youngblood Hart, Sharon Jones and Teenie Hodges (Atlantic, 2007)
Heritage (Dixiefrog, 2008)
Carolina Chocolate Drops & Joe Thompson (Music Maker, 2009)
Genuine Negro Jig (Nonesuch, 2010)
Carolina Chocolate Drops/Luminescent Orchestrii EP (Nonesuch, 2011)
Leaving Eden (Nonesuch, 2012)

As Rhiannon Giddens:

We Rise, EP (NC Music Love Army records, 2014)
Tomorrow Is My Turn (Nonesuch, 2015)
Factory Girl, EP (Nonesuch, 2015)
Live at Jazzfest 2016 (MunckMix, 2016)
Freedom Highway (Nonesuch, 2017)
Live at Jazzfest 2017 (MunckMix, 2017)
Songs of Our Native Daughters. (Smithonian Folkways, 2018)
There Is No Other, with Francesco Turrisi (Nonesuch, 2019)


Latingrass Phenomenon Che Apalache to Perform in Carrboro

Che Apalache

Che Apalache, a remarkable group featuring North Carolinian and Argentine Musicians is currently touring the United States and is set to perform on Friday, April 26th at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, North Carolina. The current tour includes the East Coast and Midwest and ends in California.

The ensemble’s Latingrass style is described as a mix of South American music and bluegrass. Last August they were discovered by renowned banjo player Béla Fleck, who offered to produce their next album. This past February, Che Apalache traveled to Nashville and recorded the album, which will be released in the summer of 2019 on Free Dirt Records. Three more U.S. tours are scheduled for 2019, including major bluegrass festivals, Universities and Performing Arts Centers, along with showcase clubs.

Che Apalache’s founder, Joe Troop (fiddle) is from Winston-Salem, North Carolina and moved to Argentina in 2010. While slowly carving out a niche in the local music scene, Joe taught bluegrass and oldtime music for a living. That’s how he met Mexican Pau Barjau (banjo), and Argentine musicians Franco Martino (guitar) and Martin Bobrik (mandolin). What began as a band formed between a teacher and his students has evolved into a rich musical collaboration that addresses social issues to bridge the gap dividing the Americas.

The ArtsCenter is located at 300-G East Main St. Carrboro, NC 27510, (919) 929-2787.


Artist Profiles: Che Apalache

Che Apalache

Che Apalache is the demonstration of a powerful cultural and musical exchange. Formed in the urban neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, the string band ensemble draws intensely from the musical traditions of the Southern United States and Latin America.

The group’s founder, Joe Troop (fiddle) is from Winston-Salem, North Carolina and moved to Argentina in 2010. While he gradually carved out a niche in the local music scene, Joe taught bluegrass and old-time music for a living.

Joe met Mexican artist Pau Barjau (banjo), and Argentine musicians Franco Martino (guitar) and Martin Bobrik (mandolin). What started as a group created between an instructor and his students progressed into a rich musical collaboration that brought together bluegrass and South American music.

The band’s debut album Latingrass, came out in 2017.

Che Apalache – Latingrass

American banjo player banjo player Béla Fleck produced their next album in Nashville, scheduled for release in the summer of 2019 on Free Dirt Records.


Latingrass (2017)


Heartfelt and Sorrowful Castilian Bluegrass

Los Hermanos Cubero – Quique dibuja la tristeza

Los Hermanos Cubero – Quique dibuja la tristeza (El Segell del Primavera, 2018)

Quique dibuja la tristeza (Quique draws sadness) is the winner of this year’s Best World Music and Fusion Album at Spain’s prestigious Premios MIN (the influential indie awards). Los Hermanos Cubero are brothers Enrique (Quique) Ruiz Cubero and Roberto Ruiz Cubero. For several years, they have been mixing Castilian folk music with American bluegrass.

Los Hermanos Cubero

This is a bittersweet album, a tribute to Quique’s wife, Olga, who died of cancer. The lyrics reflect the pain, memories, and grief that so deeply affected Quique. Musically, the bluegrass influences are clearly visible in the form of intimate acoustic arrangements with mandolin and guitar. Meanwhile, the guest fiddler adds a country and western element.

Quique dibuja la tristeza was recorded live at the end of 2017 with a mobile unit at LaVeguilla Winery in Olivares de Duero (Valladolid province). The lineup featured Enrique (Quique) Ruiz Cubero on guitar and vocals; Roberto Ruiz Cubero on mandolin and vocals; Jaime del Blanco on violin, baritone violin and viola; and Oriol Aguilar on acoustic bass.

Los Hermanos Cubero have released an intensely personal album with remarkably expressive vocals and a fascinating, stripped down bluegrass meets Spanish trad crossover sound.


A Tribute to the Groundbreaking Kentucky Colonels

Roland White – A Tribute to the Kentucky Colonels

Roland White – A Tribute to the Kentucky Colonels (Mountain Home Records ‎MH17242, 2018)

Mandolin virtuoso and vocalist Roland White recorded A Tribute to the Kentucky Colonels with various generations of bluegrass musicians. Roland, who was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame, was one of the original founders of the Kentucky Colonels, a bluegrass band from southern California that became popular during the 1960s.

The Kentucky Colonels introduced the acoustic guitar as a lead instrument in bluegrass. The Kentucky Colonels released two influential albums in the 60s: The New Sound of Bluegrass America (1963) and Appalachian Swing! (1964).

The material featured on A Tribute to the Kentucky Colonels are superb new recordings made in North Carolina and Tennessee of classic songs and swinging instrumentals that the Kentucky Colonels popularized in the 1960s. Although the mandolin takes the leading role, there is plenty of dazzling interplay between the mandolin, guitar, banjo and fiddle.

The lineup includes Roland White on mandolin and vocals and some of the finest musicians in the North Carolina and Tennessee bluegrass scenes: ; Gina Furtado on banjo; Jeremy Darrow on double bass; Jeremy Garrett on fiddle; Drew Matulich on guitar; Darin & Brooke Aldridge on harmony vocals; Russ Carson on banjo; Jon Weisberger on double bass and harmony vocals; Brittany Haas on fiddle; Billy Strings on guitar; Justin Hiltner on banjo; Patrick McAvinue on fiddle; Molly Tuttle on guitar; Darren Nicholson on vocals; Kristin Scott Benson on banjo; Jon Stickley on guitar; Josh Haddix on guitar; Aaron Bibelhauser on banjo; Kimber Ludiker on fiddle; David Grier on guitar; Nick Dauphinais on harmony vocals; and Lindsay Pruett on fiddle.