Recommend current Bluegrass bands and/or venues

Here’s a thread to offer your recommendations on good current Bluegrass bands. (I’m especially looking for up-and-coming bands here, but feel free to mention your favorite established acts.)

Also, is there a good bluegrass venue in your are you’d like to recommend to your fellow dopers?

I’ll start (it being my thread and all):

I’m in Atlanta, where you can hear live bluegrass every Thursday night at the Red Light Cafe.

Over the past year or so, I’ve heard three very good young bands I’d like to recommend to those who might get a chance to see them:

First up is King Wilkie, a band out of Charlottesville, Virginia, named after Bill Monroe’s horse. These fellows are my top pick, I think. Superior musicianship, and some really fine high harmonies. (Looks like they’ll be playing New York soon. I know we have some dopers up that way who are bluegrass fans, so catch 'em if you can.) I’ve seen them a couple of times and come away impressed. My only complaint is that they don’t seem to make it down my way very often.

Also high on my list are the Steep Canyon Rangers, from Asheville, NC. Luckily, these guys come through Atlanta quite often, and I try to catch them when they do. Some of the best young pickers around, and definitely worth a listen.

And finally I’ll mention a fine group I heard for the first time only this past Thursday: Chatham County Line, from Raleigh, NC. Fine musicians with a good sense of bluegrass tradition. These boys dressed up to play, and gathered tightly around a single microphone, just like the old-timers used to do it. Lead singer’s voice is reminiscent of Levon Helm, I thought. The band had lots of good original material. I recommend 'em. If I’m not mistaken, this group is fairly new to the scene, so get out and support them if you get a chance.

Anyone else have a band or venue they’d like to recommend? Is there an active bluegrass scene in your town?

San Diego (and most of Southern California, really) isn’t necessarily a hotbed of bluegrass activity. But this past summer I checked out a local bluegrass festival, and was impressed by some of their offerings.

One of the bands that performed was Fragment, who are from the Czech republic. They sang some songs in English, but also songs in their native language. It looks like they’ll be back for this summer’s festival.

There was another local band that was pretty hot, and damned if I can’t remember their names. I’ll just have to go back this year and hope they’ve returned!

Shoot, I meant to link to the festival’s website.


That’s interesting. When I was in the Czech Republic a few years back, I noticed that classic country music seemed very popular there, and we also heard country-style music (but sung in Czech) on the radio.

So now they’ve produced a bluegrass band, too? That’s great! I’ll have to keep an eye out for them.

I can’t say enough good things about Alison Krauss + Union Station.

A rock solid band of talented musicians. I’m going to see her in concert on Thursday.

Hayseed Dixie

Their cover of Motorheads Ace of Spades just blows me away.


I would recommend The Hackensaw Boys, also out of Charolttesville VA. They’re spectacular. I saw them for the first time years ago at a tiny music festival in the middle-of-nowhere Wesy Virginia, playing late-night in an old dilapidated barn. Since then, they’ve done well, and are playing at DC’s best rock club, the 9:30 Club, on Feb. 11. I saw them a couple months ago at The State Theater, which is also a really nice venue in the VA suburbs, which has bluegrass sometimes. The best place for Bluegrass in the DC area, though is definitely The Birchmere. Another smaller place is Tiffany Tavern in Old Town Alexandria (VA).

Yonder Mountain String Band.

Oh yeah I have seen them several times before too, very good! They’ve played at the aforementioned State Theater, which also happens to be a few blocks from my house.

I found a link for the Czech band Fragment, mentioned by scout1222.

Wow. They sound eerily similar to Alison Krauss and Union Station. Very nice sound.


I didn’t know they were cloning bluegrass bands!

Are you saying Hayseed Dixie isn’t bluegrass?

No. I was laughing because I thought it was hilarious.

Merlefest! Merlefest is an annual festival in Wilkesboro, North Carolina named in honor of Doc Watson’s late son. The festival draws fantastic artists from all over the country (and the world) every year. I haven’t been there in a couple of years, but the last time I was there, Doc himself was playing four sets a day. It’s an amazing four days, and I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

As far as individual artists or bands, two of my favorites are Tim O’Brien and the Seldom Scene. The Seldom Scene have gone through a lot of personnel changes over more than 30 years, and former members occasionally play together under the name Seldom Seniors. In a similar vein, but not quite bluegrass are Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.

If you like Hayseed Dixie, you might want to check out a band out of Nashville called Iron Horse. I have one of their albums called Fade to Bluegrass that’s nothing but incredible bluegrass renditions of Metallica.

As mentioned above, Alison Krauss + Union Station are the pinnacle for modern bluegrass and/or newgrass. Far and away the best band working today, IMHO.

For more old timey, less grassy stuff, I also heartily second Gillian Welch - great performance and writing there as well.

As far as traditional bluegrass goes, I’m going to go with Del McCoury as the winner of the ‘Still Keeping It Fresh And Relevant While Staying True To The Tradition Award’. I recommend the album** Del & The Boys **as a great starting point. In fact, this and AK+US’s New Favorite are the two albums I recommend to those jsut getting exposed to the genre. D&TB is very traditional in focus and performaces, but with very modern and transparent production, so you’re not fighting to hear all the parts as you often do with many of the classic recordings of the genre.

For straight technical wizardry combined with taste and panache, it’s a split decision between Sam Bush (mandolin whiz extraordinaire) and Tony Rice (the guitar guru who pretty much redefined bluegrass flatpicking). Tony Trischka (banjo) is right on the heels of those two, and the dark horse is Ricky Skaggs, who has finally dropped the country superstar route and went back to his mandolin and bluegrass roots on the wonderful new album Brand New Strings.

For the jammier side, Leftover Salmon, YMSB and Trampled By Turtles are all great acts who approach the music from a more jamband perspective.

Regionally here in Madison, Wisconsin, we have quite an active bluegrass scene. I’m fairly involved myself as a player, producer, engineer and promoter. The two local/regional top acts are **The Cork & Bottle String Band **(who I engineer and produce, and occasionally sit in with) and The Nob Hill Boys. Also of mention are Madison’s Lonesome Rogues, Appleton, WI’s Burnt Toast & Jam and Minneapolis, MI based Ozark & Asher.

I should also link this page, which collects bluegrass events and venues in north Georgia. I understand Tasty World, over in Athens, GA, has bluegrass every Wednesday night, but I’ve never had the opportunity to catch a show there.

I want to second the Hackensaw Boys vote. They put on one of the more entertaining live shows I’ve seen. As an indication of this, I first saw them open for Cake (not exactly the same genre), and they had the whole club full of Cake fans rocking. I went to see them later that month when they swung through town again, and everyone in the club was someone who’d seen them open for Cake. They’re addictive!

As a warning, their albums are all home produced, so the sound quality isn’t great. Definitely see them live if you can.

Iron Horse… I have their CD of Metallica Covers…unbeleivable!

Not stictly a bluegrass band, but The String Cheese Incident is a good jam band with bluegrass tendencies.