"BLUEGRASS UNDERGROUND" IS AIRED ON VARIOUS DATES ON PBS. CHECK LOCAL LISTINGS FOR TIMES AND DATES.
It took just 10 minutes to sell out all general admission tickets for the entire weekend taping of Season 5 of Bluegrass Underground (March 27-29). But if you missed out on that record-breaking event, we’ll try to make it up to you with a whole year’s worth of great concerts. The eighth year of Bluegrass Underground in the Volcano Room of Cumberland Caverns will feature some of the biggest names in bluegrass (Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Lonesome River Band, Mountain Heart) along with Americana icon Ray Wylie Hubbard, wonderfully unique, genre-defying artists like Ben Sollee and Frank Fairfield and some genuine surprises, a few of whom may well turn into one of your future favorites.
April 18, our regular concert season opens with Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out. Moore is the IBMA’s all-time top award-winning male vocalist, with five wins to his credit, while IIIrd Tyme has taken the vocal group IBMA seven times. Along with Moore on vocals and guitar the group includes Wayne Benson on mandolin and vocals, fiddler Justen Haynes and newest members Keith McKinnon on banjo and Blake Johnson on bass. IIIrd Tyme Out really is state-of-the art bluegrass and their show is sure to sell out.
May 2, it’s the return of old-time music master Frank Fairfield, a multi-instrumentalist who would be equally at home jamming with Uncle Dave Macon as he is playing major festivals like Hardly Strictly. Trace Bundy is an acoustic musician from the other end of the space-time continuum, playing cutting-edge guitar instrumentals for what should be a very dynamic, time-warping afternoon at Cumberland Caverns.
June 27 features one of the best musicians ever to grace the BGU stage, as cello virtuoso and songwriter Ben Sollee returns to the Volcano Room. You can catch his earlier appearance on Bluegrass Underground re-runs on PBS (check local listings). He’s got serious cred with alt-rock folks from his work with My Morning Jacket’s Yim Yames, but he’s one of those special artists who obliterate all genre lines. Don’t miss him. High-energy old-time music revivalist Woody Pines will kick things off for Ben.
July 19, it’s a very special Bluegrass Underground with The Annie Moses Band. She leads a family group of her brothers and sisters, performing in an expanded string quartet format that effortlessly fuses bluegrass, newgrass and Americana with the rich classical music tradition. Moses and siblings Alex and Ben Wolaver are Julliard-trained and the band features arrangements by patriarch Bill Wolaver.
That alone would make the show a unique experience, but their Bluegrass Underground debut will include the young musicians from the Annie Moses Band’s Fine Arts Summer Academy program, the culmination of more than a week of intense practice and preparation. They’ve performed at the Grand Ole Opry among other major venues, getting promising young musicians out of the practice room and into major performance experiences. Note that this is a Sunday concert. All other BGU shows listed are on Saturdays.
Aug. 22, it’s an anniversary show and a homecoming, as BGU celebrates eight years of live subterranean music, since that August 2008 premiere with the original Steeldrivers. But the anniversary show features the actual first band to play the Volcano Room. The Volunteer String Band was the canary in this particular saltpeter mine, as our founder Todd Mayo brought the VSB in to test the cave’s acoustics. You can find a Youtube of that historic event here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JxcDknOnQM.
Opening will be Jimbo Darville and The Truckadours. So come out and celebrate and welcome Grand Ole Opry star Travis Stinson back to the cave.
Sept. 5, another BGU favorite is back, as the Lonesome River Band returns. Driven by Sammy Shelor‘s banjo, LRB has it all: great picking, great singing and, with more than a quarter century as a band, a really deep catalog of great songs. Old Salt Union, a young progressive band out of Belleville, in downstate Illinois, opens the show. The band comes to BGU after a hot set in January at our sister show, Music City Roots at the Factory in Franklin.
Sept. 26, it’s two top progressive bands from west of the Mississippi. Taarka is led by the husband and wife team of mandolinist David Pelton-Tiller and classically-trained violinist Enion Pelton-Tiller and hails from Lyons, home of Colorado’s great RockyGrass Festival (the 43rd edition of which is set for July 19-23) and the incredibly vibrant year-round acoustic music scene that has grown up around it. Taarka plays a uniquely elegant blend of bluegrass, Americana, classical and Django-tinged jazz. Sharing the stage will be San Francisco’s Front Country, a band that features singer/songwriter Melody Walker, who won the 2013 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at Merlefest. And, coming from David Grisman’s home turf, it’s no surprise Front Country boasts a hot mandolinist, Adam Roszkiewicz, nominated for a GRAMMY for his work with the Modern Mandolin Quartet.
Oct. 3, it’s a legendary singer-songwriter who was Americana way before Americana was cool, as Ray Wylie Hubbard makes his Volcano Room debut. Now, every RWH show is a bit mind-altering, so putting him in the Volcano Room promises an afternoon to remember.
Nov. 21, it’s longtime BGU favorite Mountain Heart. With a show that runs from hardcore grass to full-tilt blues-rock, to say these guys are a crowd pleaser is a woeful understatement. They will tear the place down. But on this particular Saturday, it just might be torn down before they even take the stage. Their opening act is internet phenom EmiSunshine, a ukulele-picking, 10-year-old blues and country belter from Madisonville, Tenn., with the talent and stage presence of a major grownup star. This is a show you’ll be talking about for years to come. Here’s a clip from her 2014 Opry debut: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvD2AJLVsao
But that’s not all. We’ll be closing out 2015 with a couple December shows, including a Christmas extravaganza, that we’’ll be announcing in coming weeks. And we’ve got some very special Live From the Underground events on tap. Watch this space.
But that’s still not all. One of the biggest, most welcome changes coming in 2015 is that BGU is going to make it easier to come to what has become an international music destination.
Before every show, I ask the crowd the same question - “How many of you are here for the first time?” And every time, at least three-fourths of the audience are newcomers. Now, we know it’s hard to come to a new place for the first time, especially one, that, unlike Nashville, doesn’t have a well-established music tourism infrastructure. Of course, that’s one of the charms of McMinnville. But we’d like to make it easier for everyone to experience Bluegrass Underground in all its “Nova-Meets-Austin City Limits” glory. So the BGU team has been organizing all-inclusive “Bucket List” packages with show tickets, accommodations, cave tours and other amenities. All you have to do is get here. We’ll do the rest.
And we’re starting that “Bucket List” Bluegrass Underground Experience with the March 27-29 PBS TV taping, offering a very limited number of ticket packages.
For more information on Bucket List packages: http://www.bluegrassunderground.com/2015ticketinfo/.
This year, it’s easier than ever to come see us at Bluegrass Underground and hear some unforgettable music in the really, really Deep South.
- Larry Nager