10 bluegrass and old-time artists thriving in modern Nashville
The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tenn. is where bluegrass debuted in 1945, and the Station Inn is Nashville's famous club for bluegrass music. But they're only two of Music City's hotspots for old-school, lonesome songs these days.
In East Nashville, the American Legion Post 82 hosts jams and performances on "Bluegrass Wednesdays." Dee's Country Cocktail Lounge in the fast-growing district of Madison, Tenn. features the exceptional band East Nash Grass on Monday nights — as well as an old-time jam on Sunday evenings — which sometimes spills outdoors around a fire pit. Joelton Hardware, Feed and Farmacy north of town offers the underground country legend Greg Garing fronting a youthful bluegrass group weekly. Downtown venue Jane's Hideaway has a bluegrass house band in Greenwood Rye and a bluegrass brunch on weekends, plus regular bookings of trad artists.
Recently, WMOT Roots Radio launched "The Old Fashioned," the station's first bluegrass and old-time show, to sustain and celebrate the traditional side of Americana. I took my 30 years of experience as a fan, amateur guitar picker and journalist, and joined forces with fiddler Amy Alvey, who is half of the touring duo Golden Shoals, to curate a hour a week of acoustic music mostly from younger artists who are keeping the tradition alive and growing. Here are ten area artists we're playing, with songs to jump start your journey into Nashville's ongoing bluegrass and old-time artistry.
East Nash Grass
After five years as a local collective holding down Monday nights at Dee's, East Nash Grass is consolidating its official five-member personnel and taking its tight-knit and mostly traditional sound to national venues and radio.
Becky Buller has won awards as one of the industry's best fiddlers, female vocalists and songwriters over the past decade. This single from her 2020 album Distance and Time features many bluegrass star special guests.
George Jackson and Hasee Ciaccio
George Jackson's a native of New Zealand who grew up in fiddle culture down under before moving to Nashville in 2016. He's released two solo albums, including 2021's Hair & Hide. Here, with ubiquitous bass player and singer Hasee Ciaccio, they share an evening at the Station Inn.
In the single "Big City," 24-year-old Mason Via sings about moving from his native North Carolina to Nashville. One reward was to become the newest member of Old Crow Medicine Show, but he's pursuing a solo career as well, with a bluegrass album coming this summer.
Mike Compton is the mandolinist behind the original Nashville Bluegrass Band and much more. His new project discovers and arranges never-recorded Bill Monroe instrumentals with top-tier Music City pickers.
Po' Ramblin' Boys
This quintet honed its sound over years playing as the house band at a Gatlinburg, Tenn. distillery. Po' Ramblin' Boys are award-winning bluegrass favorites for keeping it classic in the 2020s. Newest member Laura Orshaw is also a solo artist with an album coming this spring.
George Jackson and Hasee Ciaccio return as part of a supergroup that speaks to the old-time youth brigade that's moved to Nashville in recent years. Also here, from the special project Tune Hash, Golden Shoals members Amy Alvey (fiddle) and Mark Kilianski (guitar) plus Frank Evans (banjo).
Rafe Stafanini moved from his native Italy to the U.S. in the 1980s to pursue his musical love and became a major figure in old-time fiddling. Recently he brought his rich history in trad music to Nashville.
Thomm Jutz and Tammy Rogers
Thomm Jutz is an IBMA Songwriter of the Year and a superb guitarist. Tammy Rogers is a fiddler and songwriter for The Steeldrivers. This is the title cut from their intimate 2022 collaboration.
Kelly Bosworth and Libby Weitnauer
This gorgeous 2020 EP which includes "Cindy" pairs fiddler Libby Weitnauer and guitarist Kelly Bosworth on some classic old-time tunes.
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