For any college age musician, selling your ‘axe’ to buy a wedding ring would be a quite disheartening event. However, for at least one banjo picker, Mark Rigney, it was probably for the best. After laying down his beloved Gibson and marrying Melissa, it was seventeen years later before he picked it up again, when she presented him with a new instrument at Christmas. Armed with banjo in hand, Mark and Melissa are now currently working to create their own brand of bluegrass. Along with their sons Andrew (age 18) and Grant (age 15), Mark and Melissa (who plays bass) are now traveling the country performing songs from their third CD, Familiar Paths.
Closely aligned with contemporary acoustic sounds, the Rigneys have the potential to appeal to a wide audience with their impeccable musicianship and powerful song selection. Furthermore, their playing and singing abilities give their four piece band the potential to cover material that other groups might not choose to tackle. Some bluegrass music fans may recognize the Rigney family from their performance on Song of the Mountains, the popular televised traditional music show from the Lincoln Theatre in Marion, VA, and with other performances scheduled for places like Bluegrass Underground in the near future (which, like Song of the Mountains, is broadcast on PBS stations across the country), there is no doubt that many more will soon be getting a big dose of their music.
Familiar Paths is a 12-track, 39-minute collection of tunes that cover a wide array of material, from jazz influenced instrumental numbers like Hop, Skip and a Jump (which also happens to begin with an acoustic version of Aerosmith’s Walk this Way), to other more tender melodies with That’s How You Break a Heart. Other contemplative pieces like Coming Home and My Father in Me sit comfortably beside fast-paced, edgy-feeling numbers like Highway, which compares a roadway to a prison.
The musicianship on this record is remarkable. In fact, on the band’s webpage, fans can find tabs with listings of both Andrew and Grant’s many musical achievements which include taking contest ribbons at major events like Merlefest. These brothers also play several instruments between them (guitar, fiddle, mandolin, dobro) and have earned endorsements with companies like D’addario and Silverangel Mandolins.
For more information regarding the Rigney Family or their music, please visit their website at www.rigneyfamilybluegrass.com.
About the Author (Author Profile)
John Goad is a graduate of the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music program, and is now pursuing a Masters degree in Appalachian Studies at ETSU.
If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to receive more just like it.