10 years for Balsam Range

Balsam Range performs at the Colonial Theater in Canton, NC (3/4/17) – photo by Wayne Ebinger

Balsam Range, the first bluegrass group to rise to the top from Asheville’s newly expansive music scene, celebrated a major milestone last weekend with a 10 year anniversary concert in their hometown of Canton, NC.

The show was like a thank you to the people of the local community, which has strongly supported the band since they first started playing together back in 2007. Songs from all six of their albums were featured, and during the intermission, the band served cake to members of the audience.

For the guys, who never imagined that the local group they put together would go on to be a full time touring act, the ten years have seemed to fly by. Mandolinist Darren Nicholson says it feels like only yesterday that they did their first show.

“I tell you it’s really gone by so quickly… It didn’t hit me until someone at the show mentioned how little our kids were when we started.

I think the reason we’ve been able to stay together this long is that we all live so close together. Logistically, it’s been really handy. We can all meet the van in a few minutes, all go to the airport together for longer trips.

We’re now on our sixth album, and far and away I feel like it was the easiest recording, and our best one. We’re just hitting our stride, having learned how to deal with each other, live with each other, support each other. There’s a comfort that’s there now, like an old pair of shows. It really starting to get fun!”

Bass player Tim Surrett agrees with that sentiment.

“To us it’s like, ‘how did 10 years go by?’ It’s rare to have any band last this long with the same members, and I think it’s partly because we all live within 15 miles of each other in Haywood County.

Also, we don’t try to play as many dates s possible. We all have kids playing ball, and nobody wants to miss all those games.

We have good and bad days like any band, but we take it all in stride. The travel is tough, being away from family. But that stuff galvanizes you, makes you a team.”

Speaking of that first show, Darren remembers that they hadn’t even decided on a band name when they opened up at a comedy festival put on by radio comics John Boy & Billy.

“So we started looking at a road atlas, looking for a name. We saw a peak on the Blue Ridge Parkway near here called the Great Balsam Range not far from where we live. That seemed a little grand for a new band, so we changed it to Mediocre Balsam Range, and eventually shortened it to plain old Balsam Range.”

Funny guys…

Tim said that they have been putting on wintertime concerts around home since they launched the band, giving them some shows during the down time and feeding the strong appetite for bluegrass in western North Carolina. Now that those shows have grown into an annual festival, they decided to do this one as a thank you for the folks in Canton, or Papertown as it is known to locals.

Funds raised at the show were donated to a number of regional charities that the band favors.

“We saw it as a thanks to our home community, and a chance to help out folks around home. We know there’s needs everywhere in the world, and we try to help out where we can.”

He also mentioned that the entire concert was captured on film, so we should be seeing some videos released in the near future.

Well done, Balsam Range. Here’s to another ten years of great entertainment!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.