Anyone who follows bluegrass knows that one of the biggest constants in the life of a touring act is the turnover of band personnel. The life of a road musician is a challenging one, and there are myriad reasons why a performer may choose to get off the circuit, or simply make a move to a different band.
Today it’s our own Chris Jones announcing changes to his group, The Night Drivers. Jon Weisberger, who has stood alongside Chris this past 17 years, is coming off the road to focus on the management of a songwriting team in Asheville, and banjo player Gina Furtado is leaving as well, to concentrate on a solo career.
For a four piece band, that’s a big change, but Chris has brought on two new members who look to make the Night Drivers better than ever. Coming aboard to play bass is seasoned bluegrass veteran, Marshall Wilborn, not only one of the most celebrated bass players we have known, and a fine singer and songwriter, but also among the best liked personalities in the music. For banjo, Jones has hired Grace Van’t Hof, also a very talented picker and singer, who had most recently been working with Bill and The Belles.
Chris shared a few words about all these changes…
“Jon was a key band member for so long, part of the band’s identity, and a vital part of the band’s success in recent years, thanks to his bass playing, his co-writing of some of the band’s best known recent material, and his business contributions as well. Over the last few years, Gina brought new excitement, creativity, and material to the Night Drivers. She’s a uniquely talented musician who I think will continue to excel in what she does. It’s been a pleasure to work with both of these fine musicians and people. I’m very grateful to them and I wish them both much success in their new endeavors.
Marshall Wilborn has been an important part of my musical life and career dating back to my early years playing professionally, thanks to our years playing together in Whetstone Run and the Lynn Morris Band. Lynn and Marshall are some of my closest friends in the business, and so it feels completely natural and right to be playing music with him again. I have always been, and still am a huge fan of his bass playing, his singing, and his songwriting.
I’ve continued to be impressed not only by Grace Van’t Hof’s banjo playing, but by her singing, stage presence, and wide-ranging creativity. Her banjo playing will fit our sound perfectly, and she’ll add some instrumental versatility to what we do as well. I’m also very happy about the vocal blend we’re getting with Mark Stoffel. Mark and I are both very excited about this new chapter in the life of The Night Drivers.”
Marshall says that he is pleased for the opportunity to work with his old friend as well.
“Chris’s and my musical paths have crossed a number of times in the past, going back to our first meeting in Texas years ago. I’m excited and honored at the chance to now join the ranks of the Night Drivers!”
And Grace says she has been following Chris’ music since for years.
“The first time I heard the Weary Hearts’ By Heart as a teenager I was a Chris Jones fan. It’s such an honor to have the opportunity to travel, perform, and collaborate with musicians I’ve admired for my entire career. This is a varied and creative group of musicians and I can’t wait to hear the sounds this next iteration of the Night Drivers cooks up.”
Marshall and Grace will join up separately over the course of the summer, with Wilborn coming on at the end of August, and Van’t Hof in September at Walnut Valley. The full new band will be together and well ready at the World of Bluegrass events in Raleigh at the end of September.