Teenaged bluegrass trio Cane Mill Road have been invited to represent the USA by playing three concerts at the world’s largest international music festival for children, El Concierto En Iguazu (Iguazu in Concert) that takes place in Argentina from 25 to 30 May2015.
Cane Mill Road, from Deep Gap, North Carolina, will be the first bluegrass band to perform there in the festival’s six-year history.
William Purcell, manager of Cane Mill Road and father of one of the band members, remembers how the invitation came about ……
“We were contacted in late January by the festival director. Each of the past five years they have picked a group from each country to represent the musical heritage of that country. The USA has been represented by orchestras, choirs, and even a bagpipe band (fife and drum, I think). So, she said she knew she wanted bluegrass to represent the USA in the sixth year of the festival, so she went on YouTube searching. She came across several videos of Liam Purcell. She also wanted a mandolin player who could perform a solo with the 700 en masse kids orchestra, so Liam’s mandolin playing caught her ear. Plus, she wanted a young kid and Liam is 12 years old. So, she contacted us via email and asked if Liam would come and put together a bluegrass trio to perform at the festival. We already were performing with Cane Mill Road, so that worked out perfectly.
Honestly, our first reaction was to question if it was a hoax. I know that sounds bad, but we couldn’t believe our ears! So, we got online and researched and viewed all the past videos and TV shows from the festival in past years. We scoured the web site and media stories. And finally we called two groups from the USA who had done this in the past. Once we realized it was on the up and up, we were thrilled. I don’t know that it has still sunk in yet. It is such an amazing opportunity and honor.
Once we gave a “yes” we were on to logistics. It took about another month to work out all the details of who would come, how many concerts, what they would play and wear, new band photos, a demo CD, etc. Now, we are to the hard part – the fundraising!”
As already mentioned, young Liam Purcell plays mandolin for Cane Mill Road. He also plays fiddle, guitar, bass, dobro, and mountain dulcimer.
The 2014 winner of the Brian Friesen Award for banjo and an official artist at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Wide Open Bluegrass Festival last year confesses ….
“I feel like I’m kinda in the twilight zone, past euphoria. I’m feeling good about the festival, we’ve got a good strong group that works well together as well as a good repertoire. Now it’s just a matter of getting there, we’ve still got a long way to go and some more money to raise, but I’ve finally got my brain around the fact that together we can do this!”
The bass player in the band is 16 year old Kinsey Greene. She plays guitar also and is the group’s main vocalist. Greene, who is from Boone, North Carolina, has won several singing/song-writing competitions.
While she is understandably on a high at the moment, she is, ambitiously, looking ahead quite a way into the future ……………
“…………. well, so far I just feel excited!…not nervous yet, just really excited!
I feel that women in bluegrass are strong, influential women! Some of my biggest role models are bluegrass women…Rhonda Vincent, Allison Krause, Dolly Parton, Amanda Smith…not only because of their talent, but because of who they are and how they treat others. I am honored to be representing young women in bluegrass. I want to be that person someday that a little girl looks at and says “mom, someday I’m gonna be just like her!”
Greene is currently working on a solo album due out this summer.
Making up the trio that is going to the El Concierto En Iguazu is 17-year-old guitar/mandolin/fiddle player Eliot Smith. A native of the North Carolina mountains, he is a luthier and has built his own guitar.
“I am really excited to get to go to Argentina! I’m not really that nervous. I guess that my biggest concern is figuring out how to get the instruments there safely. We have a lot of fun playing together as Cane Mill Road. I’m looking forward to sharing bluegrass music with other musicians from all over the world. I’m also excited to learn more about the music they will be sharing with us. As a luthier, I am eager to see, and maybe even play, the instruments that other kids will be bringing to the festival. I bet that we will get to learn about instruments that we didn’t even know existed! Thanks to everyone who is helping us! This still hardly seems real!”
Beginning about a year ago as a pickup band before MerleFest, Cane Mill Road now has the challenging task of accumulating the funds needed in order that they can make the trip to Argentina.
The festival is not paying the band. It is a non-profit festival sponsored by the United Nations and UNICEF (United National Children’s Fund). They pay for all lodging, food and transportation once the trio arrive in Argentina, which is a considerable amount of money. However, Cane Mill Road has to raise its own money in order to travel to Argentina.
William Purcell has a target in mind ……
“We are hoping to raise $6,000, or as close as possible, to pay for the three kids to travel to Argentina; each kid $1,500 airfare, $160 fee to enter Argentina, $185 passport application/photos, plus renting instrument cases for the flight, so we are budgeting $2,000 per kid.”
As well as working hard to get as much money as possible on their own, the band has set up a GoFundMe site, and, at the time of writing this, have 40 donations of varying amounts.
To encourage donations, Liam Purcell, Kinsey Greene and Eliot Smith have made a video that explains more about the funds that are needed as well as showcasing their individual and collective talents.
In this video Cane Mill Road perform an original song I’m To Blame, written by Kinsey Greene, during their appearance on Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour in June 2014.
The fiddle player is Ruth Shumway, who has been playing the instrument since she was three years old, while playing the guitar is Jacob Greer, who has played with the band for about six months.
Another member of Cane Mill Road is 15-years old Austin Tate from Marion, Virginia. He sings and plays several instruments including mandolin and guitar. He is not going on the trip, although he will be performing with the band during their forthcoming personal appearances.
This second video features Liam Purcell, Kinsey Greene and Eliot Smith playing the Gillian Welch song Winter’s Come and Gone ………..
If you can help, please consider making a donation at their GoFundMe page.