Here we are at the beginning of a new year, when bluegrass bands reshuffle the decks, and sidemen make the jump from group to group. We’ve already seen some major moves, exacerbated this time around by the dissolution of HighLand Travelers late in 2018.
And the last piece of that particular puzzle is now in place, as Blue Highway announces today that Gary Hultman has joined the band on reso-guitar. He is stepping in for Justin Moses, who is now touring with his wife, Sierra Hull. Gary made his national debut with The Boxcars several years ago while he was still a student in the bluegrass program at ETSU, and has established himself as among the premiere young slide men in bluegrass.
Like most aspiring dobroists, Hultman was deeply influenced by Rob Ickes, who played for more than 20 years with Blue Highway, and defined the role of the instrument in the band. Gary had even studied under Rob at workshops, and was immersed in the band’s music as a teen.
He says that this gig is like a dream come true for him.
“Blue Highway has been such a huge part of my upbringing in music, and to say that I am excited would be an understatement! Not only has the band been an influence and inspiration to me, but so has each member’s playing, singing, and songwriting. Becoming a part of Blue Highway really means a lot to me, especially as a Dobro player. I know I’ll never fill the shoes that have come before me, but I look forward to the challenge ahead with passion. To play the band’s songs that I have left on repeat, practiced along to, and genuinely loved for years .. on stage, with THE band … I would never have dreamed I’d have the opportunity! It is truly an honor and a blessing. All of the guys are so kind, and I look forward to traveling and picking with them!”
And it’s also a fine step in this journeyman musician’s career, to be surrounded by such seasoned pros as Tim Stafford on guitar, Jason Burleson on banjo, Wayne Taylor on bass, and Shawn Lane on mandolin. All have their names deeply etched in bluegrass stone, with multiple awards among them from the IBMA and SPBGMA.
Stafford spoke quite highly of their latest charge…
“Gary Hultman is a first-rate musician and singer. And he’s a great guy – one of the absolute best. We’re all beyond thrilled he’s the newest member of Blue Highway!”
… a sentiment shared by Lane…
“When I first heard Gary play with the Boxcars, I was impressed with his musical instinct on the Dobro and how he used it to better the song, no matter what the song was. When I got to meet him later, I could tell he was a great guy, too. I’m looking forward to making some music with this cat!”
… and Burleson.
“I’ve been a huge fan of Gary’s from the first time I heard him! He’s such a great player and singer, and is absolutely one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Looking forward to playing music and hanging out with this guy!”
As the guys mentioned, Hultman is a strong vocalist as well as an instrumentalist of note, and they will be incorporating both into their stage show for 2019.
He is also singing on the upcoming Blue Highway album, which should be finished recording this month. Look for that to release later this year on Rounder Records, another project featuring all original material written within the band.
Bass man Taylor says that they are ready for the bluegrass season to begin.
“We’re pumped to start our 2019 tour, and can’t wait to make some new music with Gary!”
Fans in east Tennessee can see Gary on his first show with Blue Highway at The Down Home in Johnson City, January 18-19, and the following weekend at The Open Chord in Knoxville.