Grascals, Josh Williams on Music City Roots

The Josh Williams Band at IBMA 2009: Jason McKendree, Josh Williams, Randy Barnes, Scott Napier. Photo by Carolyn McKendreeTonight’s edition of Music City Roots on WSM has plenty to attract the attention of bluegrass fans. The show, which airs live each Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. (CST) from The Loveless Barn, just outside of Nashville, will feature sets from The Grascals and The Josh Williams Band.

If you live within WSM’s very wide broadcast footprint, you can hear the show on 650-AM. If not, it will also be streamed live online from 7:00-9:00 p.m. The format brings four bands to the stage, emceed by Jim Lauderdale and Eddie Stubbs, with artist interviews conducted live by Craig Havighurst.

The Grascals have been enjoying their richly-deserved time in the spotlight this past few years. With a trio of critically-acclaimed albums and multiple IBMA awards, these guys (and gal) have been burning up the highway, keeping a very busy tour schedule.

Less well known (for now) is The Josh Williams Band. Regular readers of Bluegrass Today have seen our occasional mentions of Williams, a very talented, young artist who, at the age of 29, has already had the eye of the IBMA on him for 16 years. At age 13, he was singled out to be included in a group of Youth All Stars at the IBMA show, along with Chris Thile, Michael Cleveland, Cody Kilby and Brady Stogdill. Here he is in that illustrious company – on banjo – which foretold much of what we have seen from these fine pickers since that day.

Josh had memorable stints with Special Consensus and Rhonda Vincent in his late teens and early twenties, and has now struck out on his own. His third solo project will be released by Pinecastle in February, and The Josh Williams Band will soon begin recording their debut CD.

They had a very strong showing at IBMA 2009, and we spoke with Jim Roe of Roe Entertainment, who books Josh, about the impact of their high profile during World Of Bluegrass.

“Their main stage showcase went really, really well. They played a number of late night showcases in 2008, and I heard from several people that the band sounded much more mature this year, and that Josh looked really confident fronting his band.”

When we caught them at IBMA, the band consisted of Josh on guitar and lead vocals, Jason McKendree on banjo, Randy Barnes on bass and Scott Napier on mandolin. Greg Blaylock is often seen with them on resonator guitar, though not a regular member of the group. I also saw them in 2008, and can agree that this past year has seen Josh develop into a future star in bluegrass music.

Roe related another story about this very subject…

“A festival promoter that had the band for a show early in 2009 called me after the festival, and shared with me how much he enjoyed their performance, but pointed out a few areas where he thought they could improve. After seeing them at IBMA last month, he has decided to have them back next year.

With a full year as a front man under his belt, Josh is a lot more comfortable in his new role.”

Josh is excited about playing Music City Roots tonight. In addition to Josh and The Grascals, the show will also include music from James Intveld and Shawn Byrne.

Not to be outdone by NewFound Road and the folks on the American Revival Tour, Josh sent along a few Halloween photos of his own, taken at their Saturday show at The Station Inn. Josh’s dad, Tony Williams, also provided a play-by-play…

The Josh Williams Band on Halloween, 2009The Halloween Hoot from the world famous Station Inn, in Nashville, Tennessee, night before last(October 31, 2009 proved to be a blast, as expected!

The evening’s edition of the Josh Williams Band included from stage left to stage right: Resophonic guitar genius, Willie P. Richardson, (aka Greg Blaylock, the pride of Dickson, TN.) former President, and banjoist extraordinaire, Abraham Lincoln (aka Jason “Jaymack” McKendree), one of history’s finest guitar players and lead singers, Wyatt Earp (aka Josh Williams), the always bloodthirsty, King of blood-suckers, and the acoustic upright bass, “The Count” Vlad Randolph Barnes (aka Randy Barnes), and with guest mandolinist, and traveler of the high seas, Long John Frank, (aka Ashby Frank).

Ashby Frank... or Johnny Depp?The house was packed with guests from Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida, and no doubt more, to hear this good-looking and picturesque Rogue’s gallery, who kept the crowd entertained through two excellent sets of the finest quality Bluegrass and Americana music for a little over two and one half hours. Excellent audio engineer and legendary Lonesome River Band producer and engineer, Tim Austin, did an outstanding job on the sound board, keeping the incredible band well heard, and noise free for the entire length of the show.

Halloween 2009 at Station Inn - Justin McKendree, Callie Clark, Jason McKendree, Carolyn McKendreeIn the audience, along with many people in street attire, one could observe, Raggedy Andy, several vampires, zombies, and a trio of folks with horns protruding from the heads. The staff at the Inn included beautiful Swiss misses Emily and Jess. Two separate groups of young ladies added international presence, good friends of First Lady, Amelia Aerheart-Lincoln (Carolyn Klassen McKendree) attending as part of a visit with their friend, all from the Canadian province of Manitoba, in and around the town of Winkler, Carolyn’s home-town. Another group of lovely young Japanese ladies were attending, and seemed to thoroughly enjoy all the band members, and their very entertaining show.

All in all, I’d say this was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen at the Station Inn, in the twenty-odd years I’ve been attending performances there.

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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.