IBMA Tuesday showcase: The Boxcars

lil_mike_reedThis post is a contribution from Mike Reed, one of our 2010 IBMA correspondents. Photos for this post come from Roy Swann.

What constitutes a new group in Bluegrass?

The Boxcars (Adam Steffey – mandolin, Ron Stewart – banjo/fiddle, Keith Garrett – guitar, John Bowman – fiddle/banjo, and Harold Nixon – bass) may be a new group but the members are already well know and well respected in bluegrass. With stellar performers like these the expectation was high from both the crowd and the showcase promoters, hence the closing slot of the Tuesday Showcase schedule.

From the performance it was clear that this is a real band, not just a collection of talented individual performers. The strong vocals and songwriting of guitarist Keith Garrett was really impressive. Adam is also a fine vocalist but seems hesitant to move too far down that road, limiting himself to a few songs and providing vocal support on the rest. Instrumentally, you would be hard pressed to find better musicians among other bands today. Ron Stewart, nominated again this year by the IBMA for both banjo and fiddle, switched from banjo to fiddle, and John Bowman put down his fiddle and picked up the banjo, and the band never missed a beat.

On a humorous note, I was also able to catch the group at an after hours showcase. When the presenter was about to announce the band he noted all of the bands the the members had been a part of prior to the Boxcars. Needless to say it was a long and distinguished list. Adam Steffey broke in and said that was because they couldn’t work for anybody and had been fired from every bluegrass band in the industry. It got a lot of laughs but it does reflect the seemingly endless revolving door of band members we see today.

If this group can stay together and continue to build on the interplay that is already quite evident, they could set a new standard for excellence in bluegrass performance. The tools are already there.