There’s a brand new bluegrass band recently formed in east Tennessee that is sure to please anyone who enjoys solid, traditional bluegrass music.
Named simply The Tennessee Bluegrass Band, this quintet features some of the brightest lights among our music’s youth movement, already seasoned pros while still in their twenties. Regular readers of Sonny Osborne’s Friday column, Ask Sonny Anything, will have seen a first mention of this bunch earlier this month. He described them thusly:
“These 5 people have just begun, and in my opinion, are going to be heard from on a major scale. They are that good. The Tennessee Bluegrass Band.”
Not a bad introduction!
The group was mostly formed several months ago to be Carolina Blue, after the departure of founding member Timmy Jones. His co-founder, Bobby Powell, had intended to maintain the band with new members, and himself on bass, but extenuating circumstances have resulted in Powell not being able to see the plan through. This was to have included existing Carolina Blue fiddler, Aynsley Porchak, with Lincoln Hensley on banjo, John Meador on guitar, and Tim Laughlin on mandolin.
This new lineup for Carolina Blue was announced to some fanfare in April, but Jones reportedly felt a bit sideswiped by this news, as he had intended to retain the use of the band name for later use. In any event, suddenly a crack band, assembled and rehearsed, was cast aside, consisting of musicians who depend on performing for their livelihood, and who had come to be friends who enjoyed not only each other’s company, but the music they were producing as well.
As it happens, Meador’s wife, Gracie, is an experienced bass player and singer, so she was recruited to fill Bobby’s spot and a new band was born.
For those who don’t know Meador, he was the lynchpin of his family’s band, Kentucky JustUs, for several years, playing with his brother, sister, and mom, during which time he came to be recognized as among the finest tenor singers ever to sing this music. He has only gotten stronger and more confident over the years, and is likely to make quite a splash on the national scene when The Tennessee Bluegrass Band starts showing up at festivals.
Porchak is also a recognized prodigy, having recently graduated from the bluegrass program at ETSU, during which time she took first place in the Grand Master Fiddle Championship in both the US and Canada, an accomplishment never before achieved. Her mastery of bluegrass fiddle, and particularly the style of the great Kenny Baker, has won her plaudits far and wide.
Hensley is something of a prodigy himself, also a former bluegrass student at ETSU, who has become Sonny Osborne’s unofficial apprentice. Already a promising banjo picker when he arrived at school, he is likely to learn anything he doesn’t already know at Sonny’s knee. Until recently, he toured with The Price Sisters.
Laughlin plays the role of the designated old guy in this group, serving as the calming influence in a band of youngsters. His touring experience includes stints with Larry Sparks, Big Country Bluegrass, Dale Ann Bradley, and The McPeake Brothers.
And completing the group, Gracie Meador likewise grew up in a family group, The Hainings, and has spent many years dedicated to bluegrass.
While The Tennessee Bluegrass Band builds a repertoire of their own material, they have created a number of videos that showcase their smooth, professional, and oh-so-traditional sound.
Have a listen to John singing Sunny Side of the Mountain…
… and on another Jimmy Martin classic, Fraulein.
You can learn more about The Tennessee Bluegrass Band by visiting their official web site, where you can also find their show dates. They will be part of next year’s Bluegrass Jamboree! tour of Germany, so our friends overseas will get a chance to see them too.
For the time being, the band is booking themselves, and can be reached online. But one imagines that booking agencies and record labels will be hot on their tails in no time.