LocalGrass: Susan Brown & Friends

Among the many treasures to be found in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the state’s diversity is a definite asset. To a visitor from another part of the world, one might find it difficult to believe that the heavily populated areas with miles of multi-lane beltways and a constant blur of fast moving commuters heading in and out of our nation’s capitol is the same state that’s home to such quaint little towns like Coeburn and Wise in the southwest, while also serving as home to a section of a primarily two lane highway known as The Crooked Road, “Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail.”

Virginia is just as diverse when it comes to bluegrass music. Northern Virginia and surrounding areas have long been regarded as the home of modern bluegrass. The Country Gentlemen called Northern Virginia home, so does the famous Birchmere in Alexandria which became legendary for packing the house every Thursday night for years for The Seldom Scene’s notorious weekly gig. The far southwest corner of the state is known equally well as the place where the lonesome sounds of the Stanley Brothers was born and nurtured. Between the two extremes, there’s every possible style of bluegrass music one could imagine. Get on Lee Highway heading out of Bristol into neighboring Abingdon and you’ll find something else that’s a little different: Susan Brown and Friends.

Voted one of the top 3 bands in Southwest Virginia in 2012 by Virginia Living Magazine, Susan Brown and Friends is not your typical hard driving bluegrass band. Lighter on the 5 string than most that are considered bluegrass bands, they truly are a little different than the majority of local groups you’ll find, not only in Virginia, but any other place. The Bristol Herald Courier described Susan Brown’s vocal as “a blend of Allison Krauss and Emmylou Harris with a little rock & roll thrown in for good measure.” Although their lineup consists of acoustic instruments only, the ‘rock and roll’ reference made by the Bristol paper no doubt comes from the fresh and exciting arrangements given to the music by Susan’s highly competent backup band.

The ‘friends’ in Susan Brown and Friends are a group of talented musicians and songwriters who are primarily from the Abingdon area. Susan’s husband Mike plays mandolin and fiddle with Claiborne Woodall on guitar, Joe Dinkins on Dobro and banjo, and Dave Reimer on bass. Their solitary CD release features great originals from the three. From the pen of Mike Brown came Coal Town, Simple Girl and When It Rains. Joe Dinkins contributed Fever of The Road and Claiborne Woodall is the writer of the project’s only instrumental, Welcome To Damascus.  Mike Brown’s Coal Town was included in the Crooked Road’s CD compilation, Music from the Crooked Road.

Take the band’s great original material and mix in a rockin’ version of Shel Silverstein’s Marie Laveau and popular songs like Glen Campbell’s classic, Wichita Lineman and you’ll quickly recognize that the band’s live shows span the musical spectrum from bluegrass to jazz and swing standards with Joe Dinkins switching over to play some great jazz guitar while Mike remains on fiddle for the standards and jazz sets.

In an interview with LocalGrass Radio, Susan Brown stated that the band is happy playing locally and prefers to stay close to home where family and work keep them busy when they’re not playing their own brand of acoustic music. Their self produced CD can be purchased directly from Susan Brown and Friends at one of their shows. They stay busy in and around Abingdon at the local coffee shops and farmers markets, and as well are popular at Bristol’s Rhythm & Roots Reunion, held each year in September.

The band doesn’t feel the need to maintain a web site but they do have a presence on Facebook where you can check their schedule and on MySpace where you can sample their music.

You can contact Susan Brown at 276-676-2195.

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About the Author


Linda Wright and Kenneth Berrier are hosts of The Local Grass Radio Show on 90.7 FM, WEHC, Emory, Virginia. Local Grass Radio features unsigned “local” bands from across the country and around the world. “Taking Local Bluegrass off the Porch and Sending it Around the World.” www.localgrass.com.