Another young group that is making waves in the bluegrass/acoustic world is Rockin’ Acoustic Circus, an Oklahoma band of talented teens – with one “old guy” riding herd. Their ages range from 15 to 18 (plus the “old guy”) and the music stretches the boundaries of traditional bluegrass a bit, as young artists are wont to do.
Their latest CD, Lonestar Lullabye, is out displaying the band’s comfort in a variety of styles. One minute, it’s a driving cover of Lonesome River Band’s Money In The Bank, featuring fiddler Eric Dysart on lead vocals, and the next a relaxed interpretation of Dylan’s You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere from their fetching cellist, Emma Hardin.
The Circus is an offshoot the instructional efforts of Rick Morton, aka “old guy.” Rick had a cup of coffee in country music in the mid-90s, touring with Ronnie Dunn and The Tractors before returning to Oklahoma where he established himself as a chief teacher for bluegrass and acoustic instruments. Among his students over the years were a six year old Dysart and a nine year old Sterling Abernathy, to whom he taught mandolin and fidle respectively. As they reached their teens, both began to collect instrumental championships in the fertile OK music world.
They were introduced to Hardin, and her bass-playing brother Zac, along with banjo picker Carson Clemishire, and Rockin’ Acoustic Circus was born. After a few years woking festivals and shows in their area, this bunch is now touring nationally and grabbing attention from major figures in the biz. They are represented by Class Act Entertainment in Nashville and appearing at major festivals across the US.
It has been interesting to watch the recent explosion of cello in bluegrass-related music since Rushad Eggleston exploded onto the scene with Crooked Still in 2004. I had met and jammed with Rushad several years before that and it was clear from the start that there was a place for cello in this music, something he went on to prove with Darol Anger’s Republic Of Strings even before Crooked Still. These days, you can’t say that cello is common in bluegrass groups, but it isn’t so rare as to draw attention in and of itself.
Young Miss Hardin may not be in Rushad’s league – who is? – but she demonstates a fine command of both the instrument and traditional fiddle music in a medly she performs on the CD, captured live at a showcase during Folk Alliance earlier this year.
All these folks can pick and sing, and a number of industry people are lining up behind them. It will be fun to watch where they go.
You can hear audio samples from Lonestar Lullabye at CD Baby.