New look and new music from Merle Monroe

Thankfully, we are starting to see bluegrass acts making plans to emerge from their lairs, ready to play some music and perhaps salvage a little something of the summer outdoor music season.

Many of our favorite bands will look a little different when we see them next, with sidemen peeling off to try and find work since live performances have been cancelled since March, but band leaders are pulling together new groups, and hope to start again as strong as ever in the near future.

One such is Merle Monroe, who are making plans for a return to the stage, but with a slightly different look. Lead singer Tim Raybon and banjo man Daniel Grindstaff, who manage the band, haven’t been hurt as deeply as some performers, as they both maintain a private business outside of music, but they have made a few changes to their lineup.

We caught up with Daniel this afternoon for an update. He tells us that they have a new single set for release on July 24, and a pair of new band members to introduce.

“We were already at work on our second album when COVID hit, and had been able to release the first track, God’s Still In Control, before everything shut down. We actually got five tracks pretty much finished, and then couldn’t get everybody back in the studio with the restrictions.

Tim and I were determined to keep working on this project, and when he wrote the song, Hello Sunshine, we didn’t want to wait to get it cut. So we got Trey Hensley in to play guitar, Kent Blanton on bass, Josh Swift on reso-guitar, and Stephen Burwell on fiddle, and got it recorded.

I think it’s the strongest song we’ve recorded so far, and we can’t wait to get it out there with its positive message. There’s always some therapy in music, and we just hope it will make folks smile.”

Grindstaff says that everyone can get a listen to the new single when it premieres next Friday on Bluegrass Junction with Kyle Cantrell. Tune in at 7:30 a.m. (EDT) and hear Hello Sunshine for the first time.

Merle Monroe is also happy to welcome two new members to the band. Kevin Richardson is coming in on guitar, and Matthew Wright will be playing bass. Both are experienced bluegrass performers, who had recently been working with Larry Stephenson. They are both strong singers who will help Daniel and Tim with the vocal harmonies.

“Kevin Richardson was one of the original guys I had thought of when we started Merle Monroe, but he was staying off the road at that time. Matt is a strong performer too, and will add a lot to the band.

When we have openings, I look for people who have the ability and experience to go out on tour, but have something else that they do as well, like me and Tim, and don’t completely depend on the band for their livelihood.

We’re excited to have these guys with us, and look forward to seeing everyone when we can get back out there.”

Derek Deakins remains with the group on fiddle, who Daniel says he has known since they played together with Jim & Jesse.

We’ll have more on Hello Sunshine next Friday, July 24.

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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.