Rounder founders launch Down The Road Records

Amy Dietz (Exceleration), John Burk (Exceleration), Glen Barros (Exceleration), Bill Nowlin (Down The Road), John Virant (Down The Road), Ken Irwin (Down The Road), Charles Caldas (Exceleration), Marian Levy (Down The Road), Dave Hansen (Exceleration) – photo by Joshua Black Wilkins

The three renegade founders of Rounder Records, Ken Irwin, Marian Leighton Levy, and Bill Nowlin, have put the band back together, 53 years after they created what became one of the most successful American independent record labels from their Boston apartment in 1970. Rounder was acquired by Concord Music Group in 2010, and four years later moved from Boston to Nashville, leaving the founders in merely advisory roles.

But that wasn’t enough for these three music business talents, who helped push the careers of artists like Alison Krauss, Tony Rice, Rhonda Vincent, Blue Highway, and IIIrd Tyme Out, among many others in and outside of bluegrass music. So they have teamed up with longtime Rounder President John Virant to form the new Down The Road records.

The label will launch with new projects from former Rounder artists Blue Highway and Tony Trischka.

To handle digital and physical distribution, Down The Road is partnering with Exceleration Music, who have recently acquired Redeye Worldwide, a global leader in music distribution. Exceleration founders Glenn Dicker and Tor Hansen are former Rounder employees who worked at the company under Irwin, Levy, Nowlin, and Virant, so this team is very familiar with the expectations and intentions of Down The Road Records.

Glen Barros, a partner with Dicker and Hansen at Exceleration Music, says of this new venture…

“Ken, Marian, Bill and John epitomize what it means to be an indie. They have always followed their heart and instincts in recording what they know and love. This formula led to many hundreds of culturally important and often incredibly successful recordings. And while doing this, they’ve also continually supported the indie and musical communities in which they work. We are so grateful that they’re joining the Exceleration family and very much look forward to helping them build upon their incredible legacy.”

Exceleration has built their reputation providing services and expertise for assisting labels all over the world retain their independence at a time when conglomeration is often seen as the only way to achieve success.

Virant shared his high opinion of their work.

“Glen, John, Amy, Dave, and Charles are building a visionary and critical organization for independent labels and their artists. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to join them and the rest of the Exceleration team. We intend to continue our tradition of nurturing and supporting artists based in roots music traditions of the past into the future.”

In addition to new albums from Blue Highway, Tony Trischka, and Seldom Scene, Down The Road will reissue 14 titles the founders had produced for Rounder in recent years.

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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.