It’s no secret that the Tri-Cities area of East Tennessee is full of bluegrass. One band in particular which is beginning to draw attention not only within the region but across the south and Midwest is the Sons of Bluegrass. Comprised entirely of Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies majors from East Tennessee State University, the Sons of Bluegrass have recently released their first, self-titled EP.
The EP contains six tunes, including four band originals. The Sons of Bluegrass provide listeners with a fresh sound which leans toward the progressive side of bluegrass music. Two new instrumentals exemplify this sound. Drunk as a Skunk, written by banjo player Dan Troyer, is bouncy, with an interesting jazz-like melody, while Eucalyptus is an intriguing tune in D minor composed by former mandolin player Kyle Murphy.
Bass player Chris Armstrong contributes two more songs to the project. Step Twice is a somewhat dark-sounding track featuring some nice instrumental work. Old Diamond Joe, credited to Armstrong and Adam Steffey, could be considered the album’s standout track. The “Bluegrass Storyteller,” James King, lends his vocals to this tune, which pays homage to the singer’s guitar-picking childhood hero. The instrumental stylings of Steffey and Hunter Berry are also featured on this track.
Rounding out the EP are Shannon Slaughter’s Long Way to Virginia and Tom T. Hall’s That’s How I Got to Memphis. The band stays faithful to Slaughter’s original version, while changing the phrasing just slightly, while That’s How I Got to Memphis is rendered in a laid-back style that seems influenced by Charlie Sizemore’s version.
In the past year, the Sons of Bluegrass have been the recipients of an Arts Build Communities grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Championship Bluegrass Band at the Fiddler’s Grove Festival in North Carolina. They have headlined shows in Chicago, Louisville, KY, Tybee Island, GA, and all points in between.
The band is currently studying under the direction of Tim Stafford at ETSU. Even though the band members are young, their talent and dedication to the music they love is evident.