Track Premiere: Traveling Shoes from Thomas Cassell

Thomas Cassell is a fast-rising bluegrass artist, originally from southwest Virginia, now living in Nashville, who has been making his name as a mandolinist these last few years. He leads the progressive string band, Circus No. 9, where he also demonstrates his abilities as a vocalist and songwriter.

Cassell completed his education with a degree from the Bluegrass, Country, and Old Time Music Studies program at ETSU, with a Masters in Appalachian Studies from the same institution. He also had the opportunity to participate twice in the Acoustic Music Seminar in Savannah, GA where he studied with mandolin legend Mike Marshall. The IBMA recognized Thomas with the Momentum Instrumentalist of the Year award in 2019, and he is also a winner of the RockyGrass mandolin competition. Currently, Cassell teaches mandolin at The University of the South in Sewanee, TN in addition to his performing career.

This week a debut single from his second album, Traveling Shoes, is released to the world, and we are delighted to premiere it here today. It’s the project’s title track, one he wrote with Becky Buller, which Thomas says describes the hectic life of a touring musician. 

“The idea for this song popped into my head one morning in January 2020 after waking up at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. to drive to Nashville, just to hop on a plane and fly to Oregon for a Circus No. 9 run. I was getting pretty worn out from that kind of travel. I wrote the first verse on the plane, but later I sent the song to Becky Buller and we finished it together just as COVID was starting to shake things up early in March.

Right around the time we finished it, there was a day where I had two recording sessions, a gig, and then a late night session that followed. I was way overworking myself and just needed a break. After that week there was nothing for months. Be careful what you wish for!”

Thomas plays mandolin and sings lead, supported by Tim Stafford on guitar, Julian Pinelli on fiddle, Jacob Metz on reso-guitar, and Vince Ilagan on bass. Buller sings the harmony vocal. They recorded at the ETSU studio with Dan Boner and Ben Bateson engineering. It’s a thoughtful song with an easy-going vibe which Cassell delivers with just the right feel.

Have a listen.

Traveling Shoes, the single, will be available on Friday, August 27, from popular download and streaming sites. Pre-saves are enabled now. Radio programmers can get the track via AirPlay Direct.

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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.