Tune it in, turn it on: Bluegrass on FOX

This report comes from Casey Henry, a banjo player and writer living in Nashville, TN. She performed the past few years with her brother, Chris, in The Two Stringers, now disbanded.

The new FOX television American Idol spin-off The Next Great American Band airs Friday nights at 8 p.m./7 p.m. central. Last Friday on the two-hour debut judges whittled a wide field down to twelve finalists. The field was wide not only in numbers but in genre as well. Bands played everything from metal to classical, from blues to bluegrass.

Remarkably the two bluegrass bands who competed made it to the second round, airing this Friday, October 26th. The Clark Brothers and Cliff Wagner and Old #7 couldn’t be more different as far as bluegrass bands go.

The Clark Brothers - Austin, Ashley and AdamThe Clark Brothers are three of eleven siblings from Virginia. As The Clark Family, they appeared at bluegrass festivals in the 1990s and were staples at the Galax Old Fiddlers Convention before the eldest six made the jump to country as the Clark Family Experience.

On NGAB Adam (mandolin), Ashley (guitar), and Austin (dobro) are playing as a trio. The judges really liked their musicianship, displayed to good effect on a brisk gospel medley including This Little Light of Mine and Jesus on the Mainline.

Cliff Wagner and Old #7 - Devitt Feeley, Cliff Wagner, Andrew Paddock and Craig FergusonCliff Wagner and Old #7 hail from California. Their fearless leader Cliff was raised in Greenwood, Mississippi, attended Berklee College of Music, and lived some time in New York City.

They have a traditional sound and played an original song on the show. The judges responded to the "natural" sound of the music but one did ask "Can you play a cover that wasn’t written by a 70-year-old raccoon hunter?" (Yes those stereotypes are still alive and well!)

So Cliff and Co. gave them a little of Madonna’s Like A Virgin, which seemed to satisfy the judges, who sent them on to the next round. You can watch their submission video on You Tube.

Tune in on Friday night to see how our bluegrass brethren fare in round two. Cliff seemed confident that: "Appalachian America will vote for us." Let’s make sure he’s not wrong!