Words by Philly Bluegrass
The fast-approaching autumn concert season marks the launch of the first ever Bluegrass Passport Contest sponsored by the Ardmore Music Hall (AMH) and PhillyBluegrass.com.
Through September 30, fans can enter for a chance to win a pair of tickets to AMH’s upcoming bluegrass shows at phillybluegrass.com/passport. Nationally touring acts including Sam Bush, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Travelin’ McCourys, The Jeff Austin Band, and Anderson East will be passing through Ardmore, PA this fall, as will local favorites Mason Porter and Hezekiah Jones.
GRAMMY winning newgrass artist and revered mandolin player Sam Bush kicks off AMH’s slate of bluegrass shows on October 7th. Sam, most known for the innovative work with his New Grass Revival band, expanded the strict structural limits of bluegrass music by fusing it with jazz, rock, blues, funk and other styles. Additionally, he is a frequent headliner at the annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado, earning him the nickname of the “King of Telluride.” With as many laurels as Sam has to rest on over the course of his decorated career, he remains humble and in touch with the youthful version of himself that propelled his ingenuity and creative drive.
Next on the lineup comes Yonder Mountain String Band, the quintessential progressive bluegrass quintet that, though it has gone through some reshuffling since the departure of Jeff Austin, has proven itself to be a name to be remembered within the bluegrass genre. Despite the changes, there has been no sign of slowed growth within the band. Their live shows remain ever changing and in constant renovation. This however, shouldn’t be taken as a negative. What is rendered is music that is always progressing and groundbreaking. Longtime fans of the group are keen on the band’s instrumental prowess, something to which violinist Allie Kral and mandolin virtuoso Jacob Jolliff have only added to. “At the end of the day, Yonder is a band with almost two decades of music under its belt, but we’re always a bit restless,” banjoist Dave Johnston had to say. “We want to move the music forward to new places, which keeps us on our musical toes.” YMSB will make their AMH debut on October 16th.
October 22nd will feature a doubleheader of newgrass as AMH hosts theGrateful Ball, featuring The Travelin’ McCourys and Jeff Austin Band. Both acts will be performing one set of their own tunes and then joining forces to share their own renditions of Grateful Dead songs. Jeff Austin of course got his big break with YMSB. But after twenty-plus years with the band, Austin has returned to the scene with a newfound sense of passion. Celebrated for his fleet fingers and penchant for improvisation on stage, he has cultivated his natural musical abilities and allowed himself to be driven by his boldest instincts. Partner that with the ultra-talented Danny Barnes on the banjo, as well as other renowned musical talents, and fans receive a completely revitalized live experience when seeing Austin on stage.
One would be hard pressed to find a band with the more credibility to play in both traditional and progressive bluegrass spheres than the boys of theTravelin’ McCourys. As the sons of bluegrass legend Del McCoury, Ronnie McCoury on mandolin and Rob McCoury on banjo continue to carry their father’s luminary torch by bringing bluegrass music that is uniquely their own to a new generation of listeners. Ronnie says, “We like to go in and play traditional bluegrass music the way we do it with Dad, but we also like to be able to step into situations where we can really stretch out. If we need to plug in, we’ll plug in. We’re open to anything.”
Then comes white hot rising star Anderson East on November 13th. The 27 year-old’s Soul-Americana outfit gained massive acclaim in 2015 after the release of his first full-length album, Delilah. Layered with triumphant brass sections, soulful textures of smokey organ riffs, and East’s fervid vocal performances, Delilah stirred the pot for things to come. His voice and aesthetic has drawn Ray LaMontagne and Joe Cocker comparisons and his high-energy shows have enthralled live audiences nation-wide.
Topping off the bluegrass bonanza with some local flavor, Philly favoritesMason Porter and Hezekiah Jones return to the AMH stage on December 10th. Rolling Stone recently described Mason Porter’s as “Bluegrass musicianship meets jam-band exploration, delivered with a self-confident Philly attitude.” With the ability to blend earthy, Appalachian instruments with more contemporary, urban-inspired rhythms, Mason Porter puts on an energetic and danceable live show night after night. Hezekiah Jones cruises down a musical path paved with wide-ranging inspiration. Incorporating Americana with infusions of an eclectic mix of New Orleans style Jazz, Harmonic Folk and Beatles-like Pop-Rock, the band’s creative limits are only set by their imagination.