In the last few weeks, bluegrass bands around the country have made changes in their line-ups, acquiring up-and-comers, trading mandolin and banjo players, recruiting the best possible group for what seams to be the beginning of the bluegrass season. Many bands simply switch players, as evident in the trades noted below.
The season begins with what seams to be the fall trading deadline before various winter holidays and celebrations. The summer festival season parallels the playoffs in sports, with the International Bluegrass Music Awards acting as the super bowl.
Here are some of the bluegrass trades and acquisitions of this year’s bluegrass trading season.
Junior Sisk Seeks New Mandolin Player
Junior Sisk and Rambler’s Choice is seeking a replacement for their current mandolin player, Chris Harris, who will be leaving the band in January.
If you live in or are willing to move to Virginia, slam the mandolin and sing a lonesome tenor, Rambler’s Choice is a prime option. Rambler’s Choice already has several tour dates lined up for 2009.
Rhonda Vincent Signs New Banjo and Guitar Players
Rhonda Vincent, one of the most respected female bluegrass artists and leader of The Rage, announced the departure of Rage members Kenny Ingram and Darrell Webb.
Former Grascal Aaron McDaris will hold down the banjo and 22-year-old Ben Holson joins The Rage from Ricky Skaggs’s group Kentucky Thunder. The new group is set to record a guestless album – a first for Vincent and The Rage.
Webb Leaves The Rage for Michael Cleveland’s Flamekeeper
Within two weeks of his departure from Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Webb landed the lead vocal and guitar spot with Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper. Webb’s first show with Flamekeeper will be December 26 at the Grande Ole Opry.
“We had the opportunity to play together again at a recent event and things just fell into place,” stated Cleveland, pictured to the left. “He is a great talent and we are thrilled to have him in the band!”
Rick Allred Back With The Larry Stephenson Band
Larry Stephenson has reunited with banjo player Rick Allred, the original banjo player for the Larry Stephenson Band when it began 20 years ago. Allred came aboard after Kristin Scott Benson departed as the banjo player for the Larry Stephenson Band.
“I’m looking forward very much to working with Rick again,” said Stephenson, who sings lead and plays mandolin. “He’s one of the best that’s ever played banjo with me.”
Grascals Pick Up Banjoist Kristin Scott Benson
Kristin Scott Benson, winner of the 2008 Banjo Player of the Year IBMA award, has said goodbye to the Larry Stephenson Band and hello to the Grascals. The change comes at an exciting time for Benson, who just released a solo album titled Second Season.
Benson, pictured to the left, will arrive as part of the Grascal squad following the departure of former banjo player Aaron McDaris, who is now with The Rage.
New Bass Player For Punch Brothers
The Punch Brothers have added new bass player Paul Kowert, 22, in the wake of founding bass player Greg Garrisson’s departure. Kowert came to the Punch Brothers following a fall tour with mandolinist Mike Marshall. He has also studied bass at the Curtis Institute of Music with virtuoso Edgar Meyer. The acquisition comes as no surprise, as Meyer may well have had a hand in the negotiation after he and Chris Thile recorded a duo album earlier this year.
Kowert joins Chris Thile on mandolin, Noam Pickelny on banjo, Chris Eldridge on guitar and Gabe Witcher on fiddle. The Punch Brothers are already touring with Kowert. Check their Web site for tour dates.
Gibson Brothers Recruit Recent Graduate Joe Walsh
The Gibson Brothers have picked up recent Berklee College of Music graduate Joe Walsh as the newest member of the band, following the retirement of mandolinist Rick Hayes. Hayes has retired from the band to create more time for his up-and-coming mandolin company, Hayes Mandolins.
Walsh was the first student to study mandolin at Berklee, where bluegrass musicians are becoming more popular every year. His first performance with the band will be Jan. 2, 2009 at the New Years Bluegrass Festival in Jekyll Island, Ga.