Wide Open Bluegrass is the principal fundraiser for the Bluegrass Trust Fund, which provides direct financial assistance to bluegrass artists and other industry professionals in times of emergency need. (To date, the Trust Fund has given more than $800,000 in direct aid.) In this spirit, another unique collaboration in the Main Stage lineup will be “The TRUST” set, an all-star performance featuring Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Balsam Range, Lonesome River Band, Donna Ulisse, Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, Sideline and Love Canon. These artists will highlight their benefit album, The TRUST, to be released by Mountain Home Music Company, whose proceeds benefit the Trust Fund. The TRUST features all new, original music written by the bands involved in the project. The songs are about themes of hope, courage, and perseverance and reflect the artists’ commitment to the bluegrass community.
“The IBMA Trust Fund has been an invaluable resource to so many bluegrass professionals in need over the years,” says Doyle Lawson, one of IBMA’s founders and an IBMA Hall of Fame member. “I’m proud to be a part of the special performance on the Wide Open Bluegrass Main Stage and the upcoming CD release by Mountain Home to help raise awareness and money for the Trust Fund.”
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
With almost 40 albums to their credit, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver have multiple Grammy, Dove, ICM, IBMA, and SPBGMA Award nominations, and are seven-time winners of IBMA’s Vocal Group of the Year Award. Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver are also the reigning Inspirational Country Music Association Vocal Group of the Year, crowned in October at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center, on the heels of Lawson’s induction into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame at the Ryman Auditorium in 2012. Lawson was heralded by journalist Craig Havighurst as “one of music’s lions” following Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver’s performance at the 2011 IBMA Awards Press Conference in Nashville. Of DLQ’s performance, which garnered three standing ovations from a sold-out crowd in Nashville, Havighurst wrote in Music City Roots: “There was no question who was going to close the show. Doyle Lawson is one of music’s lions at this point, and when he came out in perhaps the most beautiful western jacket I’ve ever seen… he was a holy vision. … When DLQ, in quartet mode, nailed the final chorus of the a cappella gospel song “He Made It All Right,” I swear we were mainlining the holy spirit. You know how the word awesome gets overused and misused? Here’s where it applies.” A native Tennessean, Lawson has been by Governor Bill Haslam and the State of Tennessee for his contributions to the state and America through his music (Senate Joint Resolution 467). Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver (DLQ) were very visible in 2011 through multiple national television appearances and a European tour, while their album Drive Time spent several weeks atop the new Alternate Roots Top 66 International Bluegrass Chart at #1, reflecting radio airplay nationwide and across the globe. The band features Josh Swift (Dobro), Joe Dean (guitar, mandolin, banjo), Dustin Pyrtle (bass, guitar), Eli Johnston (banjo, bass, guitar), and Stephen Burwell (fiddle).
- Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver website
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Balsam Range is; Buddy Melton (fiddle, lead and tenor vocals), Darren Nicholson (mandolin, octave mandolin, lead vocals, baritone and low tenor vocals), Dr. Marc Pruett (banjo), Tim Surrett (bass, dobro, baritone and lead vocals), and Caleb Smith (guitar, lead & baritone vocals). The five original members are all acoustic musicians and singers from western North Carolina. They thoughtfully and respectfully adopted the name of a majestic range of mountains that surround part of their home county of Haywood, NC, where the Great Smoky Mountains meet the Blue Ridge, the Great Balsam Range. The members of Balsam Range are extremely proud of their home of Haywood County, NC and invite you all to come visit their beautiful part of the country! The group’s ascent to the top of the bluegrass world has left a well-marked trail of success since the band’s inception in 2007. One of the genre’s most award-winning artists in recent years, they have garnered 10 International Bluegrass Music Association Awards on the heels of six critically acclaimed albums. Balsam Range has left audiences spellbound while headlining major festivals from coast to coast, selling out venues across the nation, and appearing multiple times at the Grand Ole Opry. On their newest release, Mountain Voodoo, the quintet cleverly captures traditional yet contemporary sounds. There are fiery instrumental parts alternating with deep heavy ballads, overlaid by the vocal harmonies the group has become known for. Debuting at number four, “Mountain Voodoo” remained on the Billboard chart for 19 weeks. Three singles from the album have reached the number one spot on the Bluegrass Today Charts, including “Blue Collar Dreams” which spent 3 consecutive months at the number one spot.
Lonesome River Band
Since its formation over 35 years ago, Lonesome River Band continues its reputation as one of the most respected names in bluegrass music. Five-time International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Banjo Player of the Year Sammy Shelor leads the group that is constantly breaking new ground in acoustic music. With two stellar lead vocalists, Brandon Rickman (guitar) and Jesse Smathers (mandolin) and the impressive talents of Mike Hartgrove (fiddle) and Barry Reed (bass), the band seamlessly comes together, performing the trademark sound that fans continue to embrace. June 23, 2017, Mountain Home Music Co. released Mayhayley’s House album, which the band dedicated to Mayhayley Lancaster, a self-proclaimed “Oracle of the Ages” who handed out “readings” and personal predictions at her home in southwest Georgia’s Heard County. The bluegrass tinkers of tradition also dedicated the album to its fans, and to people who understand that traditions once lost are rarely recovered. The musicianship, song selection and vocals are stellar. Later that year, Smathers took home the 2017 IBMA Momentum Vocalist Award. This award-winning band's 2016 Mountain Home Music Company album Bridging the Tradition debuted at #2 on Billboard’s Top 10 Bluegrass Album Chart. The album received a 2016 IBMA Award Nomination for Album of the Year along with “Thunder & Lightning” for Song of the Year, “Rockin’ of the Cradle” for Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year, and Sammy Shelor for Banjo Performer of the Year. Lonesome River Band continues to evolve in the ever-changing landscape of Bluegrass and Acoustic Country music. Lonesome River Band’s long career is filled with numerous awards and recognitions, including their 2012 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Award for Instrumental Recorded Event of the Year for their song “Angeline the Baker” from their Chronology Volume One album. Shelor received his fifth win as the IBMA Banjo Performer of the Year in 2012. The group has also received other awards from IBMA including Album of the Year, along with many from SPBGMA including Bluegrass Band of Year, Vocal Group of the Year, Song of the Year and Shelor as a 3-time SPBGMA Banjo Player of the Year. In 2011, Shelor received the 2nd Annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. Lonesome River Band with special guest Steve Martin made an appearance and performed on the Late Show with David Letterman. Lonesome River Band continues set the standard in the bluegrass music world. Whether performing on the famous stage of the Grand Ole Opry or headlining major concert events & festivals, their loyal fans continue to support one of the most loved and most influential acts of our time.
- Lonesome River Band website
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- Lonesome River Band on Instagram
Country music fans remember Donna Ulisse from her days when she was signed to Atlantic Records in the early 1990s where she released a critically acclaimed album Trouble at The Door with three singles and two videos. She was also a guest on many national television shows including Hee Haw, Nashville Now, Crook and Chase and NBC’s Hot Country Nights. These days, Ulisse is a key figure in the bluegrass, folk and acoustic music scene as a singer and songwriter. Her single “It Could Have Been The Mandolin” from the album Hard Cry Moon topped the Bluegrass Unlimited chart at #1 for two months in a row in 2016 and the album topped the Roots Music Report chart at #1. She also won the award for 2016 International Bluegrass Music Association’s Songwriter of the Year, and she has had her songs recorded by bluegrass artists Claire Lynch, Darin and Brooke Aldridge, The Bankesters, Doyle Lawson, Larry Stephenson Band and Volume Five to name a few, as well as a song on the 2014 Grammy winning album Streets of Baltimore by the Del McCoury Band. . In 2017 she signed with Mountain Home Music Company, record label of some of bluegrass music’s brightest stars, and released her 11th career album Breakin’ Easy, produced by bluegrass legend Doyle Lawson. She was a featured guest on RFD-TV’s Simply Bluegrass show hosted by Ricky Skaggs, which featured the biggest names in the genre. She also did a month long stint in 2016 as host of Bluegrass Ridge, a video television show on Heartland TV Network which has several of her videos in regular rotation. Her past albums have charted prominently in the Bluegrass Unlimited charts, The Folk DJ National chart, The Americana Music Charts and Billboard Bluegrass chart, while her 2012 Christmas album All The Way To Bethlehem was called “a masterpiece” by Kyle Cantrell, host of Bluegrass Junction on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Edward Morris, writer for CMT.com, dubs her “one of the most commanding voices in bluegrass music.” In 2017, she was the winner of IBMA Song of the Year for the song “I Am A Drifter,” recorded by Volume Five. She authored the book The Songwriter in Me: Snapshots of My Creative Process and is the founder of Lil House Songwriting Workshops, offering aspiring songwriters the opportunity to write with her and other pro writers in order to improve their skills. She also keeps a busy touring schedule playing festivals and concert venues with her band.
Chris Jones & The Night Drivers
Whether it’s in the studio or on stage, Chris Jones & The Night Drivers are making some of the most distinctively elegant yet driving music to be heard anywhere today, and they’re delivering it with a unique blend of dry wit, emotional authenticity and broad humor that’s won the loyalty of a growing number of fans across the country, from Merlefest in North Carolina to California’s Huck Finn Jubilee, and around the world. Steve Martin referred to the Night Drivers as “. . . some of the best players in bluegrass! Chris Jones’ voice is there with the great masters.” The band is led by Jones’ soulful lead-singing, songwriting, and solid rhythm and lead guitar. He boasts extensive performance credits as a sideman with artists like Lynn Morris, Vassar Clements, Special Consensus, Dave Evans, Earl Scruggs, and the acclaimed Irish band The Chieftains. Mark Stoffel, who is originally from Munich, Germany, has a mandolin style that perfectly fits the band sound with his beautiful tone, taste, and rhythmic sense. Jon Weisberger, whose playing has made him a sought-after fill-in bass player in Nashville with The Del McCoury Band, the Roland White Band, Larry Cordle, and others, anchors the band’s strong rhythmic foundation. Newest member, Gina Clowes, a driving and innovative banjo player, and another contributor of original material, hails from Front Royal, VA. Mountain Home recently signed her as a solo artist as well, releasing her critically acclaimed album True Colors. The band is also becoming known as a songwriter’s bluegrass band, with Weisberger and Jones now co-writing many of the band’s current songs, and all four members contributing material. Weisberger has had over 200 of his songs recorded by various other artists as well, from The Infamous Stringdusters to Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, including numerous #1 songs. Jones and Weisberger are both IBMA award-winning songwriters, Weisberger having been named IBMA's 2012 Songwriter of the Year, and Jones taking home the trophy for the 2007 Song of the Year for “Fork in the Road.” Altogether, members of Chris Jones & The Night Drivers have won nine IBMA awards and have recorded ten #1 songs, including two from their latest Mountain Home album, Made to Move. The Night Drivers also bring name recognition in related fields, as bluegrass fans are well-familiar with Jones for his award-winning work as a SiriusXM DJ, on both Bluegrass Junction and Willie’s Roadhouse. Meanwhile, Weisberger is heard weekly as co-host and producer of Bluegrass Junction’s “Hand Picked with Del McCoury.”
- Chris Jones & The Night Drivers website
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Sideline is a pedigreed six-piece powerhouse whose style has set the pace in bluegrass for more than two decades. Founders Steve Dilling, Skip Cherryholmes and Jason Moore can all claim their own historical significance to the genre as members of highly awarded groups, multiple Grand Ole Opry appearances and years of national and international touring. What started as a side project for the seasoned players soon moved to the front and center as the three were joined by talents of Bailey Coe (guitar); Troy Boone (mandolin); and Daniel Greeson (fiddle); and they began to record and release albums in earnest. To listen to Sideline reminds the fan of why so many people fall in love with bluegrass in the first place; pulse-pounding drive, songs sung from the heart, perfected timing and dynamics as well as a visceral emotion in the rendering. A band that was started as an off-season fun experiment has become a full-time dream team of players and singers. The band, recorded or live, move dynamically from well chosen, hard-hitting neo-traditional covers of classic songs to new material curated by a band with a perfect sense of who they are and what they have to say. Combine all this with their on-stage energy and finesse as well as their powerful and affecting harmonies, and you have the embodiment of the North Carolina bluegrass sound. Sideline has released three national projects and currently records for the highly awarded Mountain Home Music Company based near Asheville, NC.
Love Canon brings their acoustic-roots sensibilities to the electronic-tinged pop hits of the '80s and '90s to create Cover Story, their fourth album, due out on Organic Records July 13, 2018. With Cover Story, Love Canon delivers a fresh set of classics, crossing genres to recount music of decades past from the likes of Peter Gabriel, Billy Joel, Depeche Mode, and Paul Simon. The self-produced album hosts a plethora of special guests including Jerry Douglas, Aoife O’Donovan, Keller Williams, Michael Cleveland, and Eric Krasno, among others. The band’s diehard fans are music lovers first and are drawn to the charismatic and wide-ranging vocal stylings of lead singer and guitarist Jesse Harper matched with banjo master Adam Larrabee, mandolin pickin’ by Andy Thacker, Darrell Muller holding down the low-end on standup bass, and the slick sounds of resonator guitar king Jay Starling on the Beard MA-6. It’s acoustic rock! Acclaimed fiddler Alex Hargreaves (Turtle Island Quartet, Sarah Jarosz) does all of the fiddling on this record with the exception of two tracks, and he occasionally joins them on tour. As seasoned virtuoso string players who have been touring the mid-Atlantic since 2010, Love Canon stays true to the approach, arrangements, and keen artistry of these nostalgic hits. Cover Story was engineered by Rob Evans at Dave Matthews Band's Haunted Hollow Studio in Love Canon's hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia and mixed by Wayne Pooley, Bruce Hornsby’s Engineer/Producer. Cover Story is a follow up to the band’s previous efforts, Greatest Hits Volumes 1-3.