The Steep Canyon Rangers are returning to the Blue Ridge Music Center this summer as part of the annual Roots of American Music concert series.
In addition to the usual focus on bluegrass, old-time, and Americana, many of the bands incorporate elements of Irish, New Orleans street jazz, gospel, Latin American folk songs, honkytonk, and classic country music into their sound. The concerts are hosted on Saturday evenings from June 5 through Labor Day in the outdoor amphitheater at milepost 213 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
This year’s exciting lineup of performers is a celebration of the theme Deep Roots, Many Voices. The concerts will highlight diversity both in the types of roots music and in the musicians on the stage, and include longtime favorites as well as young bands and musicians who are newer to the stage. Among those returning are the Steep Canyon Rangers, Mipso, Amythyst Kiah, Sierra Ferrell, Chatham Rabbits and the Joe Troop Band (Che Apalache). Originally scheduled to play last year, Tuba Skinny, The Malpass Brothers, and Becky Buller Band will get to take the stage this summer. New to our amphitheater are Scythian, Tui music, and Dedicated Men Of Zion. Closing the season are perennial favorites Jeff Little – Musician/Piano Trio and Wayne Henderson.
The concerts are hosted at 7 p.m. Saturday evenings. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. for season passholders, and at 5:45 p.m. for ticket holders.
Tickets for individual concerts go on sale at noon, Tuesday, March 23. Full season, half season, and Pick 3 passes can be purchased at BlueRidgeMusicCenter.org.
Scythian plays the amphitheater stage at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 5. Scythian (pronounced sith-ee-yin) has grown to be a headliner on the Celtic and bluegrass/Americana festival circuits. The Washington Post wrote that “Scythian’s enthusiasm is contagious, and shows seem to end with everyone dancing, jumping around or hoisting glasses.” For more than 12 years they have toured across the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia.
Amythyst Kiah returns to the Music Center stage at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 19. Aaron Burdett will open the concert. With an unforgettable voice that’s both unfettered and exquisitely controlled, the Tennessee-raised singer-songwriter expands on her uncompromising artistry. Her standout song “Black Myself” earned a Grammy nomination for Best American Roots Song and won Song of the Year at the 2019 Folk Alliance International Awards.
Mipso will play at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 26. Since making their acclaimed debut with 2013’s Dark Holler Pop, the North Carolina-bred four-piece band has captivated audiences. With their finely layered vocal harmonies, graceful fluency in the timeless musical traditions of their home state, they have a near-telepathic musical connection that makes their live shows especially kinetic.
The Malpass Brothers make their first appearance on the Music Center stage at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 3, with special guest Redd Volkaert opening the show. As boys, Christopher and Taylor Malpass soaked up the music of their granddad’s phonograph records. Today, they promote the work and music of classic country artists while creating new music to make their own mark on a rich American cultural heritage. This is music steeped in the legacy of the Louvin Brothers, Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Hank William Sr., and others.
The Steep Canyon Rangers are making an eagerly anticipated return to the Music Center at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 10. Hailing from Asheville, North Carolina, they are Grammy winners, perennial Billboard chart-toppers, and frequent collaborators of the renowned banjoist (and occasional comedian) Steve Martin. With Woody Platt on guitar and vocals, Graham Sharp on banjo and vocals, Mike Guggino on mandolin/mandola and vocals, Nicky Sanders on fiddle and vocals, Mike Ashworth on drums and vocals, and Barrett Smith on bass and vocals, the Steep Canyon Rangers always put on an energetic and entertaining show.
Last year, Sierra Ferrell impressed concertgoers with her great stage show and quirky style. She makes her return at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 17. With her spellbinding voice and time-bending sound, Ferrell makes music that’s as fantastically vagabond as the artist herself. Growing up in West Virginia, the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist got her start belting out Shania Twain songs in a local bar at the age of 7. She left home in her early 20s to journey across the country with a troupe of wandering musicians.
The Becky Buller Bluegrass Band plays at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 24. Originally from St. James, Minnesota, Becky Buller is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and producer who has traversed the globe performing bluegrass music. Buller is the recipient of 10 IBMA awards, including the 2020 Collaborative Recording of the Year for The Barber’s Fiddle, the 2020 Song of the Year for cowriting and fiddling on Special Consensus’ Chicago Barn Dance, and the 2016 Fiddler of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year awards. She was a 2020 nominee for SPBGMA’s Fiddle Player of the Year, and has been worked as a musician and songwriter on three albums nominated for 2020 Grammys.
Tui makes their Music Center debut at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 31.They will be joined by the Dedicated Men of Zion. Tui (pronounced too-wee) is an internationally touring old-time duo made up of Jake Blount and Libby Weitnauer. They draw inspiration equally from rare archival recordings, the music of their peers, and extensive experiences with other genres of music. Tui’s diverse influences enable them to create music that is innovative and technically demanding, yet accessible and affecting as only old songs can be. They released their f album, Pretty Little Mister, in June 2019.
The Chatham Rabbits return at 7 p.m., Saturday, August 7. The duo exemplifies North Carolina’s tradition of producing artists who embrace the state’s many cultural resources and diverse musical traditions. In their marriage and in their music, Austin and Sarah McCombie also blend their own histories into a shared musical experience. Sarah first took the stage as part of a trio known as the South Carolina Broadcasters, a band that harkened back to the old days of the Grand Ole Opry and AM radio country classics. Meanwhile, Austin played keyboards and guitar for an electronic band called DASH.
Tuba Skinny brings New Orleans street jazz to the stage at 7 p.m., Saturday, August 21. Formed in 2009, Tuba Skinny has steadily evolved from a loose collection of street musicians into a solid ensemble dedicated to bringing the traditional New Orleans sound to audiences around the world. The band has gained a loyal following through their distinctive sound, their commitment to reviving long-lost songs, and their barnstorming live performances.
Joe Troop (of Che Apalache) will bring his band to the Music Center at 7 p.m., Saturday, August 28. Working in a style dubbed “Latingrass,” Che Apalache melds music from the Appalachian foothills with a traditional Latin American soundscape. As a solo artist, Troop composes wry and well-traveled acoustic music, sung in English, Spanish and Japanese. He wrenches old-time music into the world of contemporary global politics, creating a space for sympathy, solidarity, and a little humor. Jaunty, rhythmic, and tale-spinning, Troop plays fingerpicking mountain music for a progressive rural America.
Local fan favorites Jeff Little Trio with special guest Wayne Henderson will close out the summer series at 7 p.m., Saturday, September 4, With few exceptions, the piano does not play a prominent part in Appalachian or Americana music, and is rarely the lead instrument. But Jeff Little is an exception – and a remarkable one. Little and his trio stay busy traveling the country, performing with an energy and dedication to their music that is evident at every show. Wayne Henderson’s top-notch finger-picking is a source of great pleasure and pride to his friends, family and neighbors in Grayson County, Virginia. His guitar playing has also been enjoyed at Carnegie Hall, in three national tours of Masters of the Steel-String Guitar, and in seven nations throughout Asia.
The season sponsors are W.L.A. Trucking, Yadkin Arts Council, and River Ridge Land & Cattle. For more information, visit BlueRidgeMusicCenter.org or call (866) 308-2773, ext. 212.