We're excited to announce the start of the 2017 RockyGrass Academy faculty. Watch for more updates in the coming weeks.
The registration lottery for the 2017 Academy was open from October 31 thru November 8. A few spots in the Novice Fiddle class will be available beginning Tuesday, December 6 at 9am MST - phone only at 800-624-2422.
Courtney now lives in Brooklyn and tours frequently, playing some two-hundred days a year, both at home in the states, and in countries as far off as Pakistan and Vietnam as part of the US State Department’s Music Exchange program; an experience that has had a profound impact not only on her music, but her world view. Her literary songwriting is filled with stories about changing relationships, life on the road, and—implausibly enough—a song that finds beauty and longing in jet lag. In addition to her solo work and touring with Della Mae, Courtney has worked with a range of musicians including Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s Mike Campbell, Buffy St. Marie and Hot Rize’s Bryan Sutton. Her solo project, Nothing We Say, was just released on Sept 30. [less...]
In the Fall of 2012, Trey had the opportunity to sing a "scratch vocal" on a song in the studio for legendary Bluegrass super group Blue Highway. The group ended up liking the vocal so much that they left Trey’s vocal on the finished product. The album, titled "The Game", was released January, 2014 with Trey Hensley as a special guest on the song ‘My Last Day in the Mine’. In reference to Trey’s vocal on the song, Tim Stafford of Blue Highway said, "It’s one take, live from the control room. That tells you how good this guy is!"
In the Summer of 2013, Trey relocated to Nashville, TN and started playing on a regular basis with IBMA’s 15-time "Dobro Player of the Year", Rob Ickes. In the Fall of 2013, Trey and Rob decided to go work on an a duo album together. [less...]
For more than twenty-five years Uwe has been playing guitar and singing as a professional musician. Performing in Switzerland’s relatively limited music market required Uwe to develop versatility, and he became proficient on other instruments including the electric guitar and the banjo.
Today, Uwe astonishes audiences with his blend of guitar styles. His rich, resonant, and mellow baritone voice has an uplifting affect on all who hear him sing. Diverse influences range from Doc Watson, Jerry Garcia, and Eric Clapton, to Beethoven, Bach, and Brahms. Uwe’s unique style, a blend of flat picking and finger picking, is an experience to behold. [less...]
On "Jubilee", Tom obviously has a lot of fun in the spotlight. And each song has an interesting story behind it. "Don't Fix Up That Doghouse, "was co-written by Don Helms, Hank Williams' steel player, as a follow up to Hank's "Move It On Over." And here's how Tom describes his cover of David Olney's "Walk Downtown"... 'Another one of those fiddle-driven swingy old-time numbers about an Elvis impersonator.'
Originally from New England, Tom Rozum moved to Berkeley from Arizona, where he played many kinds of traditional and original music with Summerdog and Flying South; and San Diego, where he honed his swing chops with the Rhythm Rascals. Since joining forces with Laurie Lewis in 1986 as part of the original Grant Street Band, Tom's versatility and diverse musical influences come to the fore every night on stage with the band. He plays primarily mandolin, but is also an accomplished fiddle, mandola, and guitar player. His rhythmic approach to mandolin especially punctuates the band's repertoire, adding a verve and excitement to their on-stage shows, and has become a distinctive feature of their performances. He is a fine lead vocalist, the ideal harmony partner for Laurie, as demonstrated on "The Oak and the Laurel, "and occasionally functions as the comic foil for on-stage goings-on whenever things get too weighty. [less...]
In Frank’s hands, these instruments take on a life of their own. You hear power. You hear volume. You hear crispness, clarity, timing and taste. All combined with passion and drive. A physicist might slow it down to analyze the strum against string — but he wouldn’t find the answer. For that, you have to know Frank Solivan, a man who has a powerful life force that’s as raw, natural and pure as the place he spend much of his youth, Alaska. Frank is a hunter, a fisherman, a gourmet chef, a beautiful singer, a poet and songwriter of tasteful ballads and of blazing instrumentals. A man of sturdy build who is known to holler out out a powerful, "Son!" whether it be in response to a hot solo, or some hot sauce he concocted in kitchen. It’s as if all these things for him are an affirmation of life. An awareness that all five senses are humming along on overdrive. That life is short and all these gifts are not to be wasted.
Those who are privileged enough to be around it, are richer for it. Musicians, especially, in his presence step up their game, but I suppose you could say the same about gourmands, or fishermen. People sense that life force around Frank and they want a piece of it.
The physicist curious about the mysteries of tone, timing and taste would do well to spend some time around Frank. He would find no definition, no explanation of how it happens but he would see it right there. And you should, too. [less...]
Between 1984 and 1989, Zenkl played in and led several bluegrass bands and also performed as a soloist with the State Opera Orchestra of Ostrava and the Janacek Philharmonic Symphony of Ostrava on several occasions.
In 1987 Zenkl won the Czechoslovak Mandolin Championship. His bluegrass (newgrass) band, Tyrkys, won the national band contest "Porta" in 1988. Besides playing with Tyrkys, Zenkl performed with his new acoustic duo "Mondo Mando" (inspired by the music of David Grisman) all over the country as well as in Poland, Germany and Hungary.
In the spring of 1989 Zenkl recorded his first album, "Mandolin Parade", (also the first mandolin album ever made in Czech Republic), featuring him on ten mandolin family instruments.
Zenkl escaped from Czechoslovakia four months before the fall of communism for political freedom and to be closer to his musical influences. Once in America, he settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. After only a short period of time, Zenkl was performing at major music festivals and sharing the stage with artists such as Jerry Garcia/David Grisman, Tuck & Patti, Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, David Grisman Quintet, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Tim O'Brien, Peter Rowan, John McCutcheon, Dan Hicks and many others.
In October 1991 Zenkl played for the newly elected president of Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, at a reception on the UCLA campus. Playing his own compositions, Zenkl won the prestigious U.S. Mandolin Championship held in Winfield, Kansas in 1992.
Zenkl went on to record two CDs for David Grisman's record label "Acoustic Disc". "Galactic Mandolin" (1992) is comprised of 13 original solo works, each in a different tuning. "Czech It Out" (1994) features original and Czech and Slovak traditional tunes on solo mandolin, mandocello and mandolin banjo.
On several occasions in 1995 he substituted for Mike Marshall in the classical group Modern Mandolin Quartet.
In the same year, Zenkl signed a recording contract with Shanachie Records and recorded "String & Wings", which was released in 1996. Included in this CD are improvised duets with 20 different artists such as Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, David Grisman, Tony Rice and Rob Wasserman among others, featuring 20 different acoustic string instruments. A new CD entitled "Restless Joy" was released in November 1999.
In the spring of 2003 Radim joined an all star flamenco/classical/world music quartet, the "Festival of Four". The group includes Viviana Guzman on flutes, Richard Patterson on classical guitar and Guillermo Rios on flamenco guitar. Together they released a recording "A World of Music" in 2005.
Currently, Zenkl's touring presents both his solo and duo program with Leo Chern, which includes original and Eastern European music, flavored with string jazz, new age, bluegrass, Irish, flamenco, classical and other styles. These performances feature Zenkl's own innovative playing techniques such as modified "duo-style", which sounds remarkably like two instruments simultaneously. Several mandolin family instruments are used, such as mandola, Irish bouzouki, mando-ukulele, slide mandolin and others. When off the road, he teaches private and group mandolin classes.
Today, Zenkl's virtuosity and innovation have placed him at the forefront of the modern acoustic music scene. [less...]
Jens is a member of the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame, having been inducted in 2011. In 2013, he was awarded the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music. Jens is the first winner of the award who resides in North Carolina and the first born outside of the United States. Happy Traum, guitarist, folksinger, teacher, and writer for aspiring musicians, has described Kruger as, “One of the world’s most musically sophisticated and technically accomplished five‐string banjo players.”
While Jens plays in a melodic style that has roots in bluegrass, his music is distinguished by long, melodic passages and a complex compositional foundation, often building on jazz or classical themes and techniques.
Now well past forty years old -- the age at which, they say, life begins, Mike Munford retains a child like enthusiasm and curiosity for all things banjo. He has no qualms about driving hours through rush hour traffic to go see J.D. Crowe play at some obscure club… then rave about the performance even though he might have seen it or heard it dozens, maybe hundreds or times. He has imbibed everything that J.D., or Earl, or Bela, has thrown his way -- and can mimic those players with uncanny accuracy, but has found his own style, too.
It can best be described as hard-driving melodic… but such a description diminishes what’s actually going on. When Mike Munford plays you hear all things that great banjo player strive to achieve. Power, drive, impeccable timing, exquisite tone and jaw-dropping technique.
Mike is also, indeed, about the finest set-up or fret job guy around, and is a walking encyclopedia of banjo trivia. He is an inspiration to countless players in the mid – Atlantic region.
Most of the country hasn’t really seen all that much of Mike’s playing. He, throughout most of his career, has preferred the comforts of home to the road. It is testament to Frank Solivan’s powers of persuasion ( i.e. talent) that Mike is hitting the road as a part of this fine ensemble. [less...]
Pete has been based in Niwot, Colorado since 1976, and tours and records with the traditional bluegrass band Long Road Home, with his wife Joan in a duet and in his bluegrass/traditional jazz combo Pete Wernick & FLEXIGRASS. The year 2016 marks his 46th since his first recordings, and will also see Hot Rize performing at several festivals and touring in Fall. [less...]
As an active session player and touring musician, he has collaborated with a wide range of musicians, including Merle Haggard, Earl Scruggs, Tony Rice, Charlie Haden, David Grisman, Alison Krauss, Willie Nelson, David Lee Roth, Dolly Parton, Patty Loveless, Peter Rowan, Claire Lynch, and Mary Chapin Carpenter.
The youngest dobro player on The Great Dobro Sessions (Jerry Douglas & Tut Taylor, producers), which won the 1994 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album, he was also on the Alison Krauss & The Cox Family album, I Know Who Holds Tomorrow, which won the 1994 Grammy for Best Southern Gospel. His most recent release is a dobro-piano jazz album, Road Song (ResoRevolution 2009); he has also released four acclaimed solo albums on Rounder, nine albums with Blue Highway (Rounder, Ceili, Rebel) and a self-titled CD with Three Ring Circle, comprising Rob, Andy Leftwich and Dave Pomeroy (Earwave).
Rob is also a gifted resonator guitar teacher; in 2007, he founded ResoSummit, a three-day annual instructional event in Nashville, featuring leading Dobro players and luthiers as faculty, and 100 participants from around the world. [less...]
Destined to find Uwe and Jens, in 1989 Joel moved to Switzerland and began a successful career as a bassist with various country/rock and jazz groups based throughout Europe. It was during this time that he met the Kruger Brothers and developed what would turn into a deeply rewarding musical alliance and friendship. In early 1995, Joel was initiated into the ‘Brotherhood’ and has been performing full time with the band ever since. [less...]
Grammy-award winner, six-time Grammy nominee, and 2015 IBMA Award winner for Recorded Event of the Year, Peter Rowan is a singer-songwriter with a career spanning over five decades. From his early years playing under the tutelage of Bluegrass veteran Bill Monroe, to his time in Old & In the Way and breakout as a solo musician and bandleader, Rowan has built a devoted, international fan base through a solid stream of records, collaborative projects, and constant touring. [more...]
Born in Wayland, Massachusetts to a musical family, Rowan learned to play guitar from his uncle. He spent his teenage years absorbing the sights and sounds of the Hillbilly Ranch, a legendary Country music nightclub in Boston frequented by old-time acts like The Lilly Brothers and Tex Logan. In 1956 Peter Rowan formed his first band, the Cupids, while still in high school.
Following three years in college, Rowan left academia and decided to pursue a life in music. Rowan began his professional career in 1963 as the singer, rhythm guitarist and songwriter for the Bluegrass Boys, led by the founding father of bluegrass, Bill Monroe. “One thing I started to like about the Monroe style was that there was a lot more blues in it than other styles of bluegrass,” reflects Rowan. “It was darker. It had more of an edge to it. And yet it still had the ballad tradition in it, and I loved that.”
The late ‘60s and early 70’s saw Rowan involved in a number of rock, folk and bluegrass projects, including Earth Opera, Sea Train, Muleskinner, and the Rowans, where he played alongside brothers Chris and Lorin Rowan. After the Rowan Brothers disbanded, Rowan, David Grisman, Jerry Garcia, Vassar Clements and John Kahn formed a bluegrass band christened Old & In the Way. It was during this incarnation that Rowan penned the song “Panama Red,” a subsequent hit for the New Riders of the Purple Sage and a classic ever since.
Rowan subsequently embarked on a well-received solo career in the late ‘70s, releasing critically acclaimed records such as Dustbowl Children (a Woody-Guthrie style song cycle about the Great Depression), Yonder (a record of old-time country music in collaboration with ace dobro player, Jerry Douglas) and two extraordinarily fine bluegrass albums, The First Whippoorwill and Bluegrass Boy, as well as High Lonesome Cowboy, a recording of traditional and old-time mountain music with Don Edwards and Norman Blake. Rowan’s recent releases- Quartet, a recording with the phenomenal Tony Rice and Legacy with the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, coupled with a relentless touring schedule have further endeared Peter Rowan to audiences around the world.
Following on the heels of the celebrated album “Crucial Country: Live at Telluride” Peter recorded his second album for Compass entitled “Old School” with memorable new songs such as “Doc Watson Morning” , “Drop The Bone” and “Keepin’ It Between The Lines (Old School)” with members of the current Bluegrass Band plus Chris Henry, Michael Cleveland, Bryan Sutton, Ronnie, Robbie and Del McCoury and more. Since then the prolific singer songwriter has recorded and released Peter Rowan’s Twang an Groove Vol. 1 on There Records and Dharma Blues on Omnivore Records.
Internationally, Rowan often performs as a solo singer-songwriter, while stateside he plays in three bands: the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, a quintet featuring Keith Little, Chris Henry, Blaine Sprouse and Paul Knight; Big Twang Theory and its Texas Cousin Twang n Groove and rock band The Free Mexican Air Force. [less...]
Laurie is a dedicated teacher, both in one-on-one sessions and in workshop settings. In her words: “I’ve taught music, fiddle, songwriting, vocal styles, harmony singing for many many years. I’ve organized and run camps: Bluegrass Week at Augusta Heritage Center for ten years, and Bluegrass at the Beach up in Oregon for fourteen. Recently, I’ve been teaching at a camp for kids. It’s just so great to watch them grow up and get deeper and deeper into the music, and to feel like somehow you’re some little part of it.”[less...]
With their last album earning Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen a 2015 GRAMMY Nomination for Best Bluegrass Album, the eagerly anticipated Family, Friends & Heroes released March 4th to great critical acclaim. This genre stretching album provides a generous glimpse into Solivan’s work that pays homage to his family members and features the pristine playing of his closest musical heroes, including Del McCoury, Rob Ickes, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Ronnie McCoury, John Cowan, Mike Bub, Shawn Camp and Megan McCormick.
Since Frank Solivan left the cold climes of Alaska for the bluegrass hotbed of Washington, D.C., he’s built a reputation as a monster mandolinist — and become a major festival attraction with his band, Dirty Kitchen. Solivan, with banjoist Mike Munford, 2013 IBMA Banjo Player of the Year, award winning guitarist Chris Luquette and bassist Jeremy Middleton, simmer a bluegrass/newgrass stew from instrumental, vocal and songwriting skills so hot, they’ve been named Washington Area Music Association’s Best Bluegrass Band of the Year for four consecutive years. [less...]
CBS Records contracted with Jens and Uwe when Jens was just seventeen years old, and shortly thereafter, the Krugers hosted a radio show on SRG SSR, the Swiss Public broadcast group. Several years later, the brothers teamed up with bass player Joel Landsberg, a native of New York City who also had a very extensive musical upbringing in classical and jazz music (studying with jazz great Milt Hinton), thus forming a trio that has been playing professionally together since 1995. Together, they established the incomparable sound that The Kruger Brothers are known for today. The trio moved to the United States in 2002 and is based in Wilkesboro, NC.
Since their formal introduction to American audiences in 1997, The Kruger Brothers’ remarkable discipline, creativity and their ability to infuse classical music into folk music has resulted in a unique sound that has made them a fixture within the world of acoustic music. The honesty of their writing has since become a hallmark of the trio’s work.
In their ever-expanding body of work – Jens Kruger (banjo and vocals), Uwe Kruger (guitar and lead vocals), and Joel Landsberg (bass and vocals) – The Kruger Brothers personify the spirit of exploration and innovation that forms the core of the American musical tradition. Their original music is crafted around their discerning taste, and the result is unpretentious, cultivated, and delightfully fresh.
In addition to their regular concert schedule, The Kruger Brothers perform these classical pieces regularly with select symphony orchestras and string quartets throughout the country.
Through their numerous CD releases, radio and television performances, lectures, and collaborative efforts, The Kruger Brothers’ powerful artistic statement continues to inspire and enlighten audiences and musicians around the world. [less...]
Some things you know are just meant to be—but even when you do, it’s nice to get some outside affirmation. So while Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley were sure that their musical partnership was the right move at the right time, it was still welcome news when their debut Compass Records project, Before The Sun Goes Down, earned a nomination for the Best Bluegrass Album Grammy just about the time that Ickes took leave of the band he’d been in for nearly 20 years to make the joint venture the centerpiece of his career. And with the release of their new project, The Country Blues on July 8th the pair build on the first one’s strengths to take their unique musical conversation to an even higher level.
"Rob’s helping me to explore more of what to play and when to play it," says Hensley, who’s made the transition from hot-shot guitar phenom to well-rounded instrumental and vocal powerhouse look easy. "I’ve been in a band for so long that I’m really enjoying the simplicity of the duo thing—and Trey’s done a lot of band stuff, too, so we’re on the same page," responds Ickes, whose award-winning resonator guitar work not only helped to power famed bluegrass ensemble Blue Highway for two decades, but appears on hundreds of bluegrass and country albums. That same page extends to the other musicians who complement their work, starting with bassist Mike Bub and drummer John Alvey, who regularly accompany Ickes and Hensley on gigs around Nashville. "It works in so many different ways, we’ve done it duo, we’ve done some gigs with just John, we’ve done four piece, and we’ve done five piece with a fiddle," notes Ickes. "Trey and I have always clicked, and when he and I know what’s going on, everyone else just grabs on—and that’s kind of the fun of the gig, it’s constantly changing."
That fun pervades the 11 tracks on The Country Blues, even when the subject matter’s as mournful as the post-romance desolation of Hank Williams’ classic "May You Never Be Alone." "I hate to use the word," Ickes chuckles, "but we really did pick the material organically. Our gigs in town have acted as a workshop—you can try something new during a show at the Station Inn and work it out right there. So when we got into the studio, we just blasted through, doing a few takes of each song, without stopping for anyone to fix anything. And then Trey and I went through the takes to make our choices."
That organic approach served well as recording sessions with regulars Mike Bub (bass) and John Alvey (drums) and a select handful of instrumental and vocal guests that included the likes of Vince Gill and Carl Jackson were sandwiched between long stints on the road as a duo. The unusual schedule allowed Hensley and Ickes to take what they were exploring on stages across the country and around the world into the studio, and the result is a set that expands the already wide-ranging palette of Before The Sun Goes Down in even more directions. "This guy is so versatile," Ickes says of Hensley, "that we can do just about anything. The bluegrass stuff can sound really straight ahead, but then we can do something in the vein of the Allman Brothers, and that’ll sound authentic, too. We could do a Bob Wills album, and that would be great as well—I haven’t found anything he can’t do."
Want proof? Check out the powerful Sonny Boy Williamson blues shouter, "One Way Out," or the mixed regret and determination of "Won’t Give Up My Train," memorably recorded years ago by Merle Haggard, or the ‘grassy dexterity of their original, "Everywhere I Go." Need more? How about the insouciant funk of "Never Can Pray Enough," imported from the Wood Brothers, or the southern rock of Charlie Daniels on "Willie Jones?" Then there’s the jazzy tour de force instrumental, "Biscuits And Gravy," written by Ickes as a kind of tribute to pedal steel master Buddy Emmons and so much more; there’s even a nod to the Grateful Dead in "Friend Of The Devil," a dazzling staple of the duo’s live shows.
Indeed, though the contributions from Alvey, Bub and the rest of a short but sweet list of friends who helped out complement the duo’s exciting work, there’s no doubt that it’s Ickes and Hensley who are front and center on The Country Blues—and that’s just how it should be. After all, when something’s meant to be, the best thing to do is to get out of the way and let it go. [less...]
He played in bluegrass bands from the time that he was 13; professionally since he was 15 years old. While a senior in high school, Justin helped form Long Road Home, the bluegrass band with which he is still playing full time. When not with Long Road Home, you can find him playing with a variety of projects, across a variety of genres. He’s been known to appear with his Rock and Roll band, The Bimarinal, and even at times as a guest eTone on the eTown radio show (where he appeared with such acts as the Indigo Girls, Tim O’Brien, Big Al Anderson and the North Mississippi All Stars). [less...]
Having collaborated and toured with such inspiring artists as Ben Sollee, Shakey Graves, The Belleville Outfit, and The Hudsons, Hunt is never one to turn down the opportunity to create a new sound or be a part of a musical experiment, but it is as a band leader that she truly shines. In her musical project, "Phoebe Hunt Sings the New American Songbook", Phoebe presents a unique show nodding to the jazz and swing roots from where she came, by singing her renditions of the classics. Featuring an all star band of unique talents (Nathaniel Smith: Cello, Dennis Ludiker: Violin, Dominick Leslie: Mandolin, Danny Levin: Piano, Nick Falk: Percussion, Andrew Pressman: Bass), this captivating performance also features Hunt’s original material infused with the nuances of the art form.
Recenly, she has returned from a journey to India, wherin she and a group of her peers studied Indian Classical Music with master violinist Kala Ramnath. She has returned to the states with a vigor for creation, and is currenlty recording her debut full length solo album, Shanti's Shadow. To support this creation, Phoebe is reaching out to her network of peers, friends, family and fans alike as she independently releases the essence from her soul. [less...]
By the time he was 12, Dominick was writing his own music and practicing every day. At 15, he recorded his first solo CD, “Signs of Courage”, receiving rave reviews from Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine, among others. Dominick’s technique and emotive style were far more advanced than his young age would suggest. In 2004, Dominick became the youngest contestant ever to win the Rockygrass mandolin contest. He also placed first in the Merlefest mandolin contest, and second in the Walnut Valley International Mandolin Contest.
Dominick was featured in Mike Marshall’s Young American Mandolin Ensemble. In October 2007, this elite group of seven young musicians was invited to perform with Mike at the Mandolines de Lunel festival in France.
Dominick has also had the unique opportunity to study with mandolin virtuosos David Grisman, Mike Marshall, Chris Thile, Don Stiernberg, Andy Statman, Mike Compton, and Hamilton de Holanda at the Mandolin Symposium. Over the years his bluegrass roots have evolved into interests in Jazz, Classical and other World music. These musical directions led him to enroll in the Berklee College of Music in 2008.
Dominick has been involved with many projects over the years including The Brotet, The Deadly Gentlemen, The Grant Gordy Quartet, Noam Pikelny & Friends and a few other spontaneous acoustic groups. Whether writing a new piece, learning a tune, or performing with his confreres, Dominick will always share his love of music with others. [less...]
With string music tugging at her heart, Leslie decided to move to the mountains where there was sure to be no shortage of good pickers. Since the summer of 2009 when she moved to town, Leslie has played with some of the Colorado's most talented acts including Spring Creek Bluegrass Band, Bonnie and the Clydes, and many others. She is also an active member of Magnolia Row, another great Boulder-based group.
By day, Leslie teaches orchestra music in the Boulder Valley School District, where she nurtures and encourages the future generation of music lovers.
Leslie keeps The Railsplitters in time with her driving rhythm on the 1920s German upright which was restored at the Guarneri House in Grand Rapids, MI. [less...]