Top 10 Bluegrass Bands – As picked by Honeywagon (Part 2)
In Part 1 of this blog, we introduced you to some of our favorite bluegrass bands. The first 5 bands all lie on the “more traditional” end of the bluegrass spectrum. In this blog, our selections will run a bit more towards the “modern” or “newgrass” sounds (as well as highlighting a couple traditional sounding bands that are working a bunch these days…
6) The Del McCoury Band. Yet another alumni of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, Del McCoury originally hailed from York, PA. Although he was reasonably successful as a sideman and solo performer, Del McCoury really hit on something big when he had his sons join his band in the 1980s. Since that time the Del McCoury band has gone on to win 31 IBMA awards, and two Grammys! With a voice that is somewhat reminiscent of Dr. Ralph Stanley’s voice you should do yourself a favor and check out the Del McCoury band! Listen to the Grammy winning “Streets of Baltimore” HERE.
7) Old and In The Way. Although this band was really only active for a couple of years in the early 1970’s they made the cut because they were really the first bluegrass group that Mo ever heard! Featuring an all star lineup that included Jerry Garcia (guitarist of Grateful Dead), Peter Rowan, David Grisman, Vassar Clements, and others, Old and In The Way had a loose, improvisational style that epitomized the West Coast Bluegrass sound. On their self-titled 1975 recording, Old and In the Way covered a version of the Rolling Stone’s tune “Wild Horses”. This may be among the first bluegrass covers of a popular rock and roll tune. (Honeywagon also recorded this same song on our album “Paint It Blue”). Listen to Old and In The Way playing “Wild Horses” HERE.
8) Rhonda Vincent and the Rage. It’s hard to find any beef with Rhonda Vincent’s near-perfect singing. She’s so good that the IBMA voted her “Female Vocalist of the Year” for 7 consecutive years from 2000 through 2006! Rhonda Vincent began her bluegrass career as a child in her family band (The Sally Mountain Show). That family band also featured Rhonda’s brother Darrin Vincent who is half of the highly successful bluegrass duo “Dailey and Vincent”. Rhonda attempted a careen in contemporary country music but success really didn’t find her until 2000 when she returned to her bluegrass roots with the release of her album “Back Home Again”. Listen to her performing “Drivin’ Nails in my Coffin” HERE.
9) The Punch Brothers. The quintessential newgrass band features some of the most creative and talented younger players on the scene. American Songwriter magazine called this group “A 21st century version of the Bluegrass Boys.” Chris Thiele, the lead vocalist and mandolin player, has molded this group into a real genre-busting force. Their most ambitious performance was of a 40 minute suite in four movements that was premiered at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Listen to their song “Dark Days” that was featured on the “Hunger Games” movie soundtrack HERE.
10) Steve Earle. Although he is better known for his alt-country hits, Steve Earle released an amazing bluegrass record “The Mountain” (recorded with the Del McCoury band) in 1999. Featuring songs such as “Carrie Brown” and “Harlan Man” Steve Earle’s haunting approach to this American musical art form is unparalleled in it’s raw, emotional content. Listen to Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band performing “Carrie Brown” HERE.
There are many, many other bands that we have egregiously omitted from this list such as, Dailey and Vincent, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Nickel Creek, The Greencards, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Michael Cleveland, Ironhorse, Hayseed Dixie, and the list goes on and on. Honeywagon would just like to thank all these wonderful and talented musicians for fighting the good fight and in the immortal words of Mr. Ricky Skaggs, “Country rocks, but Bluegrass RULES!”