Live Review: The Lil Smokies @ 9:30 Club — 3/7/20

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The Lil Smokies jam on stage at DC’s legendary 9:30 Club, March 7, 2020. (Photo by Ari Strauss)

The Lil Smokies had March 7 circled on their calendar for quite some time. For several months, the progressive bluegrass band from Missoula, Montana, anxiously anticipated stepping onto the stage at DC’s legendary 9:30 Club for the very first time.

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Live Review: Trampled by Turtles @ Baltimore Soundstage — 2/22/20

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Trampled by Turtles performs at Baltimore Soundstage on Feb. 22, 2020. (Photo by Casey Vock)

What separates one band from the next might be the degree to which it challenges itself within the confines of whatever genre it is pigeonholed — and exercising creativity while respecting particular forms and traditions of your craft isn’t always easy.

For going on two decades, Duluth, Minnesota-based Trampled by Turtles has earned a reputation in the studio and on the road for testing the upper limits of bluegrass power and tempo while simultaneously honing the sweetest harmonies to ever come out of the Zenith City.

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Live Review: Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives @ The Birchmere — 2/27/20

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Marty Stuart performs at The Birchmere on Feb. 27, 2020. (Photo by Rashad Polk)

If you have even the slightest interest in country music, you owe it to yourself to see Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives. The Fabulous Superlatives — “Cousin” Kenny Vaughan on guitar, “Professor” Chris Scruggs laying down the bass, and “Handsome” Harry Stinson keeping the beat on the drums — are an all-star team of Americana players. Marty is a former child prodigy who was already playing professionally with bluegrass legend Lester Flatt as a teenager.

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Preview: The Lil Smokies @ 9:30 Club, 3/7/20

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The Lil Smokies (Photo courtesy IVPR)

Progressive bluegrass band The Lil Smokies released of their third studio album, Tornillo, last month. Recorded at Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas, with producer-engineer Bill Reynolds (The Avett Brothers, Band of Horses, Midland) Tornillo is a focused and refined representation of the sound The Lil Smokies have become known for, Live For Live Music deeming the release “…an album with a point to make.”

The Lil Smokes stare a bill with Joe Pug at 9:30 Club on Saturday, March 7.

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Live Review: Sierra Hull @ Strathmore Music Center — 2/13/20

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Sierra Hull (Photo by Gina Binkley)

In her second appearance at the Strathmore Music Center, mandolin virtuoso Sierra Hull and her ultra-talented band recently opened for ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro. The former child prodigy, who recorded her first album at the age of 11, packed a lot of variety into her set, with vocal and instrumental numbers, as well as solo pieces where she accompanied herself on the acoustic guitar.

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Live Review: Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt (of Leftover Salmon) @ City Winery — 2/11/20

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Vince Herman of Leftover Salman performs at MerleFest 2017 on April 28, 2017. (Photo by cp_thornton)

Before Vince Herman and Drew Emmitt took the stage at City Winery, they were preceded by a brief reading from Tim Newby’s book, Leftover Salmon: 30 Years of Festival. The reading detailed the earliest origins of America’s premier “polyethnic Cajun slamgrass band,” (a term which, Vince joked, “has really pigeonholed us”), when Vince and Drew met in 1985. Over the next few years, Vince would play guitar in the Left Hand String Band, and Drew played several instruments, especially the mandolin, in the Salmon Heads.

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Live Review: Hawktail @ Songbyrd Music House — 2/7/20

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Hawktail (Photo by Jody March)

String band music is often equated, at least in contemporary America, with bluegrass, but this is far from the whole story. Bluegrass only emerged in the 1930s (at the earliest), while string music is much, much older. The term “old-time” is used to describe music with even deeper roots in the 19th century (and sometimes even further back in history). It is old-time music, with its connection to the more distant past and world folk music, that the instrumental quartet Hawktail plays.

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