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Bluegrass Music

The Banjo's Roots May Be Further East Than Even Africa

Jan 31, 2020
two people with banjos
Jim McGuire / Bela Fleck

Bluegrass is what drew Béla Fleck to the banjo. He heard the theme song to “The Beverly Hillbillies” and the “Dueling Banjos” as a kid, and said he felt compelled to pick up the instrument. He never put it down, and today is considered one of the world’s foremost banjo players.

Them Coulee Boys play The Castle Theatre Wednesday night
Scotify

Them Coulee Boys frontman Soren Staff wanted the Eau Claire, Wis.-based band’s third album to hang together thematically. Like many bands, their first album was everything they had written prior to forming; their second was mainly leftovers.

Shawn Hoeft of Bloomington believes her son Zac would have celebrated his 29th birthday this year had the unknown gunman who killed him been exposed to conflict resolution.

Good Morning Bedlam plays Nightshop in Bloomington Thursday night.
Good Morning Bedlam

Good Morning Bedlam is another young string band more inspired by — than tethered to — traditional bluegrass.

Old Salt Union plays the Castle Theatre Friday night
Jfeldman Photography

In the bluegrass world where technical prowess is highly valued, stand-up bassist and vocalist Jesse Farrar of Old Salt Union believes songwriting actually trumps instrumental virtuosity.

National Park Radio plays the Hallowed Hall in downtown Bloomington Sunday night
National Park Radio

Stefan Szabo came to professional music at the relative late age of his later 30s.

The founder of the folk/Americana band National Park Radio says working full-time in IT after college, then getting married and having two kids at 19 and 21 kept him from pursuing his love of music, at least full time.

Illinois Rail play the Bluegrass and Brass Summer Concert tomorrow
Illinois Rail

A steamboat cruise on the Illinois River seems an unlikely first gig for a gospel-tinged bluegrass band.

Gangstagrass performs Tuesday at The Castle Theatre in Bloomington
Sean Jamar

You might think bluegrass and hip-hop would mix like oil and water, but Gangstagrass banjoist Dan Whitener says the band attracts bluegrass fans being turned onto hip-hop for the first time, and hip-hop heads who get into bluegrass through Gangstagrass.

Daniel Watkins
Troy Phillips

Alt-folk and newgrass singer-songwriter Daniel Watkins felt somewhat isolated growing up in Henry, a town today of roughly 2,300 on the west side of the Illinois River about 45 minutes northeast of Peoria.

Way Down Wanderers, left to right, John Merikoski, Travis Kowalsky, John WIlliams, Austin Krause-Thompson, Collin Krause
Keith Cotton

The Peoria-based Way Down Wanderers are giddy their just released second full-length album “Illusions” is currently No. 3 on Billboard Magazine’s Bluegrass chart.

Sierra Hull
Sierra Hull

Sierra Hull fell in love with the mandolin almost immediately after her father taught her a few songs on the instrument.

Dave Simonett, at the piano, with Trampled By Turtles
David McClister

Dave Simonett of Duluth, Minnesota-based Trampled By Turtles is a talented musician, vocalist, and songwriter. He’s also got some game as a collector of vinyl.