1. Punch Brothers
It is hard to understate the influence that the Punch Brothers continue to have over the up and coming generation of acoustic musicians. For Bluegrass pickers between the age of 18-30, you can expect two pervasive narratives of how they came to love the genre.
The first is that they were raised with the music. They grew up listening to radio broadcasts from The Opry, or their parents had a Ricky Skaggs album on repeat in the car as they drove to school every morning. Some were raised running around the yard while their parents picked fiddle tunes on the porch, and some grew up listening to Bluegrass gospel songs at church.
The second narrative is the defining narrative of this generation's engagement with the genre of Bluegrass. It is the story of musicians who grew up with music other than Bluegrass, and then entered the genre because they heard this new band that didn't sound like anything ever before produced.
Ask any young Bluegrass musician if the Punch Brothers have had an influence on them. I believe that most will say yes. There are many notable albums coming out now that have echoes of that influence. Even our debut record is unabashedly influenced by them. Songs like "Celestial Navigation" and "Radio Waves" wouldn’t exist without the Punch Brothers.
One of my sustaining memories is the night that Jack Dunlevie and I went to see the Punch Brothers at The Vilar Center in Beaver Creek. We were both aspiring guitarists at the time, and I remember hearing them play the Josh Ritter song "Another New World". Near the end of the song, the band starting swelling together, mimicking the rise and fall of heavy surf with their instruments. The whole thing got louder and louder until it held at a moment of climactic tension. All at once, amidst the overwhelming noise, the band members ceased their playing, cutting off in perfect unison from the cacophony and leaving the room buzzing with the echoes of the music.
I still remember the feeling I had in that song's wake. It was a feeling I now hope to instill in my audiences.
2. The Lonesome River Band
Is the wider Colorado Bluegrass audience ready for this band? Absolutely. Based on my field research, however, no one out here knows about them. By field research, I mean that whenever Meadow Mountain plays a Lonesome River Band song, I make sure the audience knows it is written or popularized by them. Whenever I say into the mic "This is a Lonesome River Band song" in Colorado, I hear crickets.
There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that The Lonesome River band is a far cry from what I would call "Colorado Bluegrass". While Colorado grassers are known for pushing genre boundaries and often taking a more exploratory approach to the music, bands like The Lonesome River Band are known for their adherence to the traditional styling of Bluegrass. While there is certainly a traditional scene in Colorado, it is a minuscule slice of the collective Colorado Bluegrass Lover pie chart.
The other reason that no one in Colorado knows about them is that The Lonesome River band NEVER comes to Colorado. They are an East Coast band in the true sense of the word. They keep an extensive show schedule while never straying too far from those Blue ridge Mountains.
Because of this, I was introduced to the band only because George Guthrie brought the good word across the plains from Virginia when he moved out to Colorado. He told me I should check them out, and within weeks I had two records on repeat for the greater part of a year. Those two records were "Carrying The Tradition" and "Coming Back Home To You".
Those records have had an immense impact on how Meadow Mountain approaches Bluegrass. This band was our entrance into expansive world of Country Bluegrass, otherwise known as "Mash", and it has informed how we think about rhythm and the various roles of the instruments as we write songs.
A word of advice: the older the Lonesome River Band Record, the better.