Author: Ryan Burke (page 1 of 2)

2024 Festival Photos

Photos by Frank Baker

New Dismembered Tennesseans

The Ruta Beggars

The Alum Ridge Boys & Ashlee

Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper

Isabela March

Grounds and Crowd

Photos by Holly Cameron

the ruta beggars

Appealing to traditional and progressive acoustic music fans alike, The Ruta Beggars combine bluegrass and early swing to create a timeless act filled with intricate vocal harmonies, fiery instrumentals, and plenty of fun. They have been praised for their creative yet tasteful arrangements and charming performances, winning Thomas Point’s band competition in 2019. Since 2018 they have brought the joy of their live show to audiences across the US and Canada from festival stages to storied folk listening rooms and as support for legacy acts Lyle Lovett and Ricky Skaggs.

Best-of-friends since their inception, The Ruta Beggars are Micah Nicol (guitar), Sofia Chiarandini (fiddle), Ariel Wyner (mandolin), Trevin Nelson (banjo), and Noah Harrington (bass) who met while studying in Berklee College of Music’s American Roots Program.

The alum ridge boys & ashlee

Hard-Driving Old-Time Mountain Music from the Blue Ridge

Ashlee Watkins – guitar
Andrew Small – mandolin/fiddle
Trevor Holder – banjo
Rina Rossi – bass
AJ Srubas – fiddle

Mining the fertile common ground between bluegrass, early country music, and traditional mountain music, The Alum Ridge Boys & Ashlee are Virginia’s torchbearers of the old time sound. Their powerful harmony singing and energetic instrumentals have captivated audiences around the globe and helped the band to win many awards including blue ribbons in the old time band contest at the 85th Annual Old Fiddlers’ Convention in Galax, Virginia and the bluegrass band contest at the 51st Mount Airy Fiddlers’ Convention in North Carolina. Band members have won a slew of individual awards as well, including first prize in the 29th Annual MerleFest Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. Deep appreciation for traditional music enables the band to craft tasteful original songs and instrumentals that blend seamlessly alongside the classics. The Alum Ridge Boys & Ashlee cut no corners when it comes to real, hard hitting, old time country music – an approach that is gaining them loyal followers far beyond the reaches of their Virginia mountain home.

Interview with Alan Munde

Dreaming about winning the lottery is just that for most people – a dream. It became a reality for banjoist Alan Munde when he won the 2021 Steve Martin Banjo Prize. The windfall allowed him to go to the studio and record his thirteen original compositions and two Elliott Rogers’s penned tunes that make up this collection. Alan surrounds himself with many mandolin hugs and the sweet sounds from some of his favorite pickers on these new recordings. Excelsior is a collection of Alan’s original music written to showcase his strong remembrances of people or places he encountered in his 50-plus years of music.

For more information on Alan’s latest CD Excelsior:

Listen to the interview.

2023 Festival Photos

Photos by David Gray

Authentic Unlimited

Billy Hurt and Five Mile Mountain Road

New Dismembered Tennesseans

Seth Mulder & Midnight Run

Trey Wellington Band


Photos by Frank Baker

Authentic Unlimited

Billy Hurt and Five Mile Mountain Road

New Dismembered Tennesseans

Seth Mulder & Midnight Run

Trey Wellington Band

Buzz Jones Big Band August 9th

The 16-member ensemble is recognized as one of the best in its genre in the Middle-Atlantic States and has opened for Tony Bennett, The Temptations and Bob Newhart. John (Buzz) Jones a professor of music emeritus at Gettysburg College. He served as Director of Bands, Music Department Chair, Director of the Sunderman Conservatory of Music, and Director of the Jazz Ensemble. He also taught courses in theory and jazz history and coordinated the 2012 Gettysburg College England Program as a Senior Teaching Fellow at Lancaster University. Buzz led numerous summer tours abroad with the college jazz ensemble and the Buzz Jones Big Band performing at major festivals in Switzerland, Turkey, France, The Netherlands, and Italy.

Seth Mulder and Midnight Run


Hailing from the Gateway of the Great Smoky Mountains, Seth Mulder & Midnight Run began its journey in February 2015 at the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Made up of 5 like-minded musicians and graduates of college music programs, this group of friends and musicians created a band tied to the rich traditions of bluegrass music, yet one that offers a fresh approach to that “High Lonesome” sound. Each member draws from various influences, including bluegrass, country, and rock and roll.

They present a high-energy show filled with nostalgic entertainment, tight harmonies, and skillful musicianship, all built around their curated set list of original material and lost covers.

Favorites among bluegrass enthusiasts and non-bluegrass audiences alike; they keep the energy high and the audience on their feet. The band knows when they are on stage; it is not only about the music; it is about connecting with the audience and leaving them with a memory that will last a lifetime.

2022 was a big year for them. They completed their first studio album on Mountain Fever Records, “In Dreams I Go Back,” which debuted on the Billboard charts at number #7. In addition, their singles “My, My, My” ,”The Mountains are Calling”, “Carolina Line” and “One More Night” spent multiple weeks on the top ten charts.  “One More Night” was the named #4 most played song on bluegrass radio in 2021.

With over 300 dates a year, their high-energy style of music has taken them worldwide, including festivals across the United States, Canada, and multiple European tours.Together, Seth Mulder, Colton Powers, Ben Watlington, Max Etling and Max Silverstein create a powerhouse of music and a stage show you do not want to miss and that is why they are one of the most talked-about young bluegrass bands on the festival circuit today!

In a day and age where authenticity is everything, Seth Mulder & Midnight Run are the real deal.

Five Mile Mountain Road


Five Mile Mountain Road brings you old-time music with a fresh approach. From the old-time sounds of Charlie Poole and the fiddle music of Clark Kessinger, to first-generation Blue Grass music and original arrangements of western swing, to ragtime and jazz, Five Mile Mountain Road presents an authentic old-time experience reminiscent of the music once heard at dance halls and theaters in days gone by.

The origin of Five Mile Mountain Road came from the meeting of fiddler Billy Hurt, Jr. and guitarist Brennen Ernst while working in The Karl Shiflett and Big Country Show. Billy and Brennen immediately discovered a common love for old music, particularly old-time fiddle music, ragtime, and early jazz. Upon meeting banjoist Seth Boyd in 2015, the nucleus of Five Mile Mountain Road was formed.

Fiddlin’ Billy Hurt sets the pace with the fiddle. A journeyman old-time and blue grass fiddler from Franklin County, Virginia, Hurt is widely known as one of the finest fiddle players in the business. Brennen Ernst, a native of Lucketts, Loudoun County, Virginia, is a multi-talented instrumentalist and provides powerful lead and rhythm guitar and rousing piano playing to help shape the unique Five Mile Mountain Road sound. Franklin County native Seth Boyd comes from a well-known musical family and drives the music with his expertise on multiple styles of old-time banjo. Caleb “Duke” Erickson from Rockford, Illinois, also plays rhythm guitar, along with Travis-style and flat-picking lead guitar. J. C. Radford, also a Franklin County native, is an accomplished bass player and writer of the band’s theme song “Five Mile Mountain Road”. All the members of the band contribute vocals and also write original material that help make up the band’s repertoire.

The band records for the Patuxent label. Five Mile Mountain Road preserves old-time music and pays homage to their heroes, while still adding their unique perspective.

Tray Wellington Band


Growing up on Flint Hill Rd., musician Trajan “Tray” Wellington was destined to be attracted to the 5-string banjo. Tray’s love for music bloomed at an early age while he listened to his grandpa play diverse styles of music.

He didn’t start playing stringed instruments until he received his first electric guitar at age 13. Soon, he became interested in learning how to flat pick guitar, which led him to hear the banjo for the first time. His interest piqued, he began practicing, and his playing and musicianship have since flourished.

From learning traditional bluegrass to studying diverse genres such as jazz, progressive bluegrass, blues, rock, and more, Tray has gone on to play with some of the most accomplished musicians in the world. Before reaching the age of 21, he has received a number of awards and accolades, including two awards from IBMA — 2019 IBMA Momentum Instrumentalist of the Year and 2019 Momentum Band of the Year (with Cane Mill Road).

In 2019 he ventured out to start his own project which started with recording his first EP “Uncaged Thoughts” which was recorded, and co-produced by banjo legend Scott Vestal. From there he decided he wanted to start his current band Tray Wellington Band which currently features Josiah Nelson, Nick Weitzenfeld, and Katelynn Lowe. The band has performed at many premier festivals, and venues across the country including a set at the Red Hat Amphitheater during the IBMA World of Bluegrass Street Fest in 2021. In 2020, Tray signed to Mountain Home Music Company where he plans to release his first full length solo album in 2022. Tray has been featured on several TV shows including an episode of David Holt’s State of Music, as well as a 2022 feature on Kamau Bell’s CNN show United Shades of America.

Tray is an experienced teacher of the banjo as well. Tray teaches many private lessons, as well as has taught at many premier camps including MidWest Banjo Camp, Augusta Heritage Week, and assistant teaching at the 2019 Bela Fleck Blue Ridge Banjo Camp.

Tray’s playing has drawn the attention of many greats in the business who have helped to bring out the best of Tray’s musicianship, and who have encouraged him to continue growing to become one of the best players in the industry.

Authenic Unlimited


Authentic Unlimited Band is compiled of three former members of Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver—Jerry Cole on bass and vocals, Eli Johnston on banjo and vocals, and Stephen Burwell on fiddle, mandolin extraordinaire and two-time IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year—Jesse Brock, and young, upcoming guitarist and vocal powerhouse—John Meador. AU is an esteemed group that has been deeply rooted and well educated in the realm of professional bluegrass music. The group has been extremely blessed to work under some of the biggest names in the business.