Bluegrass Corner

Great January Bluegrass

Three great bluegrass music opportunities will be in San Diego to kick off the first month of 2018.

The Hillbenders. The Hillbenders is one high-octane bluegrass band out of Springfield, Missouri, performing and delighting crowds since 2008. They are Compass Records recording artists with multi record releases. The band has recently taken the music world by storm with its bluegrass redo of the Who’s classic rock opera Tommy. The Hillbenders version was released on Compass as Can You Hear Me. The group recently recorded a live version of their Tommy opera on Sirius radio.

The band is Nolan Lawrence on lead vocals and mandolin, Jim Rea on guitar, his cousin Gary Rea on bass, Mark Cassidy on banjo, and Chad “Gravy Boat” Graves on Dobro. The Hillbenders are one of the few bluegrass groups that recognize their ability to bridge the gap between the common music consumer and the bluegrass genre, selecting material that defies any hillbilly stigmas. With their widely varied influences, they are trying to bring to bluegrass songs that unify. “We wanted to pair bluegrass with the other music we grew up with: rock ‘n’ roll!” says the Hillbender’s Nolan Lawrence.
The Hillbenders have toured extensively and have been very well reviewed. Here’s a sampling:

“Six months ago, few had heard of the Hillbenders. Today, they are garnering more press for their new release [Can You Hear Me] than most bluegrass bands attract in a decade.”

–Country Standard Time by Donald Teplyske.

“…it’s probably unfair to weigh how much more texture, and dynamics, and flair guitarist Jim Rea, mandolinist Nolan Lawrence, dobro player Chad Graves and banjo player Mark Cassidy add, by comparison to all of Pete Townshend’s overdubs, the ultimate result is that the Hillbenders’ version is arguably even more epic. And what more could you possibly want from a rock opera? That probably explains why Townshend has given his blessing to the album.”

New York City Music Daily featured review.

The Hillbenders will be at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido on Sunday, January 21 for a 7pm performance. You can expect to hear great, hard-driving bluegrass and no doubt some of their Can You Hear Me release. For tickets and info visit:

Special Consensus. Anchored by outstanding banjo player Greg Cahill, Special Consensus is one of the most respected and long-asting top-level bluegrass bands in the U.S. The band will soon celebrate its 40th anniversary and its 18th record release, including its, released in 2012, which garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album. In addition to band leader Greg Cahill, who sings lead and baritone vocals, Special Consensus is Rick Farris on guitar, lead, high baritone, and tenor vocals; Dan Eubanks on bass and lead, baritone, and bass vocals; and Nick Dumas on mandolin and singing lead, baritone, and tenor vocals. The band’s sound is rock solid and powerful, traditional bluegrass as good as it gets.

Special Consensus will be appearing for the San Diego Bluegrass Society in a free concert (donations requested) on Friday, January 26, 2018 at the La Jolla Christian Fellowship Church at 627 Gentner Street, La Jolla Ca. 92037. Doors open at 7:15pm; MohaviSoul opens at 7:30pm, Special Consensus at 8 pm. Visit: for more info.

Peter Rowan. Peter Rowan has done it all. He was a “bluegrass boy,” playing and writing bluegrass music with the father of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe. He performed and wrote some of the classic material, along with the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, for the seminal Old and in the Way, a 1970’s all acoustic bluegrass release that is the second highest selling bluegrass album ever, only after the sound track from O’ Brother Where Art Thou. Peter Rowan also has an extensive career anchoring his own bands over the years. A true living legend, Peter Rowan can deliver traditional bluegrass with the vocals and chops of the best, and he is also known for going off center to perform all kinds of music, from reggae to Indian in a bluegrass style.

Peter Rowan will be at AMSD Concerts at Sweetwater Union High School, 2900 Highland Avenue, National City, CA 91950 on Friday, January 12 for a 7:30 performance. For tickets and info visit AMSD on the web at:

  • Categories

  • Archives