Looking for a guide to the best songs and bands in the modern bluegrass or “newgrass” scene? You’re in the right place.
It’s an amazing time to be a bluegrass fan because there are tons of amazing bands releasing new music. However, there are actually so many that it can be hard to keep up with!
The following list will give you a kickstarter on some of the best modern bluegrass songs out there today. You may recognize some names, but I guarantee you’ll find plenty of new songs and bands to check out by perusing the list below.
Without further ado, let’s jump into The 20 Best Modern Bluegrass & Newgrass Songs:
If the Moon Never Sees the Light of Day – Lonesome River Band
The Lonesome River Band is one of my favorite American contemporary bluegrass bands. The band is quite prolific and has released 15 recording projects since its formation in 1982. My favorite song of theirs is “If the Moon Never Sees the Light of Day” (above).
Last of My Kind – Jason Isbel
When I moved to a mountain town for college and felt both alone and excited for a new start, this song was always on my mind. It really speaks to anyone who has ever felt misunderstood or lost in life. I was reminded of it recently when it played in the outro of an episode of Yellowstone (the incredible new Kevin Costner show).
Nellie Kane – Hot Rize
Nellie Kane has all the great bluegrass themes: new love, cross-country travel, lifelong devotion, etc. In my opinion, the song and Hot Rize more broadly are extremely underrated for their awesome contributions to modern bluegrass music.
Restaurant Girl – The Hackensaw Boys
The Hackensaw Boys bring their unique blend of bluegrass, folk, and rock together to create this awesome song.
California – The Lil Smokies
The Lil Smokies formed in the town where I now live: Missoula, Montana. However, they’ve quickly grown to become popular across America and now tour all over the country. I’ve seen them live and it’s always an amazing time hearing their new bluegrass songs and their takes on old classics.
Mighty River – Railroad Earth
Railroad Earth is one of the “jammier” modern bluegrass / newgrass bands – honoring the tradition of the Grateful Dead while also staying true to the roots of Appalachian music.
Don’t Lie – Greensky Bluegrass
Greensky Bluegrass is a five-piece American bluegrass/rock band founded in Kalamazoo, Michigan in mid-2000. The band has evolved over the years, growing from 3 to 5 members, adding electric effects, and touring with a full light show.
Endless Highway – Alison Krauss
Alison Maria Krauss is an American bluegrass-country singer and musician. She entered the music industry at an early age, winning local contests by the age of 10 and recording for the first time at 14. She signed with Rounder Records in 1985 and released her first solo album in 1987.
Krauss has released fourteen albums, appeared on numerous soundtracks, and sparked a renewed interest in bluegrass music in the United States
Some Early Morning – Dan Tyminski
Dan Tyminski is an American bluegrass composer, vocalist, and instrumentalist. He is a member of Alison Krauss’s band Union Station, and has released three solo albums. My favorite is his 2008 album Wheels.
Dust in a Baggie – Billy Strings
It’s hard to deny Billy String’s influence in revolutionizing the modern bluegrass scene.
As a young guitar virtuoso, Billy has breathed new life into songs by classic bluegrass artists like Doc Watson and Tony Rice. He also has a number of excellent original songs which you can hear in the video above.
Take This Heart of Gold – Mandolin Orange (now Watchhouse)
Formerly known as Mandolin Orange, Watchhouse is an Americana/folk duo based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I had the pleasure of seeing them live (when they were still Mandolin Orange) and can vouch that it was an incredible show. I highly recommend getting tickets if Watchhouse is touring near you.
The above song is from one of their earlier albums when the band was still known as Mandolin Orange.
Blue Trail of Sorrow – Alison Krauss & Union Station
Alison Krauss was invited to join the band with which she still performs, Alison Krauss and Union Station, and she released her first album with them as a group in 1989.
In addition to Krauss, the combined singing and guitar-playing talents of Dan Tyminski and Ron Block make Union Station one of the biggest powerhouse groups in all of modern bluegrass music.
Toward the Fray – The Infamous Stringdusters
The Infamous Stringdusters are a progressive acoustic and modern bluegrass band. They describe themselves as a “Grammy Award Winning Jamgrass Quintet.”
The band first emerged in 2006 with the limited release of a five-song extended play CD titled The Infamous Stringdusters. This was followed in 2007 by their first album Fork in the Road. Both of these were on Sugar Hill Records.
The band just released a new album Toward the Fray, written entirely in response to the events of 2020. You can check the album out on Amazon:
Wagon Wheel – Old Crow Medicine Show
Of course, any mention of modern bluegrass music has to include Wagon Wheel. Sure, it’s somewhat overplayed at this point, but you have to respect how many people it helped introduce bluegrass music to.
Love it or hate it, Wagon Wheel was a key part of the modern bluegrass revival.
Colorado Bluebird Sky – The String Cheese Incident
The String Cheese Incident (or SCI) is an American band from Crested Butte and Telluride, Colorado, formed in 1993. The band is composed of Michael Kang (acoustic/electric mandolin, electric guitar, and violin), Michael Travis (drums and percussion), Bill Nershi (acoustic guitar, lap steel guitar, and electric slide guitar), Kyle Hollingsworth (piano, organ, Rhodes, and accordion), and Keith Moseley (bass guitar), and, since 2004, Jason Hann (auxiliary percussion).
Their music has elements of bluegrass sounds, as well as rock, electronica, calypso, country, funk, jazz, Latin, progressive rock, reggae, and psychedelia. All members write original compositions and sing.
River’s Rising – Leftover Salmon
I just found these guys after seeing a Facebook video of one of their members, Andy Thorn, playing banjo for a fox on top of a mountain in Colorado. Come on – it doesn’t get much more bluegrass than that.
Old Number 7 – The Devil Makes Three
The Devil Makes Three is an Americana band from Santa Cruz, California, United States. The group blends bluegrass, old time, country, folk, blues, jazz, and ragtime music.
The group’s members are guitarist Pete Bernhard, upright bassist Lucia Turino, and guitarist and tenor banjo player Cooper McBean.
Rye Whiskey – Punch Brothers
Punch Brothers is an American band consisting of Chris Thile, Gabe Witcher, Noam Pikelny, Chris Eldridge, and Paul Kowert. Their style is unique for its fusion of bluegrass spontaneity with the precision of classical music.
When You Come Back Down – Nickel Creek
Chris Thile of Punch Brothers fame is also a member of Nickel Creek.
The band also consists of siblings Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins. Formed in 1989 in Southern California, the group released six albums between 1993 and 2006.
Cumberland River – Dailey & Vincent
Dailey & Vincent is an American bluegrass music group composed of Jamie Dailey, Darrin Vincent, Aaron McCune, Wesley Smith, Patrick McAvinue, Shaun Richardson, Bob Mummert, Gaven Largent, and Blaine Johnson.
Their song “I’ll Leave My Heart in Tennesse” was recently selected to be an official song of the state of Tennessee.
Looking For More Great Bluegrass Music?
Check out the following articles for more great bluegrass music: