I love Tony Rice, Norman Blake, and old-school bluegrass as much as the next guy. But no one can deny there’s an exciting new wave of modern bluegrass music sweeping the sonic landscape.
Many of these modern bluegrass bands don’t get the credit they deserve because they’re still relatively new on the scene.
But if you’re looking for world-class, modern acoustic and bluegrass music, you need look no further than these 5 modern bluegrass bands:
1. 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:
2. Railroad Earth
Railroad Earth is a bluegrass-influenced Americana band formed in Stillwater, New Jersey in 2001. The band’s music combines modern bluegrass with elements of folk, rock, country, jazz, Celtic and other Americana influences.
As a Dead Head, I also appreciate that Railroad Earth is carrying on the tradition of heavily improvisational, genre-spanning music laid forth by bands the Grateful Dead. You can get a feel for this in their Bluegrass Underground performance in the video above.
3. The Hackensaw Boys
Although the folk and bluegrass collective Hackensaw Boys has known a multitude of different formations, they have never compromised on quality. The traditional sound from the Appalachians is at the base of their music, but it is supplemented with a modern twist.
Overall, the band plays an eclectic blend of feel-good banjo music and bluegrass, with modern rock ‘n roll influences for an added burst of energy.
4. Billy Strings
Ok you got me, Billy Strings technically isn’t a band so much as a single performer. Still, it’s hard to deny that he’s revolutionizing the 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.
5. Watchhouse (formerly Mandolin Orange)
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 band currently consists of songwriter Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz, who are married to each other. Watchhouse has produced six albums of Marlin’s original works of American roots music.
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