Piney Woods Boys

Members of the Piney Woods Boys came of age in the 1970s at the tail end of a musical era. As teenagers, they sought out the “real sounds” of community music that could still be heard at family parties, dances, and churches. The musicians they learned from possessed a regional style of playing that pre-dated the Great Homogenization of the recording industry, before “old-time” and “bluegrass” split into two camps. Today you can hear that “real sound” in the Piney Woods Boys' music—Piedmont fiddle tunes, mountain gospel harmonies, and string band blues.

Three of the band members have played together in various combinations for 40 years or more. Along with Minnesota ace Matt Haney, they formed the Piney Woods Boys in 2012 to revisit the music that inspired their youth. With the taste and talent of seasoned musicians, the Piney Woods Boys now introduce the great canon of Southern bedrock music to a new generation.

Jim Collier has been playing old-time and bluegrass music on banjo, fiddle, guitar, autoharp and mandolin since his high school days in Raleigh.  Influenced by visits with Roscoe Holcomb and Gaither Carlton, he was drawn to the deep musical traditions of the mountains of North Carolina and Kentucky. As a teenager, Collier played in a string band with Arnold Watson, soaking up the rich musical legacy of Doc Watson’s family. With Wayne Martin, Collier enjoyed adventurous trips to visit elder musicians like Tennessee banjoist Virgil Anderson, whose mountaintop home was accessed by swinging bridge. With Margaret Martin, he was a founding member of the Tar Heel Hot Shots and also appeared on Prairie Home Companion with the string band Big Medicine. An electrical engineer by day, Collier also plays mandolin with the Red Squirrel Chasers of Missouri.

Wayne Martin spent his early childhood in Georgia, where family members sang shape-note hymns and played country music. As a high school student in Raleigh, he heard Collier’s string band play at a school function and realized his heart was in fiddling. He began a lifelong association with many old-time fiddlers and eventually learned from musicians in the mountains, Piedmont, and coastal regions of North Carolina. Martin recorded with the late musicians Etta Baker, A.C. Overton, Lauchlin Shaw, and Craig Johnson. He has produced influential recordings of traditional musicians including Bascom Lamar Lunsford, fiddler Marcus Martin, ballad singers Doug and Jack Wallin, and string musicians Joe and Odell Thompson. He also plays in the Happy Valley Pals along with his wife, Margaret Martin. Wayne is the executive director of the North Carolina Arts Council.

Matt Haney was introduced to bluegrass and old-time music by his parents in his home state of Minnesota. In 1969 he faced a fork in the road: meet friends at Woodstock or attend the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Haney chose Philly and saw Bill Monroe perform with Kenny Baker and Tex Logan. That led to more road trips in the 1980s--south to fiddlers conventions and bayou joints. He formed a lifelong interest in Cajun music, which he performed and recorded with Tracy Schwarz and the Midwestern band the Bone Tones. Haney's move to North Carolina has kept him in demand as a fiddler as well as a country-style steel guitarist, which may be easier to meet since his recent retirement from Sears.

Growing up in a church-oriented musical family in Greensboro, Margaret Martin switched to banjo upon transferring to the same Raleigh high school where Jim Collier’s motivational string band held forth. Later with husband Wayne, she played bass with 1930s-era WPTF performers Harvey Ellington and Sam Pridgen and formed the Southern Crescent Entertainers with Wayne, Jim Collier, and Bill Mansfield. With Wayne, she was a founder of the Raleigh-based PineCone music organization. Musical mentors include Piedmont banjo player A.C. Overton and guitarist Algia Mae Hinton. Recently retired from N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Margaret steers the Piney Woods Boys away from copperheads and ticks.

Subscribe to Piney Woods Boys