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The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys with special guest Old Salt Union

Sunday, May 19, 2019 @ 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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The first Midtown Bluegrass concert of this year features the power-house bluegrass band The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys (4:30-6 p.m.) and Old Salt Union (3-4 p.m.)! Both bands share an aesthetic that cuts through the noise of everyday life in the 21st century. Before the music gets started on stage, musicians of all ages and abilities are invited to jam together with facilitator Russell Johnson beginning at 2 p.m.

The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys were IBMA’s 2018 Emerging Artist of the Year, and they are at once exactly what you would expect and not at all what you would expect from a tattooed East Tennessee bluegrass outfit. No strangers to hard work, the boys are as much at home riding in their 1965 GM Tour bus as they are crawling underneath to fix it when it needs maintenance. They take pride in being ambassadors of their genre, and the group has brought their music from rural bluegrass festival stages to the rock clubs of Europe, with stunning results. Material for the group’s debut album Back To The Mountains was a combination of original songs and old numbers that honor the group’s mentors and bluegrass heroes. The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys’ passion for bluegrass is as clear as it is contagious. With a heavy touring schedule across the United States and Europe and recently signed record deal with the esteemed Rounder Records, the Boys are well on their way to becoming the quintessential bluegrass band of their generation. Despite all of their recent success, they maintain a humble perspective. The band members are CJ Lewandowski (mandolin), Jereme Brown (banjo), Josh Rinkel (guitar), and Jasper Lorentzen (bass). (Photo credit: Amy Richmond)

Old Salt Union is a string band founded by a horticulturist, cultivated by classically trained musicians, and fueled by a vocalist/bass player who is also a hip-hop producer with a fondness for the Four Freshmen. It is this collision of styles and musical vocabularies that informs their fresh approach to bluegrass and gives them an electric live performance vibe that seems to pull more from Vaudeville than the front porch. They won the 2015 FreshGrass Band contest and found the perfect collaborator in Compass Records co-founder and GRAMMY winning banjoist and composer Alison Brown, whose attention to detail and high standards pushed the group to develop into the foundation of something truly compelling in the roots music landscape. John Brighton (violin), Jesse Farrar (lead vocals, bass), Justin Wallace (mandolin), Ryan Murphey (banjo), and Graham Curry (guitar) combine their diverse musical backgrounds with pop melodies and harmonies into a coherent piece of work that carves out a road-less-traveled for the band in the now crowded roots music genre. (Photo credit: KellYeah Photography)

Pre-show Jam – All Ages Welcome

If you play guitar, bass, mandolin, fiddle, or banjo, or even if you don’t play an instrument and you just want to sing along, this jam is for you! Starting at 2 p.m., join us for a pre-show bluegrass jam – participapnts of all ages and abilities are welcome. This month’s jam facilitator is Russell Johnson, an award winning singer and songwriter who has performed in multiple bands throughout his career, including his current band, Diamond Creek. He has worn several different hats in the music business: singer, songwriter, producer, mandolinist, recording and sound engineer, band leader, and record label and studio owner. He is also the director of the Carolina Bluegrass Band at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Johnson grew up on a farm in rural Four Oaks, North Carolina, and his first exposure to bluegrass was from an older brother. Johnson got his first mandolin as a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1982, and his first “official” show was in August of 1989. A compelling songwriter, Johnson has charted more than 30 original songs, with 13 landing on the Bluegrass Unlimited National Bluegrass Survey, ​including four #1 singles for The Grass Cats.) The Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA) has nominated him three times for Songwriter of the year and as a producer, he has nine Top Ten CDs to his credit. As band leader and front man for two popular bands, Johnson has performed throughout much of the United States and Canada. In 1989, he formed New Vintage, and they went on to win the Pizza Hut International Bluegrass Showdown and the SPBGMA National Band contest, both in 1993. With this success they became a mainstay on the bluegrass festival circuit and charts for much of the ’90s. They recorded five projects, including three Top Ten CDs for Pinecastle Records. Johnson started The Grass Cats in 1997 with other local pickers as a “pick up band” to play small local events. When New Vintage stopped performing in October of 2000, he focused his efforts on The Grass Cats, and they released nine CDs together. Today, Johnson’s primary band is Diamond Creek. 

Parking and event information

The closest parking decks are Midtown Plaza Parking Garage One on Church Street and Midtown Plaza Parking Garage One on Market Street, across from the Harris Teeter. Because of construction, Church Street will only be accessible via Cardinal. Construction is blocking the intersection of St. Albans and Church and also blocking Church at the edge of the parking deck (so, you can only turn left into the deck and right out of the deck). There will be off-duty officers directing traffic the day of the event. Please note that the streets immediately adjacent to the park will be closed to through traffic during the concert. Download parking map for Coastal Credit Union Midtown Park

Bring your own picnics, chairs, and blankets; pets on leashes are welcome! No alcohol permitted – drinks will be available to purchase on-site (with proper i.d.).

This year’s series is sanctioned by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA). Support for this series also comes from The Cardinal at North Hills and Clancy & Theys.

The International Bluegrass Music Association, or IBMA, is the non-profit music association that connects, educates, and empowers bluegrass professionals and enthusiasts, honoring tradition and encouraging innovation in the bluegrass community worldwide.


Sunday, May 19, 2019
2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Event Category:


Coastal Credit Union Midtown Park
4011 Cardinal at North Hills
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