The Lonesome River Band keeps winding on through the decades as a beacon of bluegrass, at the Grand Ole Opry, and all around the world.
The group – with Mike Hartgrove on fiddle, Barry Reed on bass, Brandon Rickman on guitar, Sammy Shelor on banjo, and Jesse Smathers on mandolin – will perform at 12:45 and 6:15 p.m. Friday, the second day of the 46th annual S.C. State Bluegrass Festival, which lasts from Thanksgiving through Saturday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
Talking by telephone last week from his home in Meadows of Dan, Va., west of Martinsville, Shelor said his two of his quintet colleagues hail from North Carolina, and two from Tennessee, and they enjoy meeting up for such festivals.
A Lonesome River member since 1990 and the leader since 2000, Shelor spoke about seeing so many changes in the music business, and “just in the last 15 years,” but that the group’s adapting “and finding ways to keep it going” help bluegrass remain a constant, a force on the scene, because “it’s real.”
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“The people who follow this music are very fanatical and responsive to it,” Shelor said, “and they support it heavily.”
Stressing the fortune of “Bluegrass Junction” airing around the clock as SiriusXM’s satellite radio channel 61, Shelor said artists in the genre gain exposure to more masses, of all ages.
“When people are searching for something real, they find bluegrass,” he said, “they hear it’s real things, and not any manufactured music.”
Laughing with joy at being a “50-something,” Shelor said he’s reassured by seeing “a lot of 20-somethings” and younger individuals including teens “playing great music” as well.
Having grown up listening to “old-time music,” including blues and bluegrass, Shelor said with his talent plucked through fingers on strings, “I try to incorporate” those sounds heard “when I was a kid,” never mind that playing “the banjo was not the cool thing in the ’70s.”
Lonesome River Band continues accruing accolades from the International Bluegrass Music Association, including Instrumental Recorded Event of the Year honors in 2012 for “Angeline the Baker,” and four nominations this year, for Song, Gospel Recorded Event, Instrumental Recorded Performance, and Banjo Performer of the Year categories, the latter of which Shelor has won five times.
In 2011, Shelor also earned the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. He called the actor-comedian who has given the banjo glory on stage for much of his life “very good for this industry and very good to me.” Shelor still marvels at how that prize, opened in a packet in the mail, “came with a check” for $50,000, “which was pretty wild.”
“The banjo got me that,” Shelor said.
Lonesome River’s latest CD, “Turn on a Dime,” released last fall by Mountain Home Music Company, triggered a No. 1 hit, “Her Love Won’t Turn On A Dime,” and the group’s first-ever music video, “Lila Mae.” Grateful for the label funding the concept video, Shelor said such a project shows a definitive effort “to walk with the younger generation.” He also said YouTube also has afforded many new points of outreach for people who run “bluegrass” in the search engine.
Shelor said although two years pass between the band turning out each album, the group, eager “to keep the momentum going,” started recording its next project Nov. 2. Plans were in place to finish that studio work on Friday last week, with hopes for release in March.
Agreeing that bluegrass stands as an art form so truly American, Shelor said that after World War II, the style gained popularity in such places as Japan.
He said Lonesome River played in France near the Alps, and “we had a really great crowd over there.” Band dates in Prague, Czech Republic, resulted in “three sold-out shows,” too.
Bluegrass also represents another badge of respect and values for its practitioners, Shelor said, calling himself, “a hillbilly who loves my job.”
He said the bluegrass community in general comprises “down to earth” folks, most of whom hail from “country and rural backgrounds.”
“You learn a way of life,” Shelor said, “and how to treat people.”
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 843-444-1764.
If you go
WHAT: 46th annual S.C. State Bluegrass Festival
WHERE: Myrtle Beach Convention Center, at Oak Street and 21st Avenue North (843-918-1225)
▪ Thursday – Flatt Lonesome at noon and 5:30 p.m., Al Batten & the Bluegrass Reunion 12:45 and 6:15 p.m., Spinney Brothers 1:30 and 7 p.m., Big Country Bluegrass 2:15 and 7:45, Feller & Hill and the Bluegrass Buckaroos 3 and 8:30, and the Grascals 3:45 and 9:15.
▪ Friday – Ted Jones & the Tar Heel Boys noon and 5:30 p.m., Lonesome River Band 12:45 and 6:15 p.m., Darin & Brooke Aldridge 1:30 and 7 p.m., Goldwing Express 2:15 and 7:45, Marty Raybon & Full Circle 3 and 8:30, and Old Friends (Crowe, Lawson & Williams) 3:45 and 9:15.
▪ Saturday – Malpass Brothers noon and 5:30 p.m., Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road Band 12:45 and 6:15 p.m., Little Roy (Lewis) and Lizzy (Long) Show 1:30 and 7 p.m., Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver 2:15 and 7:45, Jimmy Fortune Trio 3:15, (Jamie) Dailey & (Darrin) Vincent 8:30, and Jimmy Fortune with Dailey & Vincent 9:15.
HOW MUCH: Daily $40 general admission and $45 reserved seating for ages 16 and older, or $90 and $95, respectively, for a three-day pass; $20/$25 daily for ages 7-15, or $45/$50 for three-day pass; anyone 6 or younger free with paying parents; and $5 parking daily, but free for vehicles with handicap designation.
INFORMATION: 706-864-7203 or www.adamsbluegrass.com/South-Carolina-State-Bluegrass-Festival.html, and lonesomeriverband.com