By Kyle Lovern
October 31, 2013
At the 17-year mark, Blue Highway is indisputably one of the most esteemed and influential groups in contemporary bluegrass. The band’s nine exceptional albums and compelling live performances give proof to the stellar reviews, Grammy nominations, and numerous awards earned by the band since it first took the stage on December 31, 1994, with the same musicians that comprise Blue Highway today.
The band will be coming to Williamson on Thursday, November 21 at the Rose G. Smith Theater (the old Williamson High School building), presented by the Tug Valley Arts Council.
Local musicians Glen Simpson and Glen Dillon will be the opening act for Blue Highway. Simpson has recorded several CDs over the years of his own original material. Both grew up in the Williamson area. Dillon will be performing one song with Blue Highway. He is a longtime acquaintance with that band’s member Shawn Lane.
With a deep bench of virtuosic songwriters, vocalists and instrumentalists, Blue Highway’s hallmark is an unwavering commitment to the ensemble, the “democracy of the band” that makes Blue Highway a powerhouse.
Individually, Jason Burleson (banjo, guitar, mandolin), Rob Ickes (Dobro), Shawn Lane (mandolin, fiddle, vocals), Tim Stafford (guitar, vocals), and Wayne Taylor (bass, vocals) are masters of their respective roles. Together, in Stafford’s words, they are “a democracy in the best sense of the word”: five gifted artists selflessly merging their talents into a seamlessly brilliant group sound. As a result, the band moves from strength to strength, more mature and impressive with each new album.
Blue Highway has five gifted writers in its ranks. Rob and Jason turn out the heart-pounding instrumentals, while Shawn, Tim and Wayne give Blue Highway a depth of songwriting talent unprecedented in sixty years of bluegrass bands.
With ten highly-acclaimed albums to its credit, Blue Highway has garnered two Grammy nominations, a Dove Award, topped the Bluegrass Unlimited radio charts, and won numerous International Bluegrass Music Association awards. Refusing to coast on past glories, Blue Highway continues to push its music to new levels of accomplishment. Artfully balanced between tradition and innovation, it remains in the forefront of contemporary bluegrass music.
AWARDS & GRAMMY NOMINATIONS:
IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) Awards
•Song of the Year (2008-Through the Window of a Train)
•Gospel Recording of the Year (2004-Wondrous Love; 1997-God Moves in a Windstorm)
•Emerging Artist of the Year (1996)
•IBMA Album of the Year Award (1996-It’s a Long, Long Road; 2006, Celebration of Life: Musicians Against Childhood Cancer)
•Dobro Player of the Year (Rob Ickes) (2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996)
•Best Bluegrass Album (2004-Wondrous Love)
•Best Bluegrass Album (2005-Marbletown)
•Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album (2004-Wondrous Love)
•Gospel Group of the Year (Overall) (2005)
•Instrumental Group of the Year (2003)
•Dobro Performer of the Year (Rob Ickes) (2003)
•Bass Performer of the Year (Wayne Taylor) (2001)
•Guitar Performer of the Year (Tim Stafford) (2001)