By Kyle Lovern
November 20, 2013
At the 17-year mark, Blue Highway is indisputably one of the most esteemed and influential groups in contemporary bluegrass music.
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 Dec. 31, 1994, with the same musicians that comprise Blue Highway today.
The group will be performing in Williamson on Thursday night at the Rose G. Smith Theater (old Williamson High School building) starting at 7 p.m. They are being presented by the Tug Valley Arts Council.
Two local musicians, Glen Simpson and Glen Dillon, will be the opening act for Blue Highway. Simpson and Dillon have played together for many years. Simpson was a regular at the old Lock, Stock and Barrel restaurant in Williamson. He has recorded several CDs and has written several songs. Both are accomplished musicians.
Dillon, a friend of one of Blue Highway’s members, will join the ban for one song.
Blue Highway features songwriters, vocalists and instrumentalists and the group’s hallmark is an unwavering commitment to the ensemble, the “democracy of the band” that makes them 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. Ickes and Burleson turn out the heart-pounding instrumentals, while Shawn, Tim and Wayne give Blue Highway a depth of songwriting talent unprecedented in 60 years of bluegrass bands.
With 10 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, the band remains in the forefront of contemporary bluegrass music.
Addiional information for this story was provided by the Tug Valley Arts Council and the Blue Highway website.