Billy Strings Welcomes Mandolinist Chris Henry & Unearths Rarities At 2024 Tour Opener

Watch the complete single mic sit-in including Bill Monroe bust outs and a Henry original covered by the quintet in Asheville, North Carolina.

By Nate Todd Feb 20, 2024 11:49 am PST

Billy Strings kicked off his 2024 tour itinerary at ExploreAsheville.com Arena in Asheville, North Carolina on Friday. For the first of three concerts in Asheville, the guitarist welcomed mandolinist Chris Henry to kick off the second set which got underway with bust out.

The show began with a pairing of instrumental “Thirst Mutilator” and the second performance of new original, “In The Clear,” which Billy and the band — mandolinist Jarrod Walker, bassist Royal Masat, banjo player Billy Failing and fiddler Alex Hargreaves — debuted on New Year’s Eve 2023 in New Orleans.

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After “Highway Hypnosis” and “Hellbender,” the quintet premiered the traditional “Swannanoa Tunnel.” Strings last played the song solo at Nashville’s Station Inn on January 8, 2020 for a gap of 360 shows, as per BillyBase. BillyBase also has details on the geographically-appropriate song “Swannanoa Tunnel”:

The work song “Swannanoa Tunnel” is well known in the Appalachian mountains and was collected by folklorist Cecil Sharp in 1916. Western North Carolina Railroad’s Swannanoa Tunnel was the longest (1800 feet) of seven hand-dug tunnels through the Blue Ridge mountains to Asheville. The project, completed in 1879, took twenty years and cost at least 300 lives. The first recording was made on December 9, 1939 by Will “Shorty” Love under the title “Asheville Junction.” Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s 1949 recording is the most well known and the song is most associated with him.

Watch the full-band debut of “Swannanoa Tunnel” below:


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Billy Strings (See 719 videos)

The quintet then coupled “This Old World,” off 2021’s Renewal, and bluegrass standard “Black Mountain Rag.” The first set also included another recently debuted tune in the form of “Seven Weeks in County.” The first set came to a close with a pairing of the Danny Barnes-penned Bad Livers song, “Pretty Daughter” — inspired by Barnes collaborator Jeff Austin’s version — and “Turmoil & Tinfoil.”

Billy emerged for the second set with just mandolinist Chris Henry in tow. The pair delivered a single mic rendition of the Bill Monroe-popularized, “Midnight on the Stormy Deep.” Billy Strings has played the tune just five times with the last performance coming on March 30, 2019 — a 463 show gap.


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Billy Strings (See 719 videos) and Chris Henry (See 3 videos)

Keeping the single mic format, the band then joined in for another Bill Monroe bust out, this time offering “Can’t You Hear Me Callin’” — also last played in 2019. The single mic and Henry sit-in concluded with “West Dakota Rose.” The Henry original first performed by Chris Henry and the Hardcore Grass, which included Jarrod’s brother Cory, has existed in the Billy Strings live catalog since 2021, which Billy noted for the collaborative performance.


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Billy Strings (See 719 videos) and Chris Henry (See 3 videos)

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Billy Strings (See 719 videos) and Chris Henry (See 3 videos)

The quintet would go it alone for the rest of the second set which included the 2024 debut of the Mac Wiseman-popularized “Shackles & Chains” and closed with Renewal’s “Hide and Seek.” The band returned to encore with Bill Monroe’s bluegrass standard “Uncle Pen,” which saw Billy teasing Primus’ “Too Many Puppies” ahead of the song.

Billy Strings winter tour continues on Friday with the start of a three-night run in his homebase of Nashville. Winter tour livestreams are free for nugs.net subscribers. Find Billy’s full tour routing with ticket info below:

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Official Photos

Setlist (via BillyBase)

Set 1: Thirst Mutilator > In the Clear, Highway Hypnosis, Hellbender, Swannanoa Tunnel[1][2], This Old World > Black Mountain Rag, The Letter Edged In Black, Seven Weeks in County, Love and Regret, Pretty Daughter > Turmoil & Tinfoil

Set 2: Midnight On The Stormy Deep[3][4], Can’t You Hear Me Callin’[5][6], West Dakota Rose[5][7], Wild Bill Jones, Fire Line> Raleigh & Spencer, Shackles & Chains, Doin’ My Time > Red Daisy, Hide and Seek

Encore: Uncle Pen[8]

Notes:

  • 1. Last Played 2020-01-08 | 360 show gap
  • 2. FTP w/ full band
  • 3. Billy Strings on guitar with Chris Henry on mandolin around single mic
  • 4. Last Played 2019-03-30 | 463 show gap
  • 5. Full band with Chris Henry on mandolin around single mic
  • 6. Last Played 2019-10-03 | 394 show gap
  • 7. Billy shared with the crowd this often-covered tune is wrote by Chris Henry
  • 8. “Too Many Puppies” (Primus) tease when the band returned to the stage

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