Billy Strings Plays Guest-Filled Show Without Bassist Royal Masat In Montana
The guitarist welcomed members of Kitchen Dwellers and fan Paisley Gray during the special show at Kettlehouse Amphitheater.
By Scott Bernstein Aug 11, 2022 • 11:30 am PDT
Billy Strings went on with his concert last night at Kettlehouse Amphitheater in Bonner, Montana despite the absence of bassist Royal Masat due to a family emergency. The guitarist and his bandmates performed in a variety of configurations to close a two-night stand at the venue and called upon special guests including Kitchen Dwellers members to pull off the unusual show.
Billy came on stage to tell the audience Royal Masat was called home unexpectedly to deal with a family emergency and explained the evening would be different. “But I’ve got my ten fingers, my breath, the rest of the boys, and all of you here with me, so we’re gonna go for it,” the guitarist added according to photographer Andy Tenille.
Strings went solo to start a night featuring an all-covers setlist with one exception. Billy played seven songs by his lonesome at the beginning of the first set including traditional tunes from the Doc Watson repertoire “Groundhog,” “Give The Fiddler A Dram,” “Whistling Rufus,” “Beaumont Rag” and “Black Mountain Rag.” The Michigan native was then joined by mandolinist Jarrod Walker for bluegrass tunes “Walk On Boy,” “Salt Creek” and “Nashville Blues.” The ensuing take on the traditional “Soldier’s Joy” saw Strings and Walker trade instruments as Billy played mandolin and Jarrod played guitar. Billy hadn’t performed the song in concert since August 8, 2021 at the Levitate Festival in Marshfield, Massachusetts.
The rest of Wednesday’s first set, besides the closer, saw the guitarist accompanied by bandmates Walker, banjoist Billy Failing and fiddler Alex Hargreaves. The four musicians began the segment with a rare rendition of Bill Monroe’s “Kentucky Waltz” and closed the sequence with their recently debuted take on the traditional “Maggie Walker Blues” inspired by Doc Watson’s version. Billy then asked if anyone in the audience was a bassist. Fan Paisley Gray answered the call to play bass for the “New River Train” that ended the frame. Strings had only performed the traditional tune once prior in February of 2019 while touring solo in support of I’m With Her.
Watch fan-shot video featuring “New River Train” with Paisley Gray below:
Strings emerged for the second set with banjo in hand solo versions of “The Cuckoo,” “Ol’ Rickard” and “Crawdad Hole” played clawhammer style. “Ol’ Rickard” was the lone original to make the setlist last night in Montana. Billy then brought out his guitar for solo takes on the traditional “Cocaine Blues” and The Beatles’ “Rocky Raccoon” before he went a capella to sing “And Am I Born To Die?” Next, Walker, Failing, Hargreaves and Kitchen Dwellers bassist Joe Funk accompanied the guitarist for a run of “Sitting On Top Of The World,” “Big Mon,” “There Is A Time” and “Katy Daley.”
Billy took a moment before performing “There Is A Time” to urge the audience to send its love to Masat and his family. The rest of Wednesday’s closing stanza saw the guitarist, his bandmates sans Royal and Joe Funk aided by guitarist Max Davies and banjoist Torrin Daniels from the Kitchen Dwellers. Strings and Daniels shared vocal duties on a cover of Danny Barnes’ “Pretty Daughter” to get the final segment of the evening underway. Torrin then led the ensemble through Kitchen Dwellers original “Covered Bridges” from the home state band’s self-titled 2019 LP. A take on Doc Watson favorite “Reuben’s Train” followed before Max Davies sang Bob Dylan’s “Tombstone Blues,” a debut for Strings. The musicians ended the special night with Béla Fleck’s “Whitewater” and the traditional “Little Maggie.”
The tour continues for Billy Strings tomorrow (Friday, August 12) in Troutdale, Oregon.
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Setlist (via BillyBase)
Set One: Brown’s Ferry Blues , Groundhog , Give The Fiddler A Dram  > Whistling Rufus  > Ragtime Annie , Beaumont Rag  > Black Mountain Rag , Walk On Boy , Salt Creek , Nashville Blues , Soldier’s Joy , Kentucky Waltz , Wild Bill Jones , Bound To Ride [4′, I’m Coming Back But I Don’t Know When , Manzanita , Maggie Walker Blues , New River Train 
Set Two: The Cuckoo , Ol’ Rickard , Crawdad Hole , Cocaine Blues , Rocky Raccoon , And Am I Born To Die? , Sitting On Top Of The World , Big Mon , There Is A Time , Katy Daley , Pretty Daughter  , Covered Bridges   , Reuben’s Train , Tombstone Blues   , Whitewater , Little Maggie 
- 1. Billy Strings solo on guitar
- 2. Billy Strings on guitar, Jarrod Walker on mandolin
- 3. Instrument switch up- Billy Strings on mandolin, Jarrod Walker on guitar
- 4. Full band (without Royal Masat)
- 5. Full Band (without Royal Masat) and Paisley Gray on bass
- 6. Billy Strings solo on clawhammer banjo
- 7. Billy Strings solo, a cappella
- 8. Full band with Joe Funk from the Kitchen Dwellers on bass
- 9. Full band with Joe Funk, Max Davies, and Torrin Daniels from the Kitchen Dwellers
- 10. Billy Strings and Torrin Daniels on vocals
- 11. Full band with Joe Funk, Max Davies, and Torrin Daniels from the Kitchen Dwellers
- 12. Torrin Daniels on vocals
- 13. FTP
- 14. Max Davies on vocals