About The Grascals
Great musicians will always find a way to make good music, but for great musicians to make great music, they must find a bond – one that more often than not goes beyond the purely musical to the personal. For the Grascals, that bond has been forged at the intersection of personal friendships, shared professional resumes and an appreciation for the innovative mingling of bluegrass and country music that has been a hallmark of the Nashville scene for more than forty years. Whether they’re offering one of their original songs and instrumentals, reworking an classic like “Teardrops In My Eyes,” breathing new life into the Osborne Brothers’ “Leavin’s Heavy On My Mind” or interpreting bluegrass-country songwriter Harley Allen’s “Me And John And Paul,” the Grascals’ rare musical empathy gives them an unerring ear for just the right touch to illuminate each one’s deepest spirit.
For those who know them, the quick emergence of the Grascals comes as no surprise, for these are musicians whose roots reach back over more than two decades of bluegrass history, as their paths have crossed and re-crossed in bluegrass ensembles like the Osborne Brothers, Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time and the Sidemen. They trace, too, to Nashville’s larger musical community, where the Grascals have been able to draw on legends like Bobby Osborne, Lloyd Green, Paul Craft and more for songs and for performances in the studio and on stage. Thanks to those experiences and those friendships, the Grascals embody a profound grasp of and familiarity with country and bluegrass tradition that made them a natural choice for Dolly Parton to turn to for recording and tour support not long after the group was created.
Terry Eldredge’s soulful vocals and easygoing stage presence have earned him not only the loyalty of bluegrass fans and the appreciation of fellow bluegrass musicians, but the admiration of a stunningly wide variety of entertainers who have witnessed him fronting the Sidemen at Nashville’s world-famous Station Inn. The Indiana native began his career with first-hand experience of the music of an earlier generation of country stars, playing bass with durable Opry stars Lonzo and Oscar. He joined the Osborne Brothers in 1988, soon switching to guitar and adding a powerful lead and low tenor voice to the Brothers’ legendary trios. At almost the same time, he and other young Nashville band members created the Sidemen, establishing a regular Tuesday night gig at the Station Inn that continues to draw newcomers and stars alike. Eldredge took up the bass again when he joined Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time at the end of the 1990s, earning a 2003 IBMA nomination for Bass Player of the Year and contributing mightily to the ensemble’s success with dynamic tenor and lead vocals. During a hiatus from Lonesome Standard Time, he recorded and performed as a member of Dolly Parton’s Blue-niques. In addition to two solo albums for Pinecastle Records and albums by the Osborne Brothers, Cordle, Parton and the Sidemen, Terry’s recording credits include appearances on CDs by IBMA Hall of Honor members Benny Martin, Josh Graves and Chubby Wise, as well as rising young country star Dierks Bentley.
Few fiddle players have been seen – or heard – by more people than Jimmy Mattingly, thanks to a widely aired Dr. Pepper commercial that featured him accompanying his long-time employer, country superstar Garth Brooks. A member of Brooks’ band from 1995 until his retirement from the road, Mattingly played before millions and appeared on three of Brooks’ multi-platinum albums – but despite his success as a country player, his first love has long been bluegrass music. Raised in Leitchfield, KY, Mattingly played in numerous fiddle contests as a youngster, culminating in a 1981 U.S. Grand Masters victory, then joined progressive bluegrass pioneers Spectrum in 1981, remaining with the group until its dissolution in the middle of the decade. After stints with the Forrester Sisters and Steve Wariner (with whom he recently recorded), he joined Dolly Parton’s band in 1989, recording and touring with the Country Music Hall of Famer until 1993. It was during a break in Parton’s touring schedule that he joined the Osborne Brothers, where he became friends with Terry Smith and with Terry Eldredge, who would join him again in Parton’s Blue-niques in 2002 (Jimmy’s fiddle playing is featured on her new Live And Well CD and DVD as well as six other Parton Albums). His smooth, expressive style and his facility in both country and bluegrass contexts made him a favorite fill-in with the Sidemen and a natural for the Grascals.
Though he’s just celebrating his seventh year in Nashville, Canadian-born banjo player David Talbot is already one of the hottest commodities in bluegrass and beyond. A colleague of Eldredge’s with Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time for those same five years, he made a high-profile recording debut with his indispensable contributions to the group’s Grammy-nominated Murder On Music Row. David’s stellar, traditionally-based playing has been recognized by a diverse array of top artists, from IBMA award-winning instrumentalists like Aubrey Haynie and Bryan Sutton, who invited him onto their latest albums (including 2003’s Instrumental Album of the Year, The Bluegrass Fiddle Album) , to country star Reba McEntire (that’s his driving banjo on her recent hit, “I’m Gonna Move That Mountain”), country-turned-bluegrass favorite Marty Raybon, Americana kingpin Jim Lauderdale, new country singer Rebecca Lynn Howard and Dolly Parton, with whom he also appeared on high-profile late night television shows in late 2003. His supportive baritone and low tenor vocals round out the Grascals trio perfectly, while his quick yet inspired work in the studio has led him to amass dozens of recording credits within a remarkably short period of time.
Shared Indiana roots and a love for the Osborne Brothers’ harmonies first sparked a friendship between Eldredge and Jamie Johnson, but when the latter moved to Nashville at the end of the 1990s, the two quickly discovered a vocal blend that rivals bluegrass’s greatest sibling harmonies. Though he helped to found the Wildwood Valley Boys at the beginning of the decade, Jamie first drew attention to his soaring tenor voice as a member of the Boys From Indiana, with whom he performed in the mid 1990s. Stints with local bluegrass and country bands followed before he returned to the Wildwood Valley Boys, making his recording debut on their I’m A Believer (Rebel Records, 2000). Following his move to Nashville, he began to find success as a songwriter – he co-wrote the title cut of Bobby Osborne’s Where I Come From (OMS Records, 2002) – and as a singer, making his Opry debut as a member of Gail Davies’ band, joining the Sidemen in 2001, and contributing leads and harmonies to Bluegrass – The Little Grasscals: Nashville’s Superpickers. He has recorded with alternative country singer Trent Summar (on the Davies-produced Caught In The Webb) and with Ricky Van Shelton. More recently, Jamie made his first appearance at the legendary Ryman Auditorium when he was tapped to organize a supporting band for and sing harmonies with Skaggs Family Records recording artist Melonie Cannon.
Danny Roberts began playing guitar to back up his friend Jimmy Mattingly when the two were growing up on adjacent farms in Leitchfield, KY. Soon he was winning contests on his own as a guitarist and, eventually, mandolin player. In 1982 he co-founded the New Tradition, a dynamic, ground-breaking bluegrass/gospel group that toured the country for close to 20 years (the last ten on a full-time basis), recorded ten CDs, made “Seed Of Love,” the first bluegrass video to feature the banjo – it reached #1 on the TNN channel – appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, and helped to bring the bluegrass sound and gospel message to a new generation of fans. When the group dissolved in 2000, Danny went to work for Gibson Musical Instruments, where he rose to the position of plant manager at the company’s Original Acoustic Instruments luthiery. Still, he kept his hand in as a musician, giving workshops with mandolin colleagues like Sam Bush, Chris Thile and Bobby Osborne, making guest appearances with artists such as Marty Raybon, Larry Cordle and Melonie Cannon, and touring and recording with bluegrass/country veteran Ronnie Reno as a member of his band, the Reno Tradition, before reuniting with Mattingly in the Grascals in 2004.
Another veteran of the Osborne Brothers’ band, bassist Terry Smith grew up in North Carolina before moving to Nashville in his early teens. Beginning in a family band with his brother, Billy, and his parents – Hazel Smith, Terry’s mom, is a songwriter and renowned country music journalist – he graduated swiftly to stints with bluegrass and country legends Jimmy Martin, Wilma Lee Cooper and the Osborne Brothers. He also found time to pursue a separate career with his brother, recording a 1990 album for CBS that generated an early #1 video on CMT, following it with 1992’s Grass Section disc (made with friends and colleagues like Ronnie McCoury and Glen Duncan) and a 1996 Bill Monroe Tribute that included some of the Father Of Bluegrass’s last recorded appearances. In 1999, the brothers issued Voices Of The Mountain, with original songs that found a place in the repertoire of bluegrass favorites like the Del McCoury Band and the Lonesome River Band. Terry has worked as a staff songwriter for EMI and Major Bob Music, and recorded with Marty Raybon, Vern Gosdin, IBMA Hall of Honor member Kenny Baker and more. After a long tour of duty with Grand Ole Opry member Mike Snider, Terry joined the Grascals in 2004.
Though it is nominally a new group, the web of friendships, band memberships, recordings and personal appearances that binds the Grascals together has produced an ensemble of unsurpassed cohesion and focused artistic direction. Whether in the studio or on stage, their music both honors the past and forges into the future, bringing a breath of fresh, yet familiar air to a musical world that stands ready to welcome it.
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