Smart Bets web extra: Balsam Range

Bluegrass is having a moment in Asheville. Or, more to the fact, Asheville bluegrass is having a moment in the music world, what with the Steep Canyon Rangers’ Grammy nomination and the success of bands like Town Mountain and Sanctum Sully who are gaining national attention.

Add Balsam Range to that list. The Haywood County-based quintet (guitarist Caleb Smith, banjo player Marc Pruett, fiddler Buddy Melton, bassist Tim Surrett and mandolin player Darren Nicholson) racked up a number of 2011 IMBA nominations and took home the song of the year award for “Train I Missed.”

The band recently teamed up with guitarist/bassist/singer-songwriter and Zac Brown Band founding member John Driskell Hopkins. (Zac Brown Band is also a Grammy nominee; its album, like the Rangers’, was recorded at Asheville’s Echo Mountain.) According to a press released, Hopkins realized that Balsam Range’s “authentic style and approach could bring his songs new life, and a vision for his record became clear.”

The local band spend a year working on Hopkins’ Daylight (set to release on Tuesday, Jan. 22), recording at the singer-songwriter’s home studio in Atlanta, Crossroads Studio in Arden, and the Zac Brown Band’s new Southern Ground Studios in Nashville for final engineering and mixing. Special guests include Brown himself on “I Will Lay Me Down,” Levi Lowrey on “How Could I?,” Joey Feek of Joey + Rory on “Bye Baby Goodbye,” Jerry Douglas plays dobro on “Runaway Train,” and Tony Trischka plays banjo on the title-track.

Seems like that project inspired Balsam Range to get to work on its own project. In a recent blog post, Nicholson writes, “Been rehearsing hard on these new Balsam Nation bonus tracks we’re recording for the nation.” (“The nation” does not refer to our country in their instance, but Balsam Range’s fan base aka Balsam Nation.) Nicholson adds, “The live album for Nation members will be recorded January 18 & 19 in Asheville, NC at The Altamont Theatre!”

Be part of history (or least an album) in the making: Balsam Range plays The Altamont on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 18 and 19 at 8 p.m. nightly. The Saturday show is sold out, but, at press time, tickets remain for for the Friday show. $18, available in advance here.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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