Sturgill Simpson is a modern day outlaw, doing all he can to resist the status quo while maintaining below-the-radar, genre defying superstardom. Prior to 2020, Simpson had already released four albums and helped produce Tyler Childers’ Purgatory and Country Squire.
If that wasn’t enough, Simpson shook the world as he got back to the basics of country music with the October release of Cuttin’ Grass – Vol. 1 (Butcher Shoppe Sessions) and Cuttin’ Grass – Vol. 2 (Cowboy Arms Sessions) in December. A native of the bluegrass state, Simpson is a longtime bluegrass fan and had been waiting to put together this dual masterpiece for a while.
Despite strong origins as mainstream country music, bluegrass has definitely declined in popularity over the years. With these two albums, Simpson has reintroduced bluegrass as a modern subgenre of country, but he isn’t the only person bringing back acoustic guitar picking. If you didn’t like the new albums, you’re crazy. If you loved the new albums as much as anyone else with reasonable music taste did, here are some modern artists and bands with heavy bluegrass influences you should check out too.
Billy Strings is the future of bluegrass music, and is one of the leading artists bringing the genre to larger audiences. At only 28 years old, the Michigan born guitar prodigy has already released three albums, an EP, and garnered a devout following of fans across the world.
Introduced to bluegrass at a very early age by his stepfather, Strings has also been influenced by rock musicians such as Jimi Hendrix. One of the best guitar pickers in the industry right now, Billy Strings appeals to listeners of all genres, and if you liked the Sturgill Simpson albums, his music is a must listen.
“Meet Me at the Creek” – Turmoil and Tinfoil (2017)
“Away From The Mire” – Home (2019)
“Watch It Fall” – Home (2019)
Billy Strings also has a pretty sick cover of Post Malone’s “Circles” with Sierra Hull on YouTube.
Trampled by Turtles
Formed in Duluth, Minnesota in 2003, Trampled by Turtles was made up of musicians with no experience playing bluegrass. Eight albums, a live album, an EP, and a number of singles later, the band has amassed a huge following and played on stages as big as Lollapalooza and Coachella.
They also have a number of bluegrass style covers of classic rock songs, such as “Ripple” by the Grateful Dead and the Tom Petty classic “Wildflowers.” Whether you’re looking for fast paced picking or slowed down ballads, Trampled by Turtles can do it all.
“Wait so Long” – Palomino (2010)
“Whiskey” – Songs from a Ghost Town (2004)
“The Middle” – Life is Good on the Open Road (2018)
Boy Named Banjo
Boy Named Banjo’s whole catalog may not be purely bluegrass, but it includes a number of great bluegrass songs and the genre’s influence on the rest of their music is obvious. The Nashville based band has two albums, an EP, and a couple of singles under their belt, and although they have only released two singles since 2016, they have announced through social media that new music is on the way for 2021. B
oy Named Banjo’s formation began in 2011 when two of the members started playing together in high school, and after time at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, the band has added new members to the group and hit the road touring, playing on stages as big as Bonnaroo.
“Good Feel” – Long Story Short (2014)
“Stumblin’ Through the West” – Lost on Main – EP (2016)
If you aren’t familiar with The SteelDrivers, then you might have at least heard of one of their co-founders, Chris Stapleton. Stapleton only stayed with the band for two albums, but The SteelDrivers have managed to continue releasing incredible music, despite Stapleton’s absence and a number of personnel changes.
Beginning with their debut self-titled album The SteelDrivers in 2010, the band has released five spectacular albums, including 2020’s Bad For You. They have been able to stay true to their bluegrass sound, and have been a staple on the scene for over a decade at this point.
“Ghosts of Mississippi” – Reckless (2010)
“If It Hadn’t Been For Love” – The Steeldrivers (2008)
“I Choose You” – Bad For You (2020)
Another Michigan based act, Greensky Bluegrass formed in Kalamazoo 2000, and since have found success as a bluegrass/rock act known for their live performances. One of the best in the bluegrass business, there is no shortage of great music from these guys. They have released seven albums and six live albums since 2004.
“Past My Prime” – Shouted, Written Down & Quoted (2016)
“What You Need” – All for Money (2019)
“Forget Everything” – If Sorrows Swim (2014)
If you like these suggestions, there are a number of other bands releasing great bluegrass music out there too. The Travelin’ McCourys, Sierra Hall, Balsam Range, Special Consensus, Sister Sadie, Town Mountain, Steep Canyon Rangers, Molly Tuttle, Old Salt Union… just to name a few.
With Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers’ recent releases, bluegrass is finally reemerging as a popular subgenre of country music. With the recent passing of bluegrass great Tony Rice, one of the greatest musicians of all time, it is a good thing people are still out there carrying on the tradition.