You won’t find a lot of modern country artists playing this style of music, and that’s honestly okay, because Billy Strings has it pretty much covered. Tyler Childers and Sturgill Simpson sometimes dip into the realm of Bluegrass, but there’s no one that specializes in it more than William Lee Apostol, A.K.A. Billy Strings.
He showcased his talent and love for the arguably obscure genre this past weekend on CBS’s Saturday Sessions, which aims to expose audiences to music they’ve likely never heard before. Even if viewers that tuned in had heard of bluegrass style country music, they surely had never heard it like this before.
Ahead of the 66th Annual Grammy Awards, CBS paired up two Grammy nominated artists in Billy Strings (singer/songwriter, who won a Grammy in 2021 for Best Bluegrass Album) and Chris Thile (mandolin player/composer, who has 4 Grammy wins himself) to perform a set of songs together, and it was an absolute masterclass. It was the first time that the two “picking professionals” had played together, which is wild considering how much chemistry the pair had during their performance.
Billy Strings and Thile played through three different classic bluegrass pieces, some dating back to the early 1900s. There’s a chance you’ve never heard the songs “I’ve Been All Around This World,” “Wild Bill Jones,” and “I Am A Pilgrim,” and that’s okay. Consider yourself lucky that you get introduced to these three pieces by two Bluegrass specialists.
“I’ve Been All Around This World”
This somber song sounds a lot happier than the lyrics lead it to be. It was first published by the artist Grandpa Jones back in 1946, and was later made that much more famous as a cover by The Grateful Dead. Billy Strings and the Dead certainly have one thing in common: They can jam.
And that’s exactly what he and Thile did with this cover.
“Wild Bill Jones”
As far as the music world knows, this song came to life in the early 1920s and was recorded and released by Eva Davis. Unlike the next song on this list, it hasn’t been covered much by prominently known artists, until Billy Strings released his version of the tune in 2013.
“I Am A Pilgrim”
The first recording of this song goes all the way back to 1924, and is credited to the Norfolk Jubilee Quartet. “I Am A Pilgrim” has been covered by a plethora of artists (including The Oak Ridge Boys, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash), but was arguably made most famous by The Byrds.