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Cultivating WinterWonderGrass: The Lil Smokies

01/18/2018 14:11 ● Published by Alesha Damerville

Images by Lisa Siciliano

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS-“High energy breeds music,” Jake Simpson declares when asked to describe the sound of The Lil Smokies, a bluegrass quintet from Missoula, MT. Nothing could be truer when it comes to describing their hard-driving sound enveloped in three-part singing harmonies.

“There are five of us now; there were six,” Simpson says. “I’m the newest member of the band. I joined a year and a half ago. We’re growing – we used to be bit a more ‘jammy’ and bluegrass heavy. 

The band has matured and the songwriting has evolved. Everything has become a bit more… I don’t want to say orchestrated, because we still jam and improvise a lot. But there’s more rhyme and reason to it. This particular form of The Lil Smokies is a bit more polished.”

Simpson plays the fiddle, and is joined by Andy Dunnigan on the dobro, Scott Parker on the upright bass, Matt Cornette on the banjo and Matt Rieger on the guitar. The six-year-old band has received a number of accolades for their dedication to their craft. Most recently they were awarded the 2016 International Bluegrass Music Association Momentum Award for Best Band. In 2015, they won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition and in 2013, the Northwest String Summit Band Competition.

“Since the Telluride bluegrass competition our music has transformed,” Simpson says. “We put out a new record in September and it’s got a lot of new music that is representative of the new group and our dynamic.”

“I think for each one of us, our music is a representation of our personalities. We have a common consensus that we should all play with our emotions,” Simpson says. “Everybody does a really good job at expressing the way they feel through their instruments.”

“We have our sights set on Red Rocks,” Simpson says. “We’d really like to play there. It’s obviously one of most incredible amphitheaters in the country and to play there would be really sweet. Making more music, writing more songs and putting out more albums is a continuous goal.”

For the second year in a row, The Lil Smokies join an incredible lineup for WinterWonderGrass Steamboat. “WWG is the best party we go to all year and has become a family reunion of sorts for musicians,” Simpson says. “I get to see all of my best friends. It’s awesome.”

The Lil Smokies are touring nonstop through July. Catch their performance this February in Steamboat at WinterWonderGrass.

For more information on the festival, lodging and ski passes, visit www.winterwondergrass.com

For more information on The Lil Smokies visit http://www.thelilsmokies.com/


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