For one, the group is young — most of its members are in their 20s. Another is that despite their youth, their music is traditional, generating a modern take on tried-and-true bluegrass unmarred by dalliances into other genres.
North Country consists of Nick Dumas, mandolin and lead vocals; Norm Olsen, guitar and lead vocals; Kent Powell, bass and vocals; Will McSeveney, banjo; and Michael Kilby, fiddle and dobro. Kilby, 17, recently replaced Stephen Burwell who left to join the national bluegrass outfit Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver.
We caught up with McSeveney to find out more about this up-and-coming band.
360: You guys have been performing together for around three years. How did you meet?
McSeveney: We all kind of knew each other through the bluegrass community. It worked out where we were at a jam together a few years ago and played together. It just clicked. We got a pretty good response so we stuck with it.
360: Since starting out three years ago, you’ve played at Wintergrass, toured in the U.S. and Canada, recorded an album of originals and won awards. It seems like this all happened pretty quickly. What do you think is unique about your band?
McSeveney: We are one of the only bands in the Northwest that reflects traditional bluegrass sound. It helps that everyone in the band is incredibly talented when it comes to their primary instruments. I mean, not to talk about how great we are, but you know, it’s a good group.
360: Seattle isn’t known for its bluegrass music so where did you guys discover bluegrass?
McSeveney: We all grew up with it. There are a lot of bluegrass festivals in Washington and we’d all go with our families — we’d play music with people and that’s how we all met. It was a yearly thing that we’d look forward to.
360: You guys are younger than a lot of the bluegrass bands in the area. Are you drawing a younger crowd to the bluegrass genre?
McSeveney: I think we’re getting both. What we focus on is playing bluegrass festivals. Bluegrass festivals tend to have an older crowd, but that’s where we meet new people. Festivals are also great because they show the variety of bluegrass music. But we also play for weddings, private events, home concerts, that type of thing.
360: Here in the Northwest, bluegrass is kind of a fringe music genre. Do you think bluegrass is somewhat undiscovered here?
McSeveney: Yes. A lot of what people hear is stuff from the ‘70s — the Country Gentlemen, Flatt and Scruggs — but there’s a young generation behind it now and it’s got a really big push. It’s not as big in the Northwest now, but that might be changing.
360: Why do you think bluegrass hasn’t caught on here yet?
McSeveney: I think it’s a lack of exposure out here in the Northwest. If we were performing in the South, we’d be an average bluegrass band. But a while ago we played a wedding in Bend, Ore., and everyone thought it was incredible. We got a big response and got our band info out to a bunch of people.
Third annual Valley Bluegrass Festival Schedule:
Friday: 6 p.m. Slipshod, 7 p.m. FarmStrong, 8 p.m. North Country
Saturday: 10 a.m. workshops, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Bluegrass Sprouts and open mic, 2 p.m. FarmStrong, 3 p.m. Beargrass, 4 p.m. Wanigan, 5 p.m. Jackie Fox & the Hounds, 6 p.m. Slipshod, 7 p.m. North Country, 8 p.m. FarmStrong
Where: Nez Perce County Fairgrounds in Lewiston
Cost: $15/day, tickets available for purchase at
www.lewisclarkbluegrass.org and at the gate.
Additional Info: Organizers recommend those who attend bring a chair or blanket for festival-style seating; camping is available.