Necessity is what brought GRAMMY-nominated, IBMA Award-winning bluegrassers The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys to formation in the first place—and it’s necessity that keeps them fueled today. Initially, a basic need for entertainment at an East Tennessee moonshine distillery brought the band’s original lineup together, but now, after miles and miles of touring and multiple albums recorded, their need is to continue connecting the past to the present, breaking new ground in the unknown future of the “high, lonesome sound.” And with a constant desire from music fans for anything and everything authentic, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys have moved swiftly from scrappy up-and-comers to leaders in a new guard bringing this timeless American music to enthusiastic new audiences. The quintet symbolizes not only the tradition, legend, and lore that is bluegrass music, they possess a key trait of the ancient tones all too easily forgotten in the 21st century—rebellion. This spirit is at the center of their newest album, Never Slow Down, out March 25 on Smithsonian Folkways, which is also their first album featuring fiddler Laura Orshaw as an official member of the band. Taking on material by their heroes the Stanley Brothers, Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard, George Jones, and more, the Po’ Ramblin’ Boys bridge the gap between the past and present, proving the eternal importance of bluegrass and making it accessible to all.
“We know what bluegrass is. We know the history. And we respect the history. But, we’re looking to expand the boundaries of bluegrass—that’s the truth of the matter,” says The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys’ lead singer and mandolinist, C.J. Lewandowski. “A good song is a good song. We want to honor the past, but we also want to do our own material—to have our own sound, and to play our own way.” On Never Slow Down’s rip-roaring lead single “The Blues Are Close at Hand,” the quintet showcases their rough and ready approach without sacrificing any of the technicality that makes their live sets such a spectacle. Today American Songwriter premiered “The Blues Are Close at Hand,” calling the single “high-energy” and taking note of the band’s “skilled and respectful approach to bluegrass traditions.” Fans can click here to hear “The Blues Are Close at Hand” and pre-order or pre-save Never Slow Down ahead of its March 25th release at this link.
Amid a slew of new material and hardscrabble odes to selections from their heroes, Never Slow Down also represents the latest chapter of The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys with the addition of fiddler Laura Orshaw as an official band member. “Laura has been filling in for us since 2017, and she’s been part of the band for the last two years now,” Lewandowski says. “So, it’s five of us now. She gels perfectly with what we want to do in the studio and onstage — when the creative juices get flowing, the music gets hot.” Though Orshaw had made appearances on previous offerings from The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, her new full-time member status is front and center on Never Slow Down, whether it be taking the lead vocals on certain melodies or letting her intricate fiddle work shine through with its razor-sharp tone. “Having the fiddle in there really completes that signature lineup of what bluegrass music is,” Lewandowski says. “And with Laura, we’re able to open up all kinds of harmony structures, which gives each of us more opportunities to expand our palette of what we want to ultimately create and perform live.”
In signing with Smithsonian Folkways, the group has become a part of a nearly century-long legacy of musical celebration and preservation as they join the ranks of Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard, Del McCoury, Bill Monroe, The Stanley Brothers, and many other innovators of previous eras of Bluegrass that have material in the label’s fabled catalog. “Teaming up with Smithsonian Folkways seemed like a natural fit from the start—this bond of wanting to preserve music and its culture, but not in a musty moldy way,” Lewandowski says. “We both love the music laid down before us, but we want to build upon that and present it to the audience in new manners to breathe fresh life into it. Preservation isn’t just about keeping everything exactly like it was, it’s more about telling the story and adding to that story every day.”
The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys are gearing up for their next, unwritten phase with an album release tour and spring festival engagements right around the corner (a full list of tour dates can be found below), and carrying bluegrass into the future will always be their number one focus. “The beauty of bluegrass music is not just the tradition of it, but also its constant evolution,” Lewandowski says. “No matter what we do, we’re always going to be honoring something in some kind of way. And that because it’s just what we like to do—it’s part of every one of us in this band.”
Never Slow Down Tracklist:
Missing Her Has Never Slowed Me Down
Where Grass Don’t Grow
The Blues Are Close at Hand
When Are You Gonna Tell Me?
Take My Ashes to the River
Little Glass of Wine
Woke Up With Tears in My Eyes
Old Time Angels
Catch The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys On Tour:
Jan. 21 – Ocala, FL – Tuscawilla Art Park
Jan. 29 – Nashville, TN – Station Inn
Feb. 5 – Clay City, KY – Appalachian Music Park
Feb. 10 – Pinehurst, NC – The Carolina Hotel
Feb. 11 – Salem, VA – Parkway Brewing
Feb. 12 – Washington, DC – Pearl Street Warehouse
Feb. 13 – Marydel, DE – Eastern Shore Bluegrass Association
Mar. 20 – Flemingsburg, KY – Years of Farming
Apr. 9 – Bristol, VA – Bristol Spring Bluegrass Festival
Apr. 23 – Oakboro, NC – Big Lick Bluegrass Festival
Apr. 30 – Floyd, VA – Floyd Country Store
May 4 – Branson, MO – Silver Dollar City
May 5 – Branson, MO – Silver Dollar City
May 6 – Webster, KY – The Randall Barn
May 7 – Cincinnati, OH – Appalachian Festival
May 26 – McClure, VA – Dr. Ralph Stanley’s Hills of Home Bluegrass Festival
A full list of tour dates as well as ticket information can be found at theporamblinboys.com.