Lonesome River Band to close out SCCA’s 74th season this weekend

Published 1:50 pm Thursday, April 13, 2023

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The Stanly County Concert Association will end its 74th season with a bang this weekend, when Lonesome River Band, a critically acclaimed bluegrass group, comes to the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center Sunday.

“Lonesome River Band is about traditional bluegrass with kind of a rock ’n’ roll downbeat with country vocals,” said bandleader and banjoist Sammy Shelor.

He is a five-time International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Banjo Player of the Year and 2011 winner of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.

Lonesome River Band, a staple within the bluegrass music industry since its founding in 1982, will perform songs from its newest album “Heyday,” including “Mary Ann Is A Pistol,” “Waiting’ On a Train” and “Heyday,” currently No. 1 on the Bluegrass Unlimited Top 30 Chart. The band will also perform other popular songs such as “Carolyn the Teenage Queen,” which Shelor describes as “a quasi-murder ballad.”

“We like to have fun doing what we do and we want the crowd to have fun, so there are a lot of movements on stage,” said Shelor, who has been a member since 1990, noting the music features a mix of “happy songs, sad songs and everything in between.”

While this will be its first time performing for the SCCA, the band has played many times in Stanly County, including at the annual Big Lick Bluegrass Festival in Oakboro and at The Recovery Road Bluegrass Festival, hosted by Will’s Place, in 2021. The band has also performed at Oakboro Music Hall.

Lonesome River, which has received numerous accolades and awards over the years, has a direct connection to Stanly County as Mike Hartgrove, the band’s fiddler, is an Albemarle resident. He was a member of the band from 2002-2005, and rejoined the band in December 2008, according to the band’s website. Hartgrove, who teaches fiddle lessons, gained experience by playing with country singer George Jones.

“We got a lot of friends down in that area, so we’re looking forward to it,” Shelor said about coming to Albemarle.

Besides Shelor and Hartgrove, the other members of the band include lead vocalists Jesse Smathers, who plays guitar, and Adam Miller, who plays mandolin, and Kameron Keller, who plays bass. The five musicians have been together since 2021, Shelor said.

The concert, which begins at 3 p.m., should last about two hours, Shelor said, including a short intermission.

“We enjoy playing, so we keep going,” he said.

Tickets, which cost $20 for adults and $10 for students, are available in advance at the Agri-Civic Center and at Starnes-Bramlett Jewelers. 

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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