Billy Strings Goes Full Blown Traditional for Final Nashville Show

Photo: Jesse Faatz

It’s a feat for any artist of any genre to sell out Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on two consecutive nights, let alone add a third show in town. There are only two or three mainstream country artists who could do something similar to what the reigning Saving Country Music Artist of the Year did on February 24th and 25th. It can only be taken as a shot across the bow to the suits on Music Row across Interstate 40, and also be taken as an unequivocal pronouncement that Billy Strings has arrived.

As great as the arena shows were according to those in attendance, it’s what happened on Sunday, February 26th at the Mother Church of Country Music across Broadway that has many people buzzing. Dressing up in traditional bluegrass suits complete with ribbon ties, Billy Strings and his band took the stage at the Ryman Auditorium and put on a full blown traditional bluegrass show for the folks in attendance.

Billy Strings commonly includes traditional bluegrass songs in his live shows, but there is ample improvisation showcased too, which despite the bluegrass instrumentation, can take Billy beyond the bluegrass genre. That’s not what Sunday night was about though. “This is hallowed ground, ground zero for bluegrass music,” Strings said.

Folks can’t be entirely surprised that Billy would pull out the traditional bluegrass material for the show. His latest album Me / and / Dad with his father does this same thing, just in studio form. Strings could never play a venue the size of the Ryman under normal circumstances these days. He’s long since graduated to the arena level. But the Ryman show is part of a series of smaller shows he’s also booked on tour to not lose the intimate connection with the crowd. Fans needed a ticket to one of the arena shows to get into the Ryman.

We keep waiting for the moment that Billy Strings stretches the bluegrass tethers until the break, and he goes floating out into the either of improvisational acid rock. But those tethers continue to show surprising elasticity, always snapping him back toward his bluegrass compass, and keeping him grounded in the genre.

With Billy Strings clad in Kentucky Colonel white, and his band members Billy Failing (banjo), Jarrod Walker (mandolin), Royal Masat (bass), and newest permanent member Alex Hargreaves on fiddle in powder blue, they really made a sharp ensemble, and showed respect to all the old greats on the Ryman stage. Then what did Billy Strings do afterwards? He walked across the famous alley and took the stage at Robert’s Western World for a stint (see below).

Set List:

These Old Blues
Old Home Place
A Face in the Crowd
Dark Hollow
Airmail Special
Somehow Tonight
The White Dove
Big Sandy
Freeborn Man
Eight More Miles to Lousiville
Foggy Mountain Breakdown
Long Journey Home
Down The Road
New Camptown Races
Katy Daly
Ole Slew Foot
Road To Colombus
The Letter Edged in Black
Dusty Miller
Stone Walls and Steel Bars
Sitting On Top Of The World
John Deere Tractor
Think of What You’ve Done
I’ve Just Seen The Rock of Ages
Hello City Limits
Lonesome Moonlight Waltz
Blues Stay Away From Me
Nobody’s Love Is Like Mine
Rank Stranger
Ashland Breakdown
My Sweet Blue Eyed Darling
Roll On Buddy, Roll On

Photo: Jesse Faatz
Photo: Jesse Faatz
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