Billy Strings has just released an epic 38-minute live track to streaming platforms, as well as an accompanying video. Combining the songs “Meet Me At The Creek,” “Pyramid Country,” “Must Be Seven,” and rounding back to “Meet Me At The Creek,” the release is illustrative of the type of immersive and cohesive magic Billy Strings and his backing band evidence live on a regular basis, which has Strings reaching into the stratosphere as an arena-level artist.
Billy Strings is the live music marvel of our era, irrespective of genre. It just happens to be that the genre he still encompasses more than anything remains bluegrass. Though stretching out three songs into a 38-minute movement is more indicative of the jam band world, the music still resides very much in the acoustic and bluegrass realm. Though at times what Strings does stretches beyond, as can be seen and heard in the new track when he hits the electric guitar effects pedal.
A lot of media outlets have dutifully picked up the release of this new 38-minute track/video, but they may be burying the lede here about why this release is important in the Billy Strings universe.
Billy Strings was previously signed to bluegrass label Rounder Records. He signed with the label in 2019 to release his album Home, which went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album. Billy’s other Rounder releases of Renewal and his most recent Me/And/Dad have also been nominated for Grammys.
But this new epic track was released through Reprise Records, which is a division of Warner—aka a major label. Billy actually signed to Reprise back in April, and released his big track with Willie Nelson “California Sober” through the label, though few noticed, and nobody reported on it at the time. Perhaps it was decided to keep it hush hush as some folks will invariably label anyone signing with a major as a “sellout.”
“Billy did in fact sign with Reprise, though we parted on great terms and still consider him part of the family,” Rounder publicist Regina Joskow confirms to Saving Country Music, while also saying that strings recently collaborated with another Rounder artist for an upcoming recording, and he’s always welcome to come back if he wants.
While Billy Strings has been smashing records when it comes to live performance—including selling out massive arena dates on multiple nights in places like Austin and Nashville—his record sales haven’t necessarily been commensurate.
Strings said it best back in June when he iterated, “We’re never going to be a band that sells a million records. We’re just a band that’s going to sell a million tickets—one show at a time. That’s what we do. We’re a live band. Our thing is our show.”
Releasing a live track like this might be part of a new strategy of how to approach Billy’s career in the recorded context. We still may get studio albums, and a lot of his live stuff is available on nugs.net, which streams many of his concerts as well. But selecting out some of the most epic moments from his live performances and releasing them for the entire world to experience on demand might be part of the approach moving forward.
Billy String has already confirmed, “Live record is in the works folks! I’ve been digging through a big ol’ pile of shows trying to find all the good stuff and I stumbled upon a MMATC sandwich from last March in Winston-Salem, NC. I couldn’t wait to share it with you, so we just released it … There’s a lot more where this came from. Enjoy!”
Most or all Billy Strings concerts are captured with top-level audio quality and multi-camera setups. Like The Grateful Dead, each Billy Strings performance is unique. But unlike the massive live acts in the past, the archive possibilities for the Billy Strings catalog in a multimedia world is endless.
It’s really hard to quantify what we’re experiencing with Billy Strings at the moment, and what bluegrass is experiencing by proxy. It’s been a renewal and popularizing of the genre on a scale we haven’t seen before, while people are drawing comparisons to the epicness of massive arena artists in the the past like Pink Floyd and Jimmy Hendrix to qualify what Strings is accomplishing.
Though Billy Strings is already one of the biggest things in live music, it feels like a new era is just getting started. Who knows where Billy Strings will take us from here.
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The live recording is from Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winson-Salem, NC, March 4th, 2023. Billy Failing on banjo, Alex Hargreaves on fiddle, Royal Masat on bass, Jarrod Walker on mandolin.