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Danny Barnes. Photo by Jame Curtis.

Danny Barnes. Photo by Jame Curtis.

Danny Barnes Wins Sixth Annual Steve Martin Prize For Excellence In Banjo And Bluegrass,
Set to Release Got Myself Together November 2015 Through Eight 30 Records

“As if dedicating your life to an instrument like the banjo wasn’t sufficiently avant-garde, the winner of this year’s Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass is a musician recognized for his experimental approach to that seemingly quaint stringed instrument.”
The New York Times, Dave Itzkoff

“Saying that Danny Barnes plays the banjo is like saying Lionel Messi kicks a soccer ball. Barnes doesn’t just play the banjo—he plucks it, thrums it, claws it, bashes it, runs it through processors, plays it backward, drenches it in reverb, and layers it over computerized drums, distorted guitars, and weird chicken sounds. His prowess with the instrument makes him a deserving winner…”
Texas Monthly, Michael Hall

Banjo player extraordinaire Danny Barnes is the 2015 recipient of the 6th annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. Described as “one of a kind” and widely acknowledged as “one of the best banjo players in America,” Barnes is recognized for his experimental sound. The raw and unpolished musical breadth of his compositions has propelled him across the industry today. Barnes will be releasing a new solo record, a ten year anniversary re-recording of an earlier album called Get Myself Together [2005]. The new release, Got Myself Together, comes out in November on Eight 30 Records. He will be on the road solo this fall and winter; stay tuned for dates to be announced.

A Texas native now living northwest of Seattle, Barnes is one of bluegrass music’s most distinctive and innovative performers. He is known for blending together different sounds which defy labeling while redefining the banjo’s perceived image in a wide-ranging and four-decade long career. From his early days as the driving force behind the impressive Austin-based Bad Livers, a band of pioneering Americana missionaries, through a prolific solo career and the development of his trademark approach he calls “Barnyard Electronics” (which is also the name of his 2007 album) that incorporates digital technology and various effect pedals to stretch the tonal range of the instrument, Barnes has always listened to his proudly offbeat inner voice. His live shows involve a computer program he built in max/msp and a banjo.

Recently, he was recording in his home lab when a package arrived from Steve Martin with a letter notifying him that he was the recipient of 2015 recipient of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.

IMG_5787“The day that package came from Steve, I had gotten up at like 4am when it’s real quiet and I can get recording done. When FedEx came, I was kind of preoccupied. I saw that it was from Steve and thought, ‘Oh cool… he’s sent me one of his records.’” says Barnes in an interview with John Lawless in Bluegrass Today. “But then I thought… ‘Hey, I never gave him my address.’ I had met Steve earlier this year at a show with the Steep Canyon Rangers, and we got to talk a little bit, but I didn’t remember giving him my address. When I opened it up and saw what it was, I was completely stunned. I was speechless. I’ve never won anything, and it amazes me that anyone knows what I am doing.”

The Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass provides the winner with an unrestricted cash prize of fifty-thousand dollars, as well as a bronze sculpture created specifically for the prize by noted artist Eric Fischl. Created to bring recognition to an individual or group for outstanding accomplishment in the field of five-string banjo or bluegrass music, the prize highlights the extraordinary musicianship of these artists and bluegrass music worldwide. The winner is determined by a board consisting of J.D Crowe, Pete Wernick, Tony Trischka, Anne Stringfield, Alison Brown, Neil V. Rosenberg, Béla Fleck, and Steve Martin. Previous winners have included Noam Pikelny (2010), Sammy Shelor (2011), Mark Johnson (2012), Jens Kruger (2013), and Eddie Adcock (2014).

When asked by Bluegrass Today what he would be doing with the honorarium from his Steve Martin Prize, Danny says, “I’m going to invest it back into the art, back into the banjo community. I have a new record coming out in November, and then I’m thinking of doing a straight up banjo record. I’ve never done that, and I’ve started talking to some of the guys I’d like to have play on there with me. I also have an idea for a contemporary piece for banjo, and I hope to finally get to work on that.”

Got Myself Together hits the streets this fall with another in the works this winter for a straight up banjo record, and he’s also working on a suite of contemporary music for banjo and tuba. Barnes has released over ten albums and has been featured on over 50 others. His most recent album, Junior Sampled [June 2014], is available to stream at http://dannybarnes.bandcamp.com/album/junior-sampled.

In addition to the above, Barnes will be releasing an avant garde “kinda” noise cassette coming out on his own label, Minner Bucket Records which specializes in limited run cassettes, for Cassette Store Day (10/17/15). Only 50 will be made.

Barnes says, “I’ve been at this a pretty long time. The main thing I use to get my ideas across has been the banjo. It has an unusual sound and is capable of a wide range of expression, however it isn’t very developed yet, in terms of what is being done with it in a current macro sense. It’s untapped.”

His skills as an instrumentalist and his open embrace and infectious love of music for music’s sake, have brought him to share the stage and record with a wide array of marquee artists that reads like a who’s who among broad musical landscapes, ranging from bluegrass greats Bela Fleck, Del McCoury, and Sam Bush, newgrass stars Yonder Mountain String band, to Americana artists Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett, and Nickel Creek, to Jam friendly Gov’t Mule, Leftover Salmon, and Keller Williams, to jazz and blues instrumentalists Bill Frisell, Chuck Leavell, and John Popper, to members of the punk and metal Butthole Surfers, Dead Kennedys, and Ministry. He’s collaborated and shared stages with the likes of Bill Frisell, Yonder Mountain String Band, Robert Earl Keen and Dave Matthews, as well as wailed on a flying V guitar with members of the Butthole Surfers.

Stay up-to-date with news from Danny Barnes at www.dannybarnes.com, twitter.com/Wildknees, and Facebook.com/DannyBarnesBanjo.  Also feel free to ask him a question at http://dannybarnes.com/ask-barnes.

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The Infamous Stringdusters, a 2011 Grammy-nominated progressive bluegrass band, will headline the third-annual Rooster Walk Music and Arts Festival on Memorial Day weekend near Martinsville, Va.

A six-piece outfit from Nashville, Tenn., the Stringdusters received a Grammy nomination in the Best Country Instrumental Performance category for their song, “Magic #9.” The band will perform at Rooster Walk 3 on Saturday, May 28 at Blue Mountain Festival Grounds.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to have the Infamous Stringdusters at Rooster Walk this year,” said festival co-founder Johnny Buck. “This is a band that sells out shows across the country and tours abroad. They’ve won some of the biggest awards in the bluegrass world, but they’re also hugely popular on the jamband and ‘newgrass’ music scenes. We can’t thank them enough for coming on board. They are the perfect fit for the atmosphere and vibe we’re trying to cultivate at Rooster Walk.”

The Stringdusters achieved almost instant stardom. In 2007, while touring in promotion of their debut album, “Fork in the Road,” they won three awards at the prestigious International Bluegrass Music Association awards ceremony: Emerging Artist of the Year; Album of the Year; and Song of the Year.

The band’s live performances have been described as “anti-formulaic, groove friendly, and mind‐expanding – not your granddaddy’s bluegrass, unless your granddaddy was Jerry Garcia.”

“We are really intently focused on creating music in the moment,” said Travis Book, vocalist and upright bass player, when asked to describe the band’s style. “That means there’s some improvising and some jamming going on. People are playing different solos every night, and it seems to me to be a more dynamic experience than your typical bluegrass or string-band show. … It’s definitely a good time. That much I know.”

The ‘Dusters just finished a two-day performance at Merlefest over the weekend, where they were once again main-stage performers. Other notable events on their summer tour schedule will include sets at DelFest in Cumberland, Md., the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Telluride, Colo., the legendary Red Rocks venue in Morrison, Colo., and the band’s own event, The Festy Experience near Charlottesville, Va.

Despite nearly unlimited options, Book said playing at Rooster Walk made sense on a number of levels.

“It sounds like a good time, and that’s largely one of the guiding principals of what we do these days: What sounds like the most fun, for us and for people who want to come be a part of it?” said Book. “And Rooster Walk fits the bill. It’s gonna be a really great time, and that’s one of the most important things to us. Since we’re all just spinning around on this planet, why not try to enjoy it as much as possible?”

The Mantras are a jamband from Greensboro, N.C., with a rapidly growing fanbase

RW3 will feature 19 primary bands. The current lineup offers rock, jam, bluegrass, blues, soul, folk, funk, jazz, country and reggae. Rooster Walk will also feature arts, crafts and food vendors from the area, children’s programming, a new workshop stage and on-site camping.

Bristol-based roots rockers Folk Soul Revival (FSR), this year’s festival hosts, are the only band scheduled to play both nights of the festival.

Asheville, N.C.'s Sanctum Sully will bring their infectious mix of bluegrass, rock, folk and improv Rooster Walk

Other bands performing will include: The Mantras, the Jesse Chong Band, Sanctum Sully, Rob Cheatham & GUNCHUX!, the Lizzy Ross Band, the Kings of Belmont, the Big Fat Gap All-Stars, Jamal Millner & Comrades, Poverty Level with special guest Sammy Shelor, Relacksachian, Travis Elliott, Mariana Bell, the Martinsville Community Jazz Ensemble, Levi’s Gene Pool, Riggs Roberston and the Boys and Girls Club Steel Drum Band.

Rooster Walk honors the memory of two young Martinsville natives who passed away in the last four years: Edwin G. Penn IV and Walker E. Shank. Both were graduating members of Martinsville High School’s class of 2000. Proceeds from the volunteer-led festival go to the Penn-Shank Memorial Scholarship Fund at Martinsville High School.

In two years, organizers have donated $10,000 to the scholarship fund. Sara Kasey, a current freshman at Randolph College, was the inaugural recipient in 2010. The announcement of the second annual winner is expected in May.

General admission tickets for RW3 are currently $40 for a weekend pass and $90 for a VIP weekend pass. Those prices will increase to $50 and $125, respectively, on festival weekend. Tickets are available online or locally at the Southern Virginia Artisan Center in uptown, Binding Time Cafe and Woodall’s Music.

For more information, including details on tickets and band biographies, visit www.roosterwalk.com.

Rooster Walk is a family-friendly festival set for Memorial Day weekend at Blue Mountain Festival Grounds. Last year, 100 percent of all parents survey said they would bring their children back to Rooster Walk 3.

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