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Po’ Ramblin’ Boys and Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno – Blue Ridge Music Center
May 25, 2019 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm$15.00
Po’ Ramblin’ Boys
At a time when most people feel constantly distracted by technology and barraged by the news, authenticity and straightforward honesty are paramount. There’s something about the music of The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys that cuts right through the noise of the world and speaks plainly to the soul. Formed in the Smoky Mountains, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys are at once exactly what you would expect and not at all what you would expect from a tattooed East Tennessee Bluegrass outfit. No strangers to hard work, the boys are as much at home riding in their 1965 GM Tour bus as they are crawling underneath to fix it when it needs maintenance. But they take pride in being ambassadors of their genre, and the group has brought their music from rural bluegrass festival stages to the rock clubs of Europe, with stunning results. “I think to a certain extent everyone is just craving music that they can feel, and any music that feels real will reach any audience” says CJ Lewandowski, the groups founder, “We want to put bluegrass right where it’s least expected”.
Lewandowski was working at Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery in Sevierville, TN when the band first formed. The distillery employed musicians to play for visitors seven days a week, and Lewandowski, who primarily plays Mandolin and sings, was occasionally hired to fill in when the entertainment didn’t show. Eventually, the distillery approached him about forming a band for a full time slot, so he reached out to long time music friends Jereme Brown, who plays banjo for the group, and Josh Rinkel, who plays guitar. “Jereme was doing a lot of welding work at that time, and Josh was running a sign company”, says Lewandowski, “I think we were all ready to do something new, something with our music but we didn’t know when or how”. Bassist Jasper Lorentzen happened to be working in the tasting room at the distillery, and he turned out to be the perfect final addition to the band. The four friends played multiple times a week for a year and half, honing their band sound, meanwhile word was spreading about their music. “The first gig we played out of town was a festival in Alberta, Canada, and a week later we went on a two week tour of Europe, it was crazy”, says Lewandowski.
Fast Forward to 2018 when the band was awarded “The Emerging Band of the Year” Award at The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) ‘Wide World of Bluegrass’ Conference.
Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno
Riley, of Seattle, WA spent his earlier years playing with the widely recognized band The Onlies, described as “masterful” and “deliciously well-crafted” (Kithfolk) and developing his own distinct authenticity on the fiddle and banjo.Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno are tapping into the deepest parts of American music, taking old songs that have seldom been heard and presenting them next to their own timeless and visceral originals. Leva, of Lexington, Virginia grew up playing and performing with her parents, Carol Elizabeth Jones and James Leva, learning traditional songs from their sources and honing her rhythmic guitar style. In June, 2017 Vivian recorded her debut album Time is Everything in close collaboration with Calcagno during an inspired session at Studio 808A in the small town of Floyd, VA. She released this album of original music on March 2nd, 2018 on Free Dirt Records to critical acclaim, including being one of Rolling Stone Country’s “10 New Artists You Need to Know.”
Together, Vivian and Riley have toured across the country, in living rooms and concert halls. As individuals, they have shared the stages with and played, both nationally and internationally, in the bands of Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, The Lost Tribe Of Country Music, and Bruce Molsky to name just a few.