It could be a Nashville trivia question years from now: What band played both the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and the Grand Ole Opry House within two weeks of the 2010 flood that disabled both venues? That would be Cherryholmes, the acclaimed bluegrass family band that came out of nowhere a few years ago to become one of the genre’s top acts.
Bass player and band patriarch Jere Cherryholmes says the Schermerhorn shows were one of the highlights of their career so far. As part of the Nashville Symphony’s Pops Series, they filled the house for three nights running and played with the symphony in shows that left the audiences kind of freaking out. “To get that kind of reaction in our home town – Music City – and with so much going on that weekend – was incredible,” he says.
He also seems quite happy with another sold-out house, if you will, last weekend at Cumberland Caverns, where Cherryholmes was part of a big Saturday bill at Bluegrass Underground, our fellow WSM show. Fortunately the cave didn’t fill with water after their performance, and neither will the Loveless Barn, where the sextet arrives on June 2 to host a special Cherryholmes and Friends edition of Music City Roots.
It’s a celebration of the release of their fourth album, Common Threads, which carries on the band’s long-term trend from feisty amateurs led by Mom and Dad to hotshot pros led by the songwriting vision and musicianship of their kids Skip (guitar), B.J. (fiddle), Molly (fiddle) and Cia (banjo). They’re all writing and singing and tackling issues more central to their lives and growing older, says Jere. “(Carter) Stanley and (Bill) Monroe wrote a lot of their songs when they were my kids’ age – from their experience, whether being on the farm or watching the miners come home from work or watching a loved one die. For our kids, this record reflects what they’re going through right now.” Asked for an example, he says, “Well, the boys are engaged now, so we had our first bona fide love song.”
We enjoyed the company of Cherryholmes on Roots last fall, and as they do everywhere they go, they blew the roof off the joint. This time, we’re taking the unusual step of giving them the stage for the whole night, and they have plans, folks. They’ll do four different sets of music, each with guest players that highlight different sides of their sound, from old-time to straight bluegrass to jazz. Among the friends who are set to sit in, mandolin dazzler Andy Leftwich, the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band (also show alums), accordion and keyboard master Jeff Taylor from the Time Jumpers and Tony Wray, of Mike Snider’s string band. And since they’ve been with Skaggs Family Records for their whole recording career so far, Ricky Skaggs will be on hand, at least in his role as label chief, if not more.
The backstory of Cherryholmes is an oft-told tale because it is so improbable. They came from East Los Angeles, a very tough part of a very big city far from bluegrass territory. But when the family stumbled onto bluegrass music at a festival in the wake of the death of one of their kids a decade ago, they adopted instruments and began a rigorous program of learning and rehearsing and chasing gigs. When folks heard them, they loved them. And over time they’ve repeated the process at every significant bluegrass festival and venue in America, and then some, with their recent forays into concert halls. It’s been amazing to watch them come into their own as a bluegrass institution and we’re thrilled they’ve become such good friends of the show.
So come on out. Bring the kids. Bring your folks. It’ll be that kind of family affair.