The timing could not be better for Cane Mill Road’s outdoor show at the Jones House Friday, Aug. 17. The local bluegrass band, made up of mostly teenagers, was just nominated for two International Bluegrass Music Association awards this past week making this upcoming concert a chance for the High Country community to show their congratulations.
Just a few weeks after Avery County’s Brooke and Darin Aldridge garnered two IBMA nominations of their own for Female Vocalist of the Year and Gospel Performance of the Year, Cane Mill Road was nominated for the IBMA Momentum Band of the Year Award on Aug. 9. Also that day, the group’s banjo player Tray Wellington was nominated for the IBMA Momentum Instrumentalist of the Year Award.
The IBMA Momentum Awards were created to showcase and honor up-and-coming bands on the rise in the bluegrass genre, groups that are making headway in the business and are on their way to become stars in the genre. Less than a week after Cane Mill Road received their award nods, they will perform at the Jones House this Friday evening along with The Dollar Brothers and Surefire, two other talented bands that are based here in Watauga and Ashe Counties.
Not only did Cane Mill Road get their recent nominations, many other local musicians just made the leader board in various music competitions at last week’s 83rd annual Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention held in Galax, Va. For example, Ruth Shumway of West Jefferson, N.C., won the Youth Old-time Fiddle Contest and came in third place in the Adult Old-time Fiddle Competition. The Bluegrass Amateur Band from Wilkes County came in first in the Youth Band Competition, the Boone-based group the Tater Hill Mashers placed second in the Youth Band Competition, Emma Lowe from Wilkesboro came in third in the Youth Mandolin Competition and Libby Harbor came in second in the Youth Bluegrass Fiddle Competition.
More nods came for Anneli Burnett and Sophia Burnett of Boone who came in fourth and fifth respectively in the Youth Old-time Fiddle Competition. And, 14-year-old Presley Barker from Wilkes County placed third in the Adult Guitar Competition, Steve Lewis of Todd came in fifth in the Bluegrass Banjo Competition and Boone’s Jacob Moretz placed second in the youth bluegrass banjo category.
As for the members of Cane Mill Road, hearing about the IBMA Momentum Award nominations turned into a wonderful experience. The group includes Liam Purcell on mandolin and fiddle, Tray Wellington on banjo, Eliot Smith on bass and Casey Lewis on guitar.
“On that day, my dad and I were riding up to the Galax Fiddler’s Convention and I had forgot that it was the day that they were to announce the IBMA Momentum Award nominations,” said Liam Purcell, 16. “Then, one of the bluegrass DJs mentioned something about the announcement on the radio. As soon as we heard that, we pulled over and we went online to see who had made it and I was thrilled to when the first thing we saw was Cane Mill Road being nominated for Momentum Band of the Year. It was incredible and a surprise. My dad, William, is our driving force behind everything and he deserves much as the credit for this band. So he was really excited and proud of all four of us. The one thing I remember him saying is, ‘This just got real.’”
The other groups that were nominated in the same category with Cane Mill Road include Man About a Horse from Pennsylvania, Midnight Skyracer from England, Wood Belly from Colorado and The Trailblazers from Wilkes County.
“I was amazed at first because I did not have any idea that this was coming,” said Purcell. “It was also cool to see the other names on the list as there are two groups representing North Carolina. They are bands that are in our generation of musicians and I have been playing a lot of music with many of the people found in the Momentum Award categories. I was also very happy to see Tray nominated in the Momentum Instrumentalist of the Year category.”
Cane Mill Road’s banjo player and individual Momentum Award nominee Tray Wellington, 19, grew up in Ashe County and is about to enter his sophomore year in Eastern Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Old-time and Country Music Degree Program. Wellington learned music from championship musician and teacher Steve Lewis, who has taught many budding musicians in our region.
“I did not know that I was in the running and I was hanging around at our guitar player Casey’s house and Liam sent over a text saying I was nominated,” said Tray Wellington. “It was a big shock to me. Afterwards, I heard from Cathy Fink, one of our band’s mentors (who is appropriately up for the IBMA Momentum Mentor of the Year Award), who sent me a congratulations message. I also heard from another mentor of the group Pete Wernick, who also sent me a message of congratulations and said he was really proud of me. It was a good day.”
More information on the Cane Mill Road concert at the Jones House on Friday, Aug. 17, can be found on out Nightlife Listings page 12.