Best Local Bluegrass Bands In Washington DC

September 19, 2013 8:00 AM

(credit: Thinkstock)

It is often easy to forget that Washington DC is famous for more than monuments, museums and politics. One such area is Washington’s booming music scene, with many local bands and talented singers suited to every musical preference. If the annual Kingman Island Bluegrass and Folk Festival in DC is your music event of choice, keep reading to find out more about three local bluegrass bands that are playing their way through the area.

The Knuckle Dusters

Covering time fiddle, bluegrass, ragtime, country, rockabilly, blues and folk music, the Knuckle Dusters, based out of the DC area, has performed in Central Park NYC and for numerous music festivals in DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia. The Knuckle Dusters is made up of the core trio of Scott Spearly (guitar, vocals and harmonica), Tim Mitchell (guitar and mandolin) and Paul Mackrell (banjo, guitar and vocals). The group also routinely features other guest performers including guest fiddlers Robbie Caruthers, Evan Price, Steve Hickman, Alexander Mitchell and Richard Pryor and vocal talents Mindy Morris and Gary Peck. The Knuckle Dusters has been featured in Jazziz Magazine and several other publications and names Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Uncle Dave Macon as responsible for influencing the band’s unique take on various 20th century American genres.

Related:  Best Rock Bands In Washington DC

Drymill Road

Drymill Road is an Americana bluegrass band playing high-energy and heartfelt original material along with its own versions of classics from Led Zeppelin, Dylan and The Beatles. Based out of Winchester, Virginia, the band has played over 300 shows since its inception in late 2009, and can be found playing music festivals and public venues, but also many weddings and private events. Drymill Road is made up of band mates Sean Loomis (guitar and vocals), Robert Mabe (banjo and vocals), Doug Ross (mandolin and vocals) and Dave Hurt (bass and vocals).  The band notes that its unique approach to its music is influenced by almost everything, but the artists Old & In The Way, Charles Christopher Parker, John Hartford, Hot Tuna, Old Crow Medicine Show and Neil Young all played a role in shaping Drymill Road’s sound.

Bull Run Grass

Getting its name from the historic Bull Run Mountains near Manassas, Virginia, Bull Run Grass performs a wide variety of bluegrass in classic style. The band’s core four members are Smokey Winstead (banjo, guitar and vocals), Carson Winstead (guitar, mandolin and vocals), Joel Grizzle (bass and fiddle) and John Paganoni (mandolin and vocals). The group is also occasionally joined by concert guest violist and fiddler Ray Cultrera. Bull Run Grass’ music includes traditional, gospel and contemporary bluegrass and the band lists Charlie Waller, Ralph Stanley, Seldom Scene, Flatt & Scruggs and Ricky Skaggs as a few of the artists that have served as influences on its sound and approach. A few of the songs in Bull Run Grass’ lineup include “Press On, Pilgrim,” “House of Gold,” “Grandpa Get Your Guitar” and “Walking the Dog,” which are all available for a quick listen on the band’s website.

Related: Best Free Summer Music Events In Washington DC

Matthew Scott is a freelance writer covering all things Washington DC. His work can be found on

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