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Sammy Shelor, Ronnie Bowman, Dan Tyminski, Tim Austin 1993 Ferrum, VA .
Also known as The Lonesome River Band.
About the artists
The Lonesome River Band have withstood numerous personnel changes to
merge as one of the best respected bands in bluegrass. Although rooted in the
traditional sounds of Flatt & Scruggs and Bill Monroe, the Lonesome River Band
continue to set standards of their own. The recipients of the SPBGMA award as
Vocal Group of 1997, the Lonesome River Band continue to fuse ultra-tight
vocal harmonies with virtuosic musicianship and well-conceived arrangements.
The original lineup of the Lonesome River Band was assembled by banjo
player-turned-lead vocalist and -rhythm guitarist Tim Austin and featured Steve
Thomas on mandolin and fiddle, Rick Williams on banjo, and Jerry McMillan on
bass. After attracting attention on the local bluegrass circuit in Virginia, the
Lonesome River Band released their debut album, I Guess Heartaches Are in
Style This Year, in 1985 on the regional label Shar-Lynn. Their national debut
came with a self-titled album, released by Rebel, the following year.
The Lonesome River Band have been evolving at a steady clip since the
early-'90s with the arrival of lead vocalist and bass player Ronnie Bowman and
banjo ace Sammy Shelor. North Carolina-born Bowman sang gospel music with a
family group from age three until his late teens and is equally effective singing
traditional bluegrass tunes as he is voicing songs by contemporary
singer/songwriters. Shelor, who inherited his love of the banjo from his
grandfathers, began to play the five-stringed instrument at age five. Although he
learned his early technique from an old-timey clawhammer banjo player Carp
Ayers, Shelor's approach to the instrument has been as much influenced by the
playing of Earl Scruggs, J.D. Crowe, Ben Eldridge, Allen Shelton, Pete Wernick,
and Béla Fleck. Shaping his performance skills with local bluegrass bands in
North Carolina and Virginia, Shelor was a founding member of the Virginia
Squires in 1983. He remained with the Squires until 1989 when he was joined the
Lonesome River Band.
The reorganized Lonesome River Band hit their stride with their first album
together, Carrying the Tradition, which debuted at the top slot on the best-selling
charts compiled by Bluegrass Unlimited. It remained on the charts for five months
before being supplanted by the band's next release, Old Country Town, which
remained at the number one position for six months.
In the aftermath of their success, founding member Tim Austin left the Lonesome
River Band to devote more time to working in his home recording studio, Doobie
Shea. Although he was replaced by Kenny Smith, of Claire Lynch's Front Porch
String Band, Austin continued to work with the Lonesome River Band on their
albums. The newest member of the Lonesome River Band, Don Rigsby, who
sings tenor vocals and plays mandolin, is a veteran of such bands as J.D. Crowe
& the New South, the Bluegrass Cardinal, and previously worked with Vern
Gosdin. The first album by the reconstructed lineup, One Step Forward, was
released in 1996.
Each member of the current Lonesome River Band has recorded memorable
solo albums. Bowman, who was named Vocalist of the Year by the International
Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) in 1995, delivered the most successful of
the solo albums, Cold Virginia Night, which won the IBMA award as Best Album of
the Year in 1997. Bowman followed it with a second solo album, The Man I'm
Tryin to Be in 1998. Shelor, who was named the IBMA's Banjo Player of the Year
in 1995 and 1998, released Leading Roll in 1997 with guest appearances by
Tony Rice, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, and Alan O'Bryant of the Nashville
Bluegrass Band. Rigsby's solo debut, A Vision, celebrated his religious views
and featured a duet with Ralph Stanley. Smith's Studebaker, released in 1997,
spotlighted his songwriting talents and featured instrumental and vocal support
from the other members of the Lonesome River Band.
~ Craig Harris, All Music Guide