Seasoned mountain troubadour with flatpicking skills of a man twice his age, Billy Strings, 24, possesses bluegrass chops that shock most who lay eyes on the baby-faced Nashville dweller checkered with tattoos and blessed heavy metal muscle onstage. Prior to touring with Greensky Bluegrass’ Paul Hoffman and Anders Beck, newgrass dawg father David Grisman called to collaborate.
“When I was 7, my dad called me into his room and said, ‘Sit down, son, and listen, because this is David Grisman and you need to know this!’” recalls Strings. “Recently I got to say, ‘Dad, sit down right there. This is David Grisman – you need to meet him.’”
Last summer, Strings unleashed a self-titled EP of bluegrass and souped-up fiddle tunes. Standout original “Dust in a Baggie” chronicled the trappings of meth and jail in small-town America. Raised in the microscopic, mid-Michigan municipality of Ionia, its author knows whereof he writes.
“There was a lot of substance abuse and my friends ended up in prison, committing suicide, or overdosing,” he says. “Music pulled me away from that. It gave me something to focus on, so I wasn’t trying cocaine at 12.”
Strings recently tracked his full-length debut, Turmoil and Tinfoil.
“I don’t pigeonhole myself. There’s hardcore traditional bluegrass, but there’s also heavy stuff, jammy stuff, fiddle tunes, and old timey songs.”– Kevin Curtin
The Shrine roars out of Venice, Calif., with a sonic blast indebted to Blacks Sabbath and Flag. Easing up on hardcore influences, they remain powerful stoner rock, as evidenced by 2016’s Rare Breed. Former Sabbath Assembly singer and spouse of Wooden Wand’s James Jackson Toth, Jex Thoth continues preaching the melodic occult doom of 2013’s Blood Moon Rise. Locals Duel limber up for April’s Witchbanger, their second slab o’ crunge. Fellow lone stars Doomstress open.– Michael Toland