Photo Credit: Mike Melnyk
What do you get when you mash up a virtuosic bluegrass mandolinist, a traditional Irish fiddler, and an old-timey songster? Kenny Blackwell (mandolin and guitar), John Weed (fiddle), and Stuart Mason (guitar, banjo, and mandola) are the bluegrass-roots trio Little Black Train. From Depression-era gospel and blues to Appalachian and Celtic dance tunes, they dig up the roots of bluegrass that traveled to America from Ireland and Scotland in the 19th century. Avid practitioners of the time-honored folk process, they combine new words and melodies with traditional songs from sources such as the Carter Family, Dock Boggs, and Charlie Poole. On the instrumental side, they mine fiddle tunes from archival sources in West Virginia, Ireland, and Scotland.
Each of these three is amazingly accomplished, but something magical happens when they play together, their instruments swirling around one another like curls of smoke from a smoldering fire. This is old-time music at its most riveting! –Glen Starkey, New Times SLO
Mandolinist Kenny Blackwell, who studied with the legendary Jethro Burns, has been a fixture in the West Coast bluegrass scene since the late ’80s. He is known for his extensive studio work on various projects, as well as his collaborations with progressive fiddler Richard Greene and his membership in the Laurel Canyon Ramblers, a legendary California bluegrass outfit. Nowdays, when he’s not riding the Train, he performs with Dorian Michael, The Mystery Trees, The Demos, and Plan A.
An accomplished fiddler across genres, John Weed has lived in Ireland and immersed himself in the traditional styles of Clare and Donegal. The result is an old-time Irish fiddling style that compliments his forays into bluegrass, swing, and other American music. A classically trained violinist, John leverages his understanding of the instrument to coax emotion from every tune. Film credits include fiddle tracks for the NBC adaptation of Anita Shreve’s novel The Pilot’s Wife.
Guitarist Stuart Mason is known for his authentic vocals, melodic mandola, and inability to hold his whiskey. When he picks up the banjo, he plays in the older clawhammer and two-finger styles. A native of West Virginia, Stuart has won awards for traditional singing (Goleta Old-Time Fiddler’s Convention), mandola (Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest), and songwriting (West Coast Songwriter’s Association).
With Molly’s Revenge, Stuart Mason and John Weed have appeared on festival stages from Glasgow, Scotland to Shanghai, China. They also present workshops and classes, including The Roots of Bluegrass, and Regional Fiddle Styles from Ireland to Appalachia.
House Concert Details
SLO House Concerts are by invitation and reservation only. Please click here to request an invitation and indicate how many seats you would like to reserve. We will then send you an email with directions and other information.
7:00pm Show: Doors open at 6:30; show starts at 7:00.
Suggested Donation: $20. ALL of the money goes directly to the performers.
Additional Sights and Sounds
Websites: littleblacktrain.com kennyblackwell.com stuartmasonmusic.com
Videos: Wayfaring Stranger
Little Black Train at the Red Barn