7 mountain bands you need to hear

From Mountain Stage to the Appalachian String Band Music Festival, West Virginia’s mountain music is a perfect combination of old and new, tradition and innovation.

It goes well beyond the bluegrass that we’re so famous for. Here are some of the best and most diverse bands from around the state.

If you have a chance to see them, don’t pass it up!

1. The Fox Hunt

Shepherdstown

The Fox Hunt is a great blend of the old and new in Mountain Music. Like traditional bluegrass/old time bands, they have a rotating lineup, switching off between various combinations of bass, guitar, fiddle, mandolin and banjo. They also play in the old, minimalist style of gathering in a half-circle around a single condenser microphone.

The Fox Hunt is not just a traditional band, though. These young folks throw other influences into their musical mix, from Celtic whistles even to some rock.

2. The Christian Lopez Band

Martinsburg

Like The Fox Hunt, Christian Lopez hails from the vibrant music scene of the Eastern Panhandle (is there something in the water of the Potomac that just spawns amazing mountain music?)

Although he’s only in his early 20s, Lopez has, in the words of his website bio, “the soul of a 65-year old Appalachian mountain musician.” And it’s true– his youthful voice and catchy rhythms contain just a bit of plaintive, scratchy, weariness.

But don’t let this “old soul” schtick fool you– Lopez has been playing electric and acoustic guitar for his whole life, and he combines older mountain, bluegrass and gospel genres with 80s guitar rock, 60s psychedelia and even some world music elements!

In the few short years since he’s exploded onto the music scene, he’s opened for some big names like Zac Brown, Dave Matthews, played on the Warped Tour, been written up in Rolling Stone magazine, and tours across the eastern U.S.

3. The Wild Rumpus

Fayetteville

A favorite of the Fayette County rafting scene, this power trio is a great mix of fast-paced bluegrass and aggressive punk rock attitude– they call their music “Appalachian Stompgrass.”

Frontman Andrew Adkins switches from guitar to mandolin, always projecting his bear-like growl of a voice with intensity. Lead guitarist Allen Dale Sizemore adds a twang of electrified rockabilly with his vintage archtop guitars. And bassist Clint Lewis drives the rhythm so hard that the band really doesn’t even need a drummer!

4. Ona

Ona

Their town may be small, but these guys are completely unique!

Unlike many of West Virginia’s bluegrass-influenced bands, which tend to keep their music string-based and acoustic, this quintet uses keyboards in most of their music and is not afraid to plug their instruments in.

Reverb and tremolo-soaked guitars, pedal steels and a laid-back but driving beat define this music. While many of the bands from regions farther east in West Virginia mix classic rock with bluegrass, these guys are mixing classic Nashville Country with the electric rock of Bruce Springsteen or John Mellencamp.

5. The Boatmen

Beckley

Like the Wild Rumpus, this Beckley band is a fixture in the New River Gorge, where after-river music and parties are longstanding traditions (hence their name).

Their music defies description: they can do catchy, tightly-harmonized pop-rock, traditional bluegrass or even extended improvisational jams. But if you have to give them a label, they prefer “Americana Soulgrass.”

One of the most memorable elements of the Boatmen is lead soloist Randy Gilkey– a blind virtuoso who may very well be Southern West Virginia’s own version of Stevie Wonder. He absolutely shreds complex, fast solos on piano, and switches over to a guitar that he plays laid out in front of him like a keyboard. You’ll have to see it to believe it!

6. Qiet

Charleston

This ensemble goes big– they’ve been as large as 13 members, but these days they are usually a sextet.

Qiet is an eclectic combination of funk, ska, 1930s big band and even gypsy jazz. They’ve got a powerful horn section, soulful female backup vocalists and violinist, all of whom are comfortable jumping across genres, styles and decades.

Seeing them live is… an experience. And that’s all we can tell you. Mostly because they’re always adding some new out-of-this-world oddity to the stage.

7. The Dueling Fiddlers

Lewisburg

It seems like most of the bands on this list combine multiple genres of music into their own styles. But, what about classical violin and rock? That’s precisely what the Lewisburg-based Dueling Fiddlers do.

Both Adam DeGraff and Russell Fallstad have serious classical concert resumés, which gives them the technique and artistry to play familiar tunes like you’ve never heard before– think AC-DC’s “Thunderstruck” or “November Rain” by Guns n’ Roses.

The Dueling Fiddlers specialize in “mashups,” combining multiple songs into one piece. Unlike medleys, where one song flows into the other with orderly transitions, mashups pile music on top of each other, playing similar songs simultaneously.

Sound interesting? Seems a lot of people think so– the Dueling Fiddlers recently played a halftime show for the Arizona Cardinals.

How many of these unique West Virginia bands have you heard?

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This post was last updated on October 18, 2017