Growing like bluegrass
Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver / Performing in Rochester
Award-winning group changes with the times
By Tom Weber
Even something as old as the hills has to keep up with the times.
That’s why Doyle Lawson lugs so much equipment with him when he and his award-winning Quicksilver bluegrass band hit the road.
"If you’re going to stay with the times and you want your voice to be heard, you’ve got to have more sound," Lawson said from his home in Tennessee. "I started playing professionally in 1963, and in those days, we’d go on tour, set up one microphone with a little speaker system. You can’t do that anymore."
Yes, Lawson, who will perform April 12 at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, has been around long enough to have seen bluegrass go from a backwater curiosity to a national music craze.
And he’s got the awards to prove it. Lawson and Quicksilver have been named Vocal Group of the Year for the past seven years by the International Bluegrass Music Association, and the group’s recordings have been selected by the IBMA as Gospel Performance of the Year for the past three years.
Those awards come amidst increased competition from the growing number or crackerjack bluegrass bands.
"A lot of young groups are springing up," Lawson said. "They’re playing a little different style of bluegrass than I did, but that’s fine. If you don’t change and grow, you die."
Like many bluegrass musicians, Lawson grew up listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the radio in his family’s home in eastern Tennessee. He mastered the mandolin by age 12, soon added guitar and banjo, and played with a number of bands before forming his own group in 1979. His albums have generally alternated between gospel and bluegrass offerings — his latest, "Help is on the Way," was gospel, and he’s now searching for bluegrass songs for his next album.
"I’m always looking for material, even when I’m in the middle of recording," Lawson said. "I go through maybe 500 songs and narrow it down to 12 or 14."
At least some of those songs are appealing to the legions of new bluegrass fans who have found the music since the hit movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" helped popularize it.
"I’d say if anything, we have a broader spectrum of audience now," Lawson said. "There are more young people listening to bluegrass now than ever."
To read more about Doyle Lawson, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.
If you go
What: Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver in a Riverside Live concert.
When: 7:30 p.m. April 12
Where: Mayo Civic Center Performance Hall, 30 Civic Center Drive S.E., Rochester.
Tickets: $20 and $14 general, $19 and $13 senior citizens. Tickets available at the civic center box office, the Riverside Concerts office in City Hall, and through Ticketmaster. For more information, call 328-2200.
Lawson will also perform at 2 p.m. April 13 at the Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing. Tickets are $28 for adults, $17 for students; 1-800-899-5759.