Bradford Lee Folk and the Bluegrass Playboys/Two Bit Franks


Musicians go to Nashville to be inspired, learn new tricks. They come in from the wilderness of their self-absorbed isolation, willing to expose how much they don’t know. This is a trick for the already-great-musician as they must first admit what they do not know and then force themselves to mix and mingle with the masses of various talent. And then dare to make music in the same town, the same buildings where Johnny Cash, and the Father of Bluegrass – Bill Monroe did. They hope to pick up by exposure, diligent study, and even osmosis some of that fine-tuned musicality, but oft, as Mr. Bradford Lee Folk explained to me, are instead deeply humbled, with a subsequent result of scrutinizing one’s every preconceived motive.

As with all artists, school is where rules and technique are drilled into you. His legendary bluegrass band Open Road that topped all the charts, his old honky tonk Colorado bar Swing Station and the last four years in Nashville have been his classroom. Only after you can do it in your sleep, can you make it your own.

Bradford Lee Folk

As evidenced by his new band Bluegrass Playboys, handpicked from Nashville (Robert Trapp/banjo, Christian Sedelmyer/fiddle, David Goldberg/mandolin, John Fabke /upright)and their debut album Somewhere Far Away, Mr. Folk has broken all the confines and fit the pieces nicely around his new definition of self. And though he is influenced by the country blues of his father, and listens to nothing after 1962, he is inadvertently (perhaps from his Colorado days) imbued with that distinct western brand of bluegrass (or maybe it is that deep back woods Deliverance type hillbilly roots sound he’s been striving for) – you can hear it in the cadence of the lyrics he delivers. Follow the intricate way he weaves the words of Wood Swan like strands of gossamer around the melody laid down by his incredibly talented and tight band.

Mr. Folk exudes an attitude in this new version of himself and is quite finished needing to explain himself, or convince any one of his talent. He is a beguiling story teller and charms you with every song as though a story being told for the first time, not like he’s spent years in the crafting of each.

Bradford is also a musician’s musician and comes with an endless array of endorsements from the rock stars of bluegrass. “Brad Folk can spin a lyric indeed and when he sings, he pores those lyrics right into your heart” Jeremy Garret, Infamous Stringdusters.  “Few people inhabit the old sound like Brad Folk. When I hear his songs I feel as if a very important part of our tradition is again proving itself not only relevant but essential.” Dave Johnston, Yonder Mountain String Band.  “Brad Folk is one of my ALL TIME favorite singers. Like George and Jimmy, Brad is the song. He is tremendously captivating” Caleb Klauder, Foghorn String Band.  “ This guy is the real deal” Woody Platt, The Steep Canyon Rangers.

John Lowell (opening act with his new band Two Bit Franks -Tom Murphy on mandolin, Jeff Shouse, banjo, Russel Smith on bass, and Kevin Fabozzi /mandolin/cello) and Brad Folk have known each other quite some time, played music together and end up at the same music festivals. Lowell has, on numerous occasions slept on Folk’s floor.  Lowell, a Montana favorite, is a self-taught flat picker, having learned much of what he knows from attending countless picking circles and festivals. His picking is as smooth and clear as his voice, which resounds especially in the traditional troubadour style. He is accredited with singing/playing guitar with too many bands to count. The most notable; Growling Old Men, a duo with mandolinist Ben Winship, who along with bassist Dave Thompson played Prairie Home Companion in the Missoula show, and Kane’s River who were contemporaries with Folk’s Open Road.

In Montana, John is involved with promotional organizing for the annual February Big Sky Big Grass event. As well-connected musicians he and Mr. Winship have become involved with various music schools: Sore Fingers, and festivals: Shetland Folk Fest, and a German concert series across the pond. They have just returned from their 5th visit in as many years.

Ruby Jewel Jamboree, once again bringing the premiere bluegrass to Missoula. Ruby’s Inn on Reserve.