Baltimore might not seem like an obvious bluegrass hotbed, but the city has a long history with the high lonesome sound. Back in the mid- 20th century, Appalachian migrants moved to the Maryland city looking for industrial work with instruments in tow. It wasn’t long before a thriving scene formed and included some of the genre’s pioneers, including Del McCoury. It was in Baltimore that McCoury met Bill Monroe and eventually was offered the opportunity to become one of his Blue Grass Boys. For more on this history and how the city influenced the evolution of string band sounds read Tim Newby’s book Bluegrass in Baltimore: The Hard Drivin’ Sound and Its Legacy, released back in 2015.
At the end of the month, Baltimore’s legacy of slick solos and sweet harmonies will be revived at the annual Charm City Bluegrass Festival (charmcitybluegrass.com). Approaching its sixth year, the two-day event (April 27-28) at Druid Hill Park features acts that respect tradition but also favor a progressive edge. The Travelin’ McCourys, a band formed by Del’s sons, top the bill on the festival’s first night, while popular jug-punk outfit the Devil Makes Three headlines the second. Additional acts include the Steeldrivers, Billy Strings, Jeff Austin Band, Larry Keel, and Front Country.