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Willow City and Southern Raised: Family Bluegrass and Gospel Groups On The Rise

Updated on May 24, 2018
Janet, Tom and their children: Ezra, Beecher, Liza and Asa.
Janet, Tom and their children: Ezra, Beecher, Liza and Asa. | Source

Willow City

Silver Dollar City has several festivals each year, with multiple people working hard behind the scenes to find and fill the talent for each festival months in advance. They work extremely hard to "work the plan" and provide world class entertainment for visitors. In late August, some of those well laid plans fell through. A group was scheduled to be here, opening the National Crafts and Cowboy Festival the week of September 13 - 17, appearing three times daily in the Riverfront Playhouse. Unfortunately (for them) their lead vocalist and guitar player injured his shoulder and the group had to cancel. Fortunately (for us!) D.A. Callaway, local award winning Bluegrass Promoter of the Year knew just where to look for a replacement. Down the road in Crane, Mo. lives Southern Raised, a family Bluegrass/Gospel group who have appeared here multiple times over the past decade. They could cover the first two days of the week; this left the Friday through Sunday shows open. D.A. searched and found...

Willow City of Fredricksburg, Texas. This would be their first time to SDC and excitement reigned for all.

With their first show Friday they showed the SDC world what they were made of and we fell in love with them. The group consists of Beecher, age 24; Ezra, age 21; Liza, age 18 and Asa, age a tender 14. Their style of music ranges from folk through gospel to bluegrass, a winning combination for sure. Their instruments include guitar, bass, mandolin, banjo mixed in with a small amount of drums, with each of them able to step in and assist on virtually any instrument required.

With several CD's to their credit thus far, they have entered into the wide world of touring and playing, ranging across the country with father Tom and mother Janet caring for them as they travel. They are as solid a family unit as I have ever had the pleasure of meeting, and as kind and honest as the day is long. After their first show I sought them out to meet them, Asa in particular. You see, I have only known one other Asa: my grandfather. Smiles all around as we spoke for a bit, then they gave me some homemade fudge from their hometown of Fredricksburg (btw, my wife and I thank you once again: it was so-o-o good!!). I was fortunate to be able to introduce them to our city, showing them the rides and some other shows during their visit. During our time together I learned that they are just as nice as they appear to be while performing on stage. Truly good people.

And their music, oh their music. It is now several days later and I cannot keep their songs out of my head. Their style of play consists of folk, bluegrass and gospel, melded together seamlessly to present a comfortable and enjoyable experience. They do write some of their own songs, with all parties contributing. One of their songs is a simple yet completely wonderful tune entitled "Cotton and Corn", written by youngest member Asa when he was but twelve years of age while traveling across Texas on a road trip. Another, entitled "Coffee Shop" is a song about Beecher encountering a lovely young lady in a coffee shop while relaxing from recording songs for one of their albums.

They also play covers of songs made famous by artists in the folk music genre. As I listened each day, I could hear an early James Taylor in Ezra's voice, in Beecher lurked Jim Croce while in Liza I could hear Dolores O'Riordan of Irish group The Cranberries. When I shared these thoughts with the group, they enjoyed my take with Liza exclaiming "I'll take that!" to my comparison. What made this even more enjoyable is that later a visitor to the park upon hearing them sing came up after and shared that he too heard Liza sounding like Dolores!

We will be hearing more from them in the future and I ask each of you to give a listen if they are in your area. D.A. has already booked them for a May appearance at 2018 Bluegrass and Bar-B-Q so I know I will be able to see and enjoy them again. I am so looking forward to seeing these new friends once more, and I ask you to seek them out if they should appear near you, find them on Youtube, and at their website for more information.

These kids have a bright future ahead of them.

Southern Raised

Southern Raised is a Christian/Bluegrass band, locally (read almost home grown) from Crane, Missouri. Another sibling group consisting of sisters Lyndsay, Sarah, and Emily Grace along with "baby brother" Matthew, I first heard this group in the Spring at SDC's Bluegrass and BBQ. They returned during the Star Spangled Festival in the Summer, and again during Southern Gospel. I have enjoyed them each and every time as their music is both uplifting and incredible. Lindsay let everyone know that they were initially brought up playing Classical music, but by coming to SDC some ten years ago they fell in love with Bluegrass and decided to follow that road for their future. They say they have learned a great deal from one of our own, a member of SDC's very own Homestead Pickers Greg Bailey. He downplays his involvement (he's just that way) but enjoys what they have become.

So what have they become? First, incredibly talented. They play Bluegrass instruments very well and occasionally lapse into the Classical genre (see video); they sing wonderfully both individually and in harmony; and they too have multiple CD's to their credit. Lindsay is the leader of the group, playing bass. Sarah is a gifted banjo player and her playing on A Fifth of Beethoven is a wonder to behold. Yes, I said banjo; yes Beethoven's Fifth. Emily Grace plays mandolin and fiddle/violin (sometimes in the same song!) and sings lead while Matthew tends to be the silent member playing guitar. He can and does sing bass well but for the most part he is driving the band with his guitar playing.

Southern Raised has some great songs written by the band themselves, which to me is the true mark of an artist. I love that both of these bands have written their own material and not risen to their heights solely upon material written by others. On Southern Raised's latest album (out this past May) they wrote over half of the songs contained within.

Lest you think these are simple songs meant to be fillers (as some "artists" are wont to do), let me set the record straight. Some of their songs, while Bluegrass and Christian in nature could easily be songs heard on the mainstream music stations. I mean folks, they are seriously well written and played songs. Songs such as "Letting Go" and "Like My Mother Does" are more than good enough to be played on networks that play today's Country.

But they also play some of the old standards from both the Christian and Bluegrass arenas. Their take on the classic "Orange Blossom Special" is something to behold. Oh, they may begin normally enough but before long they take a classical detour as Lindsay terms it. Melodies you well know suddenly erupt and take you on a journey you will enjoy. And believe me, you will never listen to Orange Blossom again without thinking of this group.

Yesterday Lindsay and Sarah were at SDC shopping. They happened by and were nice enough to wave then stop and chat for a moment. On Wednesday I received a card in the mail from Willow City expressing their thanks for showing them around the park when they were here. Neither one of them needed to do this, they chose to do it; and that is what makes SDC such a special place. It is filled with wonderful people such as these, and they show they are just down home folks, people kind enough to give everyone time out of their day should you meet them somewhere. Both Willow City and Southern Raised are filled with wonderful people who just happen to be exceptionally talented. I am honored to have met them and look forward to see them here in the future.

You should seek them out, both online and in person. Listen to their music and see if it doesn't brighten your day just a bit. I'll hazard a guess it will. Take care all and may God bless and keep you.

Comments

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    • Mr Archer profile imageAUTHOR

      Mr Archer 

      12 months ago from Missouri

      Hey Bill, how are you doing these days? I love Bluegrass, classic country and rock and roll but I also love folk and have grown quite fond of some of the Gospel music I have heard this year at the city. These groups I wrote on here are truly special. Their harmonies and song choices are wonderful and their abilities on the instruments are so well done. Give a listen and let me know what you think. Take care, my friend, and say hey to Bev for Tina and I. And congrats on winning another Hubber award! You definitely deserve it!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I enjoy a little bit of bluegrass. I doubt I could sit through a couple hours of it, but then I'm northwest born and raised, and my teat growing up was rock n roll. :) Have a great weekend, my friend.

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