Newgrass Newbie? Here Are 6 Contemporary Bluegrass Bands to Know

Who is the first group that comes to mind when you hear the word “bluegrass?” Flatt & Scruggs? Bill Monroe? Or is it…nobody? If so, that’s OK! You’re in the right place. While it might seem to some as though the genre is a bit old-timey for modern-day tastes, bluegrass is still going strong in the 21st century. These days, contemporary bluegrass bands often merge genre standards with other genres like indie, rock, or blues. So if you’re a progressive bluegrass fan—or would like to be one!—here are six bands you need to know.

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1. Punch Brothers

Punch Brothers formed in New York in 2006. They use classic bluegrass elements to produce original, progressive music often influenced by current events. Drawing on bluegrass titans like Tony Rice, Punch Brothers produce cutting-edge instrumental tracks. Rice’s album Church Street Blues inspired their 2022 album Hell on Church Street. Their Grammy-winning 2018 album, All Ashore, was a meditation on the political turmoil of the late 2010s. 

2. Trampled by Turtles

Trampled by Turtles is well known within the bluegrass community. Three of their albums have climbed to No. 1 on the bluegrass charts, with one remaining in the Top 10 for a whole year. Formed in Duluth, Minnesota, in 2003, the band has significantly influenced progressive bluegrass in the new millennium. With members that have backgrounds in rock and roll and metal, Trampled by Turtles brings a modern, rock-influenced sound to bluegrass that stands out from the crowd.

3. Po’ Ramblin’ Boys

The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys got their start at the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery in Tennessee in 2014. Their weekly live performances became a hit, breathing new life into old bluegrass standards like “Next Train South.” The band emphasizes the vocal harmonies and acoustic instrumentation essential to bluegrass, while bringing those elements into modern music. Their 2019 album, Toil, Tears, & Trouble, was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album. 

[RELATED: 6 Essential Bluegrass Albums for Your Collection]

4. Union Station

Union Station is undoubtedly one of the most influential bluegrass bands of the modern era. Led by frontwoman Alison Krauss, the band played a significant role in repopularizing bluegrass music in the 21st century. Union Station has won many Grammy Awards, becoming the go-to bluegrass group for film soundtracks like O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Twister, and Down from the Mountain. The band has continued to adapt its sound throughout the 21st century, bringing bluegrass music to contemporary audiences in a personal and poignant way. 

5. Crooked Still

One word describes Crooked Still: eclectic. The band was formed in Boston in 2006 by classical music students at conservatories throughout the city. They’ve been called a revisionist or neo-bluegrass group thanks to their love of combining bluegrass standards with experimental instrumentation. While most of their music is original, Crooked Still also does bluegrass covers of both traditional songs and some unusual choices, such as The Rolling Stones’ “You Got the Silver.” 

6. Carolina Chocolate Drops

Bluegrass owes its existence to a veritable buffet of genres, including American folk and African-American spirituals. The Carolina Chocolate Drops are an all-Black bluegrass band who met at the 2005 Black Banjo Gathering. The event explored traditional Black music in the Americas. The Carolina Chocolate Drops have continued the trend of using African-American influences within the bluegrass genre. In addition to original songs, they also focus on traditional tunes from North Carolina’s Piedmont region.

Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Sony Music

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