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Our Story

One of Karen Smedley’s earliest memories was watching Porter Wagonner walk down the hallway to the stage in a pair of bright red cowboy boots on TV. The showmanship he displayed drew her to the music, inspiring her to religiously watch his show and listen to the Grand Ole Opry. Never content with just watching, though-she wanted to perform.

Her natural talent developed at a young age, which led her father to put together a family band, featuring Karen and her two sisters. Traveling across the Southeast, she had the opportunity to see the performers she idolized in person. At 7, she saw Lester Flatt and the Nashville Grass. Watching Marty Stuart playing the mandolin, it opened her eyes and set her love of bluegrass on fire. She was taken by the distinct tones of the instrument and told her father that was what she wanted to do. A bluegrass aficionado himself, he readily agreed and her future was set.

Now a seasoned performer, she combines her country sensibilities with the bluegrass sound she fell in love with years ago. Her voice conveys heartbreak and sadness, but never fragility; her brand of hard-driving bluegrass is reminiscent of the great female country vocalists with arrangements that make it all her own.

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Jeff’s entrance to bluegrass music came after marrying into a family of bluegrass musicians.   Coming from his own family tradition of southern gospel and quartet singing, Jeff brings tight harmonies that are such an asset to any bluegrass band.  He started playing guitar in church, and through the influence of his father-in-law, he started playing rhythm guitar and has never looked back.  His influences are Lester Flatt, Jimmy Martin, and Tony Rice.  Jeff was born and raised in Texas, and he’s a Texan through and through.  His greatest loves (other than his family) is the University of Texas Longhorns and BBQ brisket. 
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Austyn Howell is a 3rd generation bluegrass picker. His father David played with the Bluegrass Parlor Band out of Tampa Florida during Austyn’s childhood, exposing him to festivals and bluegrass albums from a very early age. He now makes his home in Snow Camp, NC and has played with several regional bands including Bridgetown and Drive Time. In his spare time away from work and stage he is an avid fantasy football player and a die hard Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan.

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After starting out in classical music, Matt Hooper grew into one of the finest bluegrass fiddler in North Carolina.   He started out with the Raleigh, NC based Kickin' Grass Band and from there toured with Don Rigsby.  You will see him generously lending his talents to other groups as needed and his fiddle can be heard on many albums from all styles of music.  When not performing, his focus is on fiddle and mandolin instruction.  

Tyler Jackson

Tyler Jackson

Tyler started playing banjo at the age of 12 and has never looked back. From Roxboro, North Carolina, Tyler grew up going to festivals and listening to his heroes, J.D. Crowe and Steve Dilling. Since then, he's been growing by playing with seasoned musicians, and most recently in the band, Drive Time.