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.
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.
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.
Durham, NC bass player Jef Walter performs regularly with a Who’s Who of North Carolina acoustic musicians, including Hank Smith and the Beer & Banjos All-Stars. An active member of the bluegrass community, Jef also leads The Carolina PineCones youth bluegrass band and PineCone Bluegrass Jams throughout the year. Jef is also a member of the IBMA Leadership Bluegrass 2018.
Stephen Fraleigh hails from Akron, Ohio. He is a two-time bluegrass fiddle winner of one of the oldest music competitions in the country, the Galax Old-Time Fiddlers' Convention. After starting the Suzuki violin method at age six, he heard bluegrass at the age of eight and has fiddled for nearly 40 years, starting with three years with "The Young Blades of Bluegrass" (1979 winner of the Bean Blossom Band contest and a performance on the Grand Ole Opry), 10 years with "Beanpole and the Bluegrass Mountaineers", and a couple of long stints with "The Jeanette Williams Band" in Danville, VA. He has been a session player in the Raleigh area on bluegrass, country and Americana recordings.