When four bluegrass musicians came together in Sequim, WA in 2013 to form FarmStrong, it seemed that lead singer and songster Jim Faddis had found the successor group to his beloved Spokane bluegrass band, Prairie Flyer.  But the new partnership with singers Cort Armstrong (lead guitar) and Rick Meade (dobro & banjo) diverted the focus of the band from Faddis’s signature songs to a band sound focussed on vocal harmonies.  In fact, with dobro and two guitars, the band needed to use the detail oriented approach of harmony arranging to their instrumental arranging as well, to make sure they weren’t stepping all over each other, musically speaking.  This attention to the arrangement of voice and lead instruments is the signature of FarmStrong’s sound, but the heart and soul of their music, as has always been the case for Faddis, is songs.  Along with bassist John Pyles, the FarmStrong foursome defy the expectations of a bluegrass band and dig into a wildly diverse bag of songs… the songs that formed these musicians. 

Though Faddis is the most prolific and celebrated of the songwriters, Armstrong and Meade both contribute their own songs as well.  The band dishes out plenty of bluegrass, with Meade on both banjo and dobro, tapping the Stanley Brothers, Jimmy Martin and the Seldom Scene, and there is plenty of Merle Haggard and George Jones in the mix as well.  But the essence of the FarmStrong repertoire is the mix of songs each singer brings into the fold… songs from their youth… songs that inspired their musicianship.  Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Gillian Welch, CSN, Neil Young, Pure Prairie League, Reverend Gary Davis, the Temptations, Van Morrison, the Grateful Dead and the Cars are just some of the many spices and side dishes included with the meat and potatoes of bluegrass and traditional country music…  a strange “fusion” meal that both intrigues and satisfies.  No wonder FarmStrong is known at festivals as a bluegrass palette cleanser.  

Kevin Brown, of Spokane Public Radio’s “Back Porch Bluegrass” show, described FarmStrong in their early days…
“At times reminiscent of early Seldom Scene or even The Country Gentlemen, the arrangements mine the bluer, sparser side of bluegrass that is too often passed over by younger, unweathered bands fixated on speed and pyrotechnics.  Jim Faddis and Cort Armstrong are both strong, emotional singers, but together they establish a natural, brother-like chemistry…   With a great blend of spine-tingling vocals, seasoned performers and strong material, this is a band to watch!”

Now the band has been together for eight years, and has recorded four CDs, including their latest, “FarmStrong 4”, which is the first to feature Rick Meade on banjo, and brings bluegrass back to the forefront of the band’s performances.  But sitting down to this meal doesn’t mean a big heaping pile of bluegrass on your plate… get ready for something a little different, like chocolate and peanut butter, ham and pineapple… songs you’d never expect to be played together, but which when brought together, make for a set better even than the sum of its songs.  Bon appetit!  


Friday, Saturday

PO BOX 2024, MILTON, WA 98354

(253) 428-8056

Wintergrass is a production of Acoustic Sound, a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. EIN: 91-2103544
all photos copyright Maria Camillo