Glass City Opry fertilizes local bluegrass sceneWritten by Sue Van Fleet | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Bluegrass music has a relatively new home in the Toledo area, and this month the welcome mat will be out for an up-and-coming national act familiar to many fans of the genre.
NewFound Road will perform March 10 at the Maumee Indoor Theater. The band is being brought to town by the Glass City Opry, a monthly bluegrass show that debuted in August.
“We wanted to be able to bring in regional and national acts,” said Jeff Birdwell, who owns the venture with Sherri Chekal and Dave Russell. “There’s a significant fan base for bluegrass in Toledo, but it’s kind of underground because there’s just not a lot of places for it.”
Performances are always on the second Monday of the month at the Maumee Indoor Theater.
NewFound Road got its start as a gospel group, putting out two gospel albums before switching to mostly secular offerings. The albums “Somewhere Between” and “Life in a Song” followed. Even though they’re no longer a gospel band, they were named Contemporary Gospel Group of the Year in 2006 and 2008 by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America.
In a review for “Life in a Song,” Acoustic Guitar magazine said it was easy to see the band as “the next big thing to hit mainstream bluegrass.”
Guitarist and vocalist Tim Shelton said the band is at work on a third album that will be released this summer.
“I think it’s going to be our strongest yet,” said Shelton in a phone interview as he was driving home to Franklin, Ohio, after a nine-day gig in Canada and Buffalo, N.Y.
The other members of the group are Brandon Godman on fiddle, Joe Booher on mandolin, Junior Williams on banjo and Randy Barnes on bass.
The audience at the Maumee Indoor Theater can expect a mix of contemporary and traditional bluegrass, gospel and even a little acoustic country, Shelton said, adding that they’ll probably play a song or two off the album they’re working on.
“Our songs that have done well for us on radio would be considered contemporary bluegrass, but we definitely have a love and respect for the traditional stuff as well, and we’ll include a lot of traditional stuff in our show,” he said.
The band — and bluegrass itself — pulls its fans from a broad spectrum of the population, Shelton said.
“I’ve seen all kinds at our shows: young and old, wealthy and poor,” he said. “It runs the gamut, and it’s popular all over the country. … It’s not just a bunch of rednecks that go out and listen to bluegrass.”
Bluegrass fans in general aren’t barflies, Birdwell said, which is why they wanted to create a venue where fans could come and listen.
“A lot of bluegrass fans are dedicated, diehard fans,” Shelton said. “They’ll drive an hour or two or four to come to a show.”
While it’s not uncommon to see people in their 20s enjoying the music at Glass City Opry events, the over-60 population is always well-represented, Birdwell said. He said they’re hoping to bring in more young people by booking bands like NewFound Road.
“Bluegrass has a good strong appeal to a lot of people,” Birdwell said. “We want people to know bluegrass is alive and well here in Toledo.”
Hardline Drive is the opening act on March 10, with doors opening at 6 p.m. and the show starting at 7. Tickets are $15 at the door. Advance tickets are $12 and available at the Maumee Indoor Theater, 601 Conant St., or at www.glasscityopry.com.