Billy Strings

Billy Strings
Terry Barber and Billy Strings.

Grammy-winning flatpicking wizard Billy Strings was everywhere in 2022. Rightly seen as part of the vanguard of a new generation of Appalachian-inspired players rooted in the sounds of Doc Watson, Tony Rice, Clarence White and other past icons, for the young phenom, this project is deeply personal. It’s a return to his roots with his dad, singer/guitarist Terry Barber. Steeped in classic country and bluegrass, Barber was his son’s primary musical inspiration.

Billy Strings and Terry Barber: Joshua Black Wilkins.

Strings, Barber, and their Martin dreadnoughts get A-list accompaniment from Rob and Ronnie McCoury, Jerry Douglas, and fiddlers Michael Cleveland and Jason Carter. Strings sings lead on “I Haven’t Seen Mary in Years” and “Long Journey Home.” Barber’s unvarnished vocals dominate every song he tackles, particularly Opry star Stonewall Jackson’s 1958 hit “Life to Go” (written by George Jones) and the Carter Family ballad “Wandering Boy.”

It’s no surprise Strings’ flatpicking flows freely, particularly on two venerable Watson standards – “Way Downtown” and the instrumental “Peartree” – as well as the traditional “Frosty Morn.” He’s equally fluent behind Barber on Bill Monroe’s “Little Cabin Home on the Hill” and “Dig A Little Deeper (In the Well).” One common thread behind these 14 joyous performances is the way Strings and Barber clearly relished every second.

This article originally appeared in VG’s April 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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