Steve Watt - Banjo and mandolin
Steve got his musical start in the folk music scene in New York in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Pete Seeger introduced him to the banjo, and the Weavers, Woody Guthrie, and others were his first influences. His father gave him his start on the mandolin. He saw Flatt & Scruggs, The New Lost City Ramblers, and many Appalachian musicians who came through New York. Picking in Washington Square and hearing the Greenbrier Boys exposed him to more bluegrass, which he eventually focused on in his own playing. In Boston, his musical efforts have included Lightning Express (with Eric), Bay State Bluegrass, Foxfire, Fire on the Mountain, and now True Life Bluegrass. Steve's connection to the song Cotton Mill Man (on our CD) is explained here.
Eric Levenson - Bass
Eric began playing bass with Steve Watt in 1970, in the earliest incarnation of the band that ultimately became True Life Bluegrass. Eric played bass with Joe Val and the New England Bluegrass Boys from 1976 until Joe’s passing in 1985. Before joining Joe Val, he was the original bass player with Tasty Licks. He is also a former member of Jim and Jennie and the Pinetops. Eric currently plays with Amy Gallatin and Stillwaters and, since 1985, with Boston City Limits, of which he is a founding member. Eric also plays regularly with Deborah Silverstein, the Dixie Butterhounds, and irregularly with the Charles River Valley Boys.
Formerly at the Cantab Lounge in Central Square, Cambridge, now at Lily P's Fried Chicken & Oysters in east Cambridge, Eric and Steve host the late night jam on Tuesday nights, where they hear and perform with the many talented musicians living in the area.
Ellen Hays - Guitar
Originally from Chicago, where she started playing and singing folk, bluegrass, and country songs in her teens, Ellen Hays is a founding member of True Life Bluegrass, and has played and sung with a number of groups both in the Boston area and in Geneva, where she lived for many years. During her time in Switzerland Ellen played with the string band Swiss Mountain Ramblers and performed in a duet with Tom Lochbrunner, and she continues to perform with a women's vocal quartet founded in Geneva, the Strapless Sisters.
Tony Watt - Mandolin and guitar
IBMA & SPBGMA Award-Winner Tony Watt has performed throughout the United States and Europe, on the Grand Ole Opry, and beyond. He has been featured in Bluegrass Unlimited, Bluegrass Today, and Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, and his version of Cherokee Shuffle with Noam Pikelny and Andy Falco has been viewed over 200,000 times on YouTube. Tony has toured with Rounder Recording artist Alecia Nugent, with Leigh Gibson, guitarist for The Gibson Brothers, and with Jenni Lyn Gardner, former mandolinist for Della Mae, and he currently performs with Alan Bibey & Grasstowne. He is the Vice President and Education Co-Director of the Boston Bluegrass Union (BBU), which puts on the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival. Tony has taught bluegrass for over 20 years and is a visiting artist at the Berklee College of Music’s prestigious American Roots Music Program. He is also the director of The Bluegrass University, which presents JamVember, a weekend-long bluegrass jamming “non-festival” held the weekend before Thanksgiving at the Sheraton in Framingham, MA. Tony is also the host of Bluegrass Tuesdays at Lily P's Fried Chicken & Oysters in Cambridge, MA, one of the longest-running and most successful bluegrass nights in the country.
Laura Orshaw - Fiddle
GRAMMY nominated fiddler and vocalist Laura Orshaw has toured throughout North America and Europe with Danny Paisley and the Southern Grass, the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band, Alan Bibey & Grasstowne, and her current band, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys. In 2020 Laura won in two categories at the prestigious International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Awards Show, and in 2019, the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA) named Laura the Fiddle Performer of the Year, making her the first woman to win the award. In 2021, Laura signed as a solo artist with Dark Shadow Recording and her debut album out in Spring 2022 has already received significant attention and airplay. Laura has performed with Del McCoury, Ricky Skaggs, John Scofield, Mike Compton, Sarah Jarosz, Tony Trischka, Becky Buller, and Darol Anger among others. Her music has been featured on SiriusXM’s Bluegrass Junction, and in Bluegrass Today, No Depression, Sing Out!, and Dirty Linen. According to Bluegrass Unlimited, “Laura Orshaw has firmly established herself as a significant emerging artist in the arena of traditional American music... [she is] an extremely talented musician with unlimited potential.” Laura is also a highly sought-after instructor who has taught numerous camps, workshops and kids' academies, and started teaching weekly lessons to adults when she was just 12 years old. Find Laura at lauraorshaw.com.