Considered one of the Bay Area’s finest and mostly all-gal bluegrass ensembles, the Barefoot Nellies are turning heads and catching ears with their toe-tapping take on traditional bluegrass.
Firmly rooted in the fertile ground laid by the greats – Flatt & Scruggs, Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers – the Barefoot Nellies are celebrated preservationists of the high and lonesome sound and are making a name for themselves among the bluegrass faithful. As the band members are fond of saying, “We play traditional bluegrass; just a fifth higher.”
But unlike some of the purists, who stand by the notion that if you’re not crying or praying then it ain’t bluegrass, the Barefoot Nellies pull traditional bluegrass techniques into the mainstream with their roots-forward interpretations of songs made famous by artists outside of the bluegrass world such as Nancy Sinatra, Lyle Lovett and Led Zeppelin. The inclusion of these non-traditional elements into their repertoire reveals an aspect of the Barefoot Nellies that sets them apart from many of their peers: these gals have a bit of an edge. They pull off swooning, angelic vocals with ease, and in the next breath, squeeze the harmonies so close together that it hurts. They lull the troubles away with some sweet mountain blues, then set the joint a rockin’ with a rollicking honky-tonk or Western swing number.
Driven by the red-hot playing of band members Jess Beebe on bass, Betsy Maudlin on fiddle, Prentice Sellers on banjo, Nichole Solis on mandolin, and the honorary “Barefoot Nelson” Adam Roszkiewicz on guitar, as well as an open door of guest musicians, the Barefoot Nellies have established a place for themselves in the roots music scene, both locally and nationally. They’ve played some of the biggest and best bluegrass and old-time festivals, including the Bay Area’s own Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, they’ve won a Best of San Francisco award, and they’re regular players in the wildly popular Bluegrass Monday series at Amnesia in San Francisco.
The Barefoot Nellies play Saturday, Jan. 8 at the Sunnyvale Theatre.