2024  Suwannee Spring Reunion Artist Bios

Bettye LaVette    https://www.bettyelavette.com

“I ain’t got no f*cking other plan,” says the legendary Bettye LaVette. She’s talking about her 61-year storied career, beginning in 1960’s Detroit, with a mighty resurgence in the mid-2000’s. For her latest LP, simply titled LaVette!, she teamed once again with producer Steve Jordan for a special release on Jay-Vee Records, the label founded by Jordan and Meegan Voss. An interpreter without peer, Bettye chose to record an album of songs written by Randall Bramblett. “I think he’s the best songwriter I’ve heard in the past 30 years,” says LaVette, “and I just discovered him eight years ago.”

“Bettye LaVette is like a combination of Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Miles Davis,” says Jordan. “When I prepare a band for her, I make sure we have it together. When she joins us, we’re only gonna get one or two takes, because she puts her heart and soul into each performance.” The late, great George Jones, called her “a singer’s singer”.

Born in Muskegon, Michigan, Bettye’s parents, Louisiana migrants, ran a club out of their home. They sold corn liquor and chicken sandwiches and spun records for the Black auto-parts workers and traveling gospel groups who didn’t have a hangout to kick back in and call their own. She was a toddler, listening in on old folks’ business; learning old folks’ ways. Some of that was conversation, observing the interactions, the repartee; some of it was the 78s that spun on the family’s jukebox — a trove of blues, gospel, country & western, and the latest R&B that filtered through AM radio playlists.

“When Bettye gets a hold of a song, it becomes her song,” Jordan explains. “It’s like she wrote it. She’s a great messenger, a communicator, an interpreter.

“I’m very happy with what we’ve done,” Bettye adds. “It is very, very difficult to please an old woman, but I’m nearly excited.”

She is a seven-time Grammy nominee, has received a Pioneer Award from The Rhythm & Blues Foundation, has won several Blues Music Awards, has been inducted into The Blues Hall Of Fame and received the Legacy Award from the Americana Association. Bettye is one of very few of her contemporaries who were recording during the birth of soul music in the 1960s and is still creating vital recordings today.

She and her full band will be presenting songs from the new album as well as some older favorites.

Cathy Lee

“Cathy Lee and the Art of Giving”

Through her songwriting, Cathy Lee puts her own style to the many twists and turns of loving and living in our world. Over the last few years she has been performing for those with various health challenges prompting a newfound appreciation for a number of charities and non-profit organizations. The Art of Giving is a set dedicated to what giving means to Cathy Lee, fellow musicians and other Spring Reunion festival participants.

Darrell Scott        https://www.darrellscott.com

Soundly Music and acclaimed multi-instrumentalist/singer-songwriter and Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame nominee Darrell Scott are proud to announce the Friday, August 11 release of Old Cane Back Rocker, the roots music icon’s first full-length studio album since 2016’s Couchville Sessions created in conjunction with The Darrell Scott String Band. A former ASCAP and NSAI Songwriter of the Year, Scott has garnered many accolades, including these rich words from environmentalist, writer and musician Nathaniel Riverhorse Nakadate, who wrote, “Darrell Scott mines and cultivates the everyday moment, taking the rote, menial, mundane, and allowing it to be surreal, ever poignant, and candidly honest.”

Leading the collection is “Kentucky Morning,” Old Cane Back Rocker’s first single that tells the story of many a southern family’s migration to the north, where factory work held promises of a good living. Written from the perspective of the one who stayed behind, “Kentucky Morning” is a decidedly southern song that oozes family – and Kentuckian – pride.  “I am proud of this band, this recording and these stories of real people in this unreal time,” Scott says. “Love and hope and goodness and simplicity still exists, folks. We are still here.” Stream “Kentucky Morning” on YouTube HERE.

“SONGS + PLAYERS + BAND HOUSE + STUDIO + FOOD & DRINK = this album,” says the iconic Darrell Scott – “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive” and “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive,” as seen performed by Chris Stapleton and Patty Loveless at last year’s CMT Awards HERE – of his brand new project titled Old Cane Back Rocker, a new showcase crafted by The Darrell Scott String Band that features originals and fully reformed covers (“Southern Cross,” “Banjo In The Holler”), and serves as Scott’s first studio offering since 2016.

Old Cane Back Rocker was developed over two consecutive weekend gigs in Arkansas and Colorado. Rather than sending the entire band back home in between weekends, Scott kept everyone out the following weekdays in a band house in Louisville, CO – so they could walk to Moxie Bread Co. every morning – and drive to Boulder everyday to record. So for three days with only a playlist of the songs sent to each player and a call to Scott’s friend, Nick Forster at eTown Studio in Boulder, The Darrell Scott String Band produced a set of tunes that pay homage to his cherished Kentucky upbringing along with showcasing the immense working relationship he maintains with the talented musicians who graced these songs.

“I am fortunate to play with amazing musicians,” Scott says, “I always have had my ear to the six winds to assess players and their strengths and the music we would make — electric or acoustic, two or five people, country, folk, blues, string players, grass, rocking, quiet or loud, whatever. The category does not matter as it is just a category. There has always been a group of great musicians near to help me get there, and yes, I am lucky.”

Led by the single “Kentucky Morning,” the song joins others in Scott’s catalog that gives a nod to his family’s musical traditions and heritage. “It’s literally my family’s story,” said Scott. “There’s a bit of fiction there because, at the end of the day, I’m a songwriter. I can make up stuff. But I start, in this case, from a factual view. It happened across the South – folks chasing work. There were car

factories and steel mills near Chicago, and my dad worked in both. Two brothers were born in Dearborn, Michigan, and two in the Chicago area. So many people left, yet there was a part of my family that never did. That’s the thread that says, ‘Home is home. It’s not Chicago or Akron or anywhere else.’”


Colby T Helms & The Virginia Creepers  https://www.colbyhelms.com

At the bottom of the Southwest Virginia foothills half-a-mile from the nearest neighbor, 21-year-old Colby T. Helms resides in an “underground house” built by his late father on land his family has owned for generations. Colby first dreamed of making music his life at age 12, when a group of Blue Ridge Mountain old-time and bluegrass players performed songs like The Ozark Mountain Daredevils’ “Standing On The Rock” and the gospel classic “A Beautiful Life” at his father’s funeral in Boones Mill, VA.

To make his dream a reality, he taught himself guitar, banjo, and mandolin by watching local performers and YouTube videos. On the day he turned 16, he bought his first car, a stick-shift Jeep Wrangler, and hit the road to play anywhere people would have him. A veteran performer in the Blue Ridge/Appalachian Mountains region by age 18, Colby wrote the songs that would become his upcoming semi-autobiographical concept album, ‘Tales of Misfortune’, as a senior in high school. The album delves into the beginning of his story – starting off as a dream and ending with the passing and remembrance of his father. “Higher Ground” is about the choices he has made to realize his dream of becoming a touring musician – and their cost. “Mountain Brandy” brings the listener back to Colby’s home at the bottom of the Blue Ridge Mountains and sets the tone for the rest of the album. “Smoke and Flames” chronicles his experience as a fledgling musician, honing his craft and searching for validation while still in high school. Album closer “Daddy’s Pocket Knife” cuts the deepest. A true story that also serves as a metaphor for Colby’s own artistic journey, it reminds us that some things lost can be found.

 Colby T. Helms will release his debut album on Photo Finish Records in January 2024. He is managed by Dolphus Ramseur and booked by Paul Lohr and John Everhart of New Frontier Touring.

David Grier        https://www.davidgrier.com

David Grier’s journey to becoming one of the greatest flatpick guitarists in the world started at a young age at the feet of Bluegrass legend, Bill Monroe. David Grier’s father Lamar Grier, was a member of “Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys” in the mid-1960s. Throughout his childhood, David spent hours listening to Monroe as well as many other prominent pioneers of Bluegrass music. Among the most influential to him were flatpick guitarists Clarence White, Tony Rice and Doc Watson. David Grier quickly found a strong passion for guitar and began to develop what is now his own world-renowned distinctive style.

In 1985, David Grier moved to Nashville, TN and began touring and recording with established acts such as “The Country Gazette” and International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Hall of Famer, Doug Dillard. He also formed the band “The Big Dogs” with Andrea Zonn and genre-bending banjo player, Tony Trischka.

In 1988, David began recording a series of critically acclaimed solo albums for the Rounder Records label. It was these recordings that pushed David to the forefront of the Bluegrass scene and brought him three IBMA Guitar Player of the Year awards.

In 1996, David became a hero of the contemporary acoustic music scene when he collaborated with former members of the David Grisman Quintet, Darol Anger, Mike Marshall and Todd Phillips. Together, they created the contemporary Bluegrass band, “Psychograss”. This group set the tone for innovative and forward-thinking acoustic music.

In 1998, David launched his own record label, Dreadnought Recordings. Under this label, he released albums, “Hootenanny” with Dirk Powell and Tim O’Brien; Highly-acclaimed “Live at the Linda” (2007); “Evocative” (2009) featuring Victor Wooten, Paul Franklin, and Stuart Duncan; “I’ve Got the House to Myself” (2002), and “Fly On The Wall” (2014).

In 2000, David was recognized by Acoustic Guitar Magazine as one of the “Artists of the Decade” and his solo album “I’ve Got the House to Myself” was included in the “100 Essential Acoustic Guitar Recordings of All Time.” He has also played on four Grammy Award-winning albums (True Life Blues: A Tribute to Bill Monroe; The Great Dobro Sessions; Alison Brown’s Fairweather; and Amazing Grace 2: A Country Salute to Gospel).

Recently, David assembled an all-star Bluegrass quartet, “The Helen Highwater String Band” in collaboration with Mike Compton, Shad Cobb, and Missy Raines. With this project, David discovered another side of his artistry through songwriting and singing.

On his newest upcoming album, “Ways of the World”, David showcases his vocals for the first time on five original songs. The new album is a brilliant example of David’s expansive capability and artistic evolution. He continues to captivate listeners with exciting new material while keeping traditional virtuosic flatpick guitar at the heart of his sound.

Donna the Buffalo


Suwannee favorites, Donna the Buffalo draws on a lot of musical influences, from country and rock ‘n’ roll, to bluegrass and old-time fiddle, Cajun and Zydeco.  In many ways, they were Americana before the term was ever coined. The common thread? Songs of the human spirit, and an incredibly tight relationship with their fans.

“The fans, they show up to be a part of it. We show up to be a part of it,” band co-founder and songwriter, Jeb Puryear says. “And we don’t have an intimidating vibe where we’re different than them. If a scene is really on, it doesn’t matter whether you’re watching, listening, dancing or playing – it’s on, everybody knows it’s on and it feels great! I think that’s the nature of the connection.”

The Erie Times says of Donna the Buffalo, “They craft spirit- soaring songs with distinct sensibilities: Nevins’ songs are unfailingly melodic, brisk and buoyant, powered by her reassuring, wisdom-soaked vocals and ever-present fiddle and accordion. Puryear’s songs accentuate the groove with his exceptional guitar work and sly, Dylan-like way with lyrics.”

Donna the Buffalo offers everything you want in a roots band — songs that matter, a groove that makes you dance, an audience that spans generations, and a musical voice that evokes a sense of community.

Fireside Collective


A quintet who cheerfully disregards every kind of one-dimensional label that might be attached to their music, Fireside Collective has been on a roll since emerging from the fertile roots music scene of Asheville, North Carolina. In quick order, the progressive bluegrass group released its debut album, won the 2016 Band Contest at MerleFest, earned an International Bluegrass Music Association Momentum Band of the Year nomination and embarked on an ambitious touring schedule that’s earned an enthusiastic reception from traditional bluegrass to wide-ranging, eclectic music festival audiences alike.

Blending the characteristic interplay of bluegrass instrumentation and harmonies with strong original material and exuberant energy, Fireside Collective has drawn on folk, blues, funk and a wide variety of bluegrass sounds to create a distinctive body of work that’s all their own.

Each member—Joe Cicero (guitar); Jesse Iaquinto (mandolin); Tommy Maher (resonator guitar); Carson White (upright bass); Mike Tillis (drums)— brings a strong, original voice to his instrument, and unique contributions of different lead and harmony vocalists complement the variety in the group’s many original songs. “Depending on where you come from and your experience with folk music, you may think we’re very traditional, or on the other hand, consider us a progressive act,” says Iaquinto. “We appreciate both ends of the spectrum and may lie on a different end on any given night.” But whether they’re bringing the classic sound of bluegrass or exploring new musical territory, Fireside Collective delivers a fresh, energetic approach and a blast of enthusiastic creativity that’s electrifying audiences across the country.