Balsam Range brings bluegrass to Ogle Center

Jordan Williams, Staff


In a world where auto-tune and synthesizers reign supreme, hearing the sharp twang of a freshly plucked string with soulful vocals peppered throughout can be the perfect pallet cleanser, which is what audience members experienced this past Friday thanks to the talents of the North Carolina based bluegrass group Balsam Range.

Fans gathered in the nearly sold out  Richard K. Stem Concert Hall and watched as the band sang of the simple things in life that they have grown to familiarize themselves with, a fortunate symptom that arose from each group member being from the same small town in Western North Carolina.

The band, whose name comes from the range of mountains that surround their hometown, took the stage for almost two hours and filled the room with a genre of music that unfortunately gone mostly unnoticed in recent years.

Steve Banet, longtime supporter of bluegrass and banjo hobbyist, was pleasantly surprised to see the band name of the marquee as he was on his way home from work that evening.

Banet, 67, said that he had been familiar with the band from their formation in 2007 and was thrilled to be able to experience their fresh sound in person, especially after their recognition as Entertainer of the Year at the 2014 IBMA Awards.

Before they began, the group started the evening with some light-hearted humor and pleasant pieces of conversation that persisted throughout the duration of the show.

With predominant band personalities Tim Surrett and Darren Nicholson doing most of the dialogue in between songs, it was clear early on how grateful each bandmate was of those in attendance and how fortunate they considered themselves to be doing what they love.

As the concert wore on, nearly all in attendance began bouncing their heads to the rhythmic echoes of each band member’s instrument of choice and some could even be seen dancing freely in the auditorium aisles.

The tone of the concert briefly shifted as three of the group members performed an a capella rendition of a song that band violinist Buddy Melton wrote after suffering a severe injury while working on his farm.

As the final note of the chilling song was hummed, Melton became choked up as he explained its importance, and after a brief moment of sharing a part of himself with the audience, the band went right back into the same cheerful rhythms as before.

“With Kentucky being next door, it’s unfortunate that more bands like Balsam Range don’t come through more often,” Banet said.

The band thanked the audience before playing their final song and as the final chord was strung and as the lights rose, they waved to the applauding crowd and made their way off, making sure first to mention that they would be in the lobby in a short while to express their gratitude to everybody who made the drive out that evening.

“I know that the weather isn’t so great right now, but we all greatly appreciate everybody coming out and spending the evening with us,” Surrett said to a bundled up, but gleeful crowd of hundreds.