I had heard the name, but knew nothing of the band when Tony Watt asked if I’d like to have them on live. They are scheduled to appear at the Joe Val Festival this year, so I said, sure, if you help. Tony did, along with Gerry Katz, and so Rock Hearts showed up promptly at 9:30 Saturday.
What a treat! Rock Hearts (named after a Jimmy Martin song) is a traditional bluegrass-style country band, based in Rhode Island. The members are spread out a bit: Alex MacLeod (guitar) lives in Charlestown, RI; Joe Deetz (banjo) lives in Mendon, MA; Billy ‘BT’ Thibodeau lives in Cumberland, RI; Danny Musher (fiddle) remained in Providence after graduating from Brown; Pete Kelly (bass) lives in Farmington, CT. All of them are seasoned pickers (even the youngest, Danny), and they settled right in, playing one tune after another, for the better part of an hour, including a lovely original by Alex, ‘Starry Southern Night’.
Danny is originally from Maryland, so we played do-you-know-places; Alex also lived in Maryland when young, and as my paternal grandmother was a McCleod (no ‘a’), we are probably cousins of some degree. Billy retains his French Canadian name, but his Maine father and uncle anglicized theirs, as Sam and Bob Tidwell (the Kennebec Valley Boys). I remembered Joey Deetz when he was a much-younger New England Bluegrass Boy (though my hazy memory confused him with Karl Lauber). Pete Kelly is I think a Connecticut native, but may have the most national-touring experience of the group: he’s a noted banjo player who has worked with Dale Ann Bradley and Michael Cleveland (in both Dale Ann’s band, and in Flamekeeper). He says he’s happy playing bass with Rock Hearts.
These guys are going to be at the Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, Friday the 15th on the Showcase Stage at c. 7:20 PM; and Saturday the 16th on the Main Stage at 10 AM. Check ’em out!
Here’s Rock Hearts playing the old blues standard, ‘Stagger Lee’ bluegrass style at the Pemi Valley Bluegrass Festival; they played it on the show (turn up the sound!):
Rock Hearts’s website is HERE. /CL