I distinctly remember the night at Oskar Blues when KC Groves brought a noticeably young musician to one of her many gigs at Oskar Blues over the years. She was overly excited about this fellow, and by the end of the night I was also a big fan. He sang played fiddle and guitar and was outstanding. I left the show thinking this guy was destined for the big time.
Jake Simpson is 29 years old now and lives in Oklahoma, where he is from. He has a little girl he is crazy about named Lyric. He was encouraged by his parents and learned to fiddle around five, sang in Church at seven or eight played for elders in nursing homes very often, acted and sang in school plays, toured with twin yodelers, The Prairie Sisters before he graduated high school. His Dad brought him to his first RockyGrass Academy when he was 12; and he was hooked and became a big bluegrass fan, which he still is. He comes back to Lyons over the years and lived here for a while.
During one of his jaunts in Lyons, he made his way over to the Tuesday night bluegrass pick at Oskar Blues hosted by KC Groves and Eric Thorin. He wowed the group of pickers there, especially KC; and they became friends. One day Jake wandered over to the antique shop run by Tim Combs on the corner of 4th & Main. He found a fiddle there, and picked it up to try it out and played a couple of tunes, then left. Story goes there was a Big Texan guy in there complete with exceptionally large cowboy hat. He asked Tim if he knew who the kid was and that he wanted to buy him the fiddle ($500). Tim asked KC if she knew him, and she determined that it must have been Jake. Sure enough it was him, and he went and picked up and cherished that violin and still has it.
In 2016, Jake was asked to join a phenomenally successful band, The Lil Smokies out of Missoula, Montana. He jumped at the chance and has added his talent to the band. Last year, they put out their 3rd studio CD “Tornillo,” which is doing well. They wanted to go somewhere remote to record, and this little Texas town worked. They refer to the music as Grassicana, where they pay heed to tradition, while securing contemporary credence.
The five-piece band started in 2009 as a mostly instrumental band. They have evolved with three great singer/songwriters and vocalists over the years.
Jake and I talked extensively about keeping the balance between the older and newer styles without alienating the purists, and the survival in the music business. Newgrass, bluegrass, or whatever you want to call it, people can expect a high energy show from the Smokies. It’s a rock ‘n roll vibe with bluegrass instruments.
I was extremely excited about seeing The Lil Smokies on the bill for RockyGrass Festival on Saturday night, July 24; as well as Jake and KC leading the gospel show Sunday morning, July 25. It will include Greg Blake, Kyle Tuttle, and special guests Abigail Washburn and Rev and Andy from Lil Smokies.
Planet Bluegrass has helped so many young musicians over the years get started, they deserve a big Bluegrass medal.