Though he's only been a bona fide member for four years now, Kickin Grass banjo man Hank Smith is quick to offer a history lesson: "The Kickin Grass band started out life as the backing band for the Apple Chill Cloggers," he explains, summarizing that, in the 10 years since that initial burst, the Cloggers of yore have gone on to tour the world sharing their moves while Kickin Grass set off to share their music. "The band split off and started writing its own material and played a whole lot of festivals, traveled the country and just built up the name locally and regionally and nationally."
Thanks to three acclaimed records, an energetic touring schedule and the combined talents of Jamie and Lynda Dawson, Pattie Hopkins, Patrick Walsh and Smith, the band has continually won over audiences with its fanciful spin on roots music. To celebrate their first decade, Kickin Grass is bringing back some of their old ensemble members and even their clogging compatriots for a retrospective of their evolution from old-time traditionalists to Americana/ folk rockers with bluegrass chops. "If you can hang in there for 10 years with most of the same members, then you can make a mark. By the time you're playing shows at the 10-year level, you know you're making a living at it," says Smith. With a new record on the way, a 40-foor tour bus to cruise to gigs in and a slot on Merlefest 25's initial lineup, these Raleigh-based pickers are a little more than "making a living" and a little past making a mark. —Ashley Melzer