Bluegrass music may hail from the state of Kentucky, but when it's played in South Carolina it comes out a little sweeter.
At this weekend's Sweet Grass Music Festival in Mount Pleasant, the two-day gathering of bluegrass bands promises playing and picking as hot as the summer grass native to coastal South Carolina.
Headlining the event is Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out, a prolific band that has won the International Bluegrass Music Association's Vocal Group of the Year award seven consecutive times. Moore, the group's lead singer, has received IBMA's Male Vocalist of the Year award five times.
The band will play at 3 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. May 3 at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, with the Cooper River and the USS Yorktown as a backdrop. Other bands playing at the festival include Subject to Change, Common Ground, Barefoot Movement, Adkins and Loudermilk, Flatt Lonesome and the Lonesome River Band. All bands will perform 90-minute sets.
Veterans Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out have been playing the bluegrass festival circuit for more than 20 years. The band recently added two new members, Blake Johnson of The Hagar's Mountain Boys on bass and Still-House's Keith McKinnon on banjo, joining mandolinist Wayne Benson, fiddler Justin Haynes and Moore on guitar and vocals.
"The response from the fanbase, our friends that we know in the business and the industry of professionals has been overwhelmingly positive," Moore said. "When somebody changes in a group, everybody notices and everybody is looking to see how it turns out. Chemistry between musicians is very important. But I can honestly say the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Everyone is enjoying the new lineup with Blake and Keith."
Adding two younger musicians to the band is in line with growing number of younger musicians in bluegrass music today, Moore said.
"A lot of young players and singers that are very talented are opting for bluegrass instead of something more commercial. That's a great sign to me that this music is appealing, even to a young audience."
Moore said he's seen audiences at IIIrd Tyme Out concerts getting younger, whether they come to enjoy the variety of music the band plays or to see the fiery instrumentation the genre facilitates.
"I really think that overall, bluegrass music is in good hands," he said.
For the Sweet Grass Music Festival, Moore suggested audiences take notice of Flatt Lonesome, a new group of pickers fresh on the bluegrass scene.
"This is a young group that has really paid attention to the styles of bluegrass music and is making a mark for themselves because of their originality," Moore said. "It's a great example of what's going on."
In addition to the music, Moore said the Sweet Grass Festival is great because of its unique venue.
"The USS Yorktown is sitting across the parking lot. It's a beautiful setting," he said. "At the end of the day, we're giving everyone memories of a great time."
Follow Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.