Higher Ground Bluegrass (HGB)

[adrotate banner=”17″]

Higher Ground Bluegrass (HGB) has established itself as New Mexico’s premier Bluegrass band. Founded by “Duke” Weddington in 1998, 2018 marks their 20th anniversary as a musical ensemble which they are celebrating with the release of their album HGB20. Performing original material penned by members of the group, the band also plays a variety of traditional and contemporary selections. Their philosophy remains one of developing dynamic arrangements of their original material, as well as lesser known songs, and adding something new and unique to standard bluegrass tunes to make them their own. With four members providing vocal contributions, the swapping of lead and harmonies offers something new and appealing for each song in their repertoire. HGB has recorded seven independent albums: Black and White – Faded and Torn (2001); People, Places, Memories (2003); Miles and Miles (2008); Bluegrass Classics (2013); HGB V (2016); CLANN (2017), HGB20 (2018 – 20th Anniversary Album). They have been the recipient of 3 New Mexico Music Awards (2004, 2017, 2018) for their original music. HGB delivers a superb blend of, and interpretation of, Bluegrass music with tight harmonies and tasteful instrumentation. Come find out for yourself.
Duke Weddington
Ken “Duke” Weddington began picking the five-string banjo in the early 1970’s in Burlington, NC. His parents purchased a non-descript used banjo for $85 from a local music store in 1973. Duke spent the early years with the Earl Scruggs Instruction book practicing classic Bluegrass tunes, and also learning songs and licks from LPs. Earl was obviously a major influence in Duke’s picking along with Doug Dillard and Sonny Osborne, and in later years; Bela Fleck and Alan Munde. In the early 1980’s he became a fan of the David Grisman Quintet and Dawg Music. Following graduation from NC State in 1981, Duke entered military service, becoming a Naval Aviator on June 10, 1983. He served as an Attack and Strike-Fighter pilot in both the US Marine Corps and US Navy and concluded his flying days in the F/A-18 Hornet, returning to civilian life after 14 years of active duty service. Relocating to Albuquerque, NM in 1995, Duke rekindled his love of Bluegrass and was a founding member of the band Higher Ground Bluegrass (HGB) in 1998. His banjo style includes a blend of traditional Scruggs style, melodic and progressive forms, which has established him as an exceptional picker in the Land of Enchantment. Duke is a prolific songwriter, developing original vocals and instrumentals for each of the band’s albums as well as for his solo album project, CLANN (released in 2017). Duke ‘s original song “Black and White – Faded and Torn” from the band’s first album of the same name is Fred’s all-time favorite song by Duke. Duke has received several New Mexico Music Awards over the past 15 years. His progressive instrumental “Alamance” from the band’s second album ‘People, Places, Memories’ won the New Mexico Music Award for Best Instrumental Performance in 2004. His co-writing with bandmate Pat Mahoney on “Water for Gold” for their album HGB V was recognized with the New Mexico Music Award for Best Bluegrass song in 2017. And in 2018, Duke received the New Mexico Music Award for Best Arrangement for “Maddie’s Dream/Erin’s Jig,” a Celtic instrumental from his solo album “CLANN,” an inspiring instrumental album. Duke sings lead and harmony vocals, and also plays the guitar and the mandolin.
Fred Bolton
Fred Bolton began his musical education in Oak Ridge, TN. Six years of piano lessons later, and a junior in high school, he began singing with some schoolmates in a rock-n-roll band doing Credence, Cream, Beatles, Led Zepp, etc. That experience led him to borrow an acoustic guitar and start playing stringed instruments. After high school, playing music went dormant for a while with a 3-year stint in the Army, entering engineering school (gig ’em, Aggies!), having a family, beginning a career, going back to school again (gig ’em again!), and resuming a career in Los Alamos. In the early 90’s, he met Dave Devlin (and some other musicians, too) at a house party in Los Alamos. They soon started playing in their living rooms and occasionally ventured out with a few other musicians. In the mid-90’s, Fred began a 7-year stint with Bonnie Bedlam, a local Celtic band, where he got even more experience with vocals, harmonies, arranging, DADGAD tuning, and some songwriting. During this period, he set lyrics to the traditional fiddle tune “Tonight My Sleep Will Be Restless.” After joining HGB in 2000 (thanks for thinking of me, Dave!), that song ended up on their first CD, “Black and White – Faded and Torn.” Primarily a rhythmic player, he was initially influenced by Doc Watson and Norman Blake, then finally “discovered” modern bluegrass music. Through nearly 19 years with former and current HGB members, he’s learned even more about rhythm backup, lead and harmony vocals, arranging, and songwriting. A personal favorite is “Big Nose Kate” (the OK Corral gunfight as told by Doc’s girlfriend, Mary Katherine Harony), sung by our friend Diane, on ‘People, Places, Memories’ (2003). He’s also wrote on most of HGB’s original gospel tunes: Bottle of Tears, O Judas, Two by Two, Ride (co-written with Duke, thanks, man!) and Where The Angels Sing. For their 2016 CD, ‘HGB V,’ he and Duke collaborated on the lyrics to “Be My Love.” With Duke’s solo project ‘CLANN,’ he introduced DADGAD tunings and rhythms to several of Duke’s Celtic-flavored instrumentals. What a fun trip it’s been! If you haven’t yet guessed, Fred mostly plays rhythm guitar (some infrequent mandolin chop, too) and sings both lead and harmony vocals.
Dave Devlin
Dave is a talented, multi-instrumentalist who has been with HGB almost from inception, joining the band in the fall of 1999. Dave began his musical endeavors in the mid 1970’s in Long Island, NY. In his high school days, Dave developed an interest in bluegrass music after hearing a Flatt and Scruggs album. Up to that point he had been primarily interested in the electric guitar and rock-n-roll, however, he abandoned that to pursue learning the five string banjo (Dave relayed he had heard, inaccurately, that girls dig banjo players). Never-the-less, he pursued the instrument for several years, later taking up the mandolin and resonator guitar, and eventually leaving the banjo in the closet (a positive turning point in his life according to Dave). His primary contributions to HGB are on the mandolin, on the resonator guitar, on acoustic guitar and occasional scientific consulting. After a long and distinguished career (25 years) as a Scientist working at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, in New Mexico, Dave ventured into retirement to continue his lifelong musical interests with an emphasis on pedal steel guitar. Dave has written multiple instrumental songs for HGB to include Tatnuck Hill, Pass the Salt, Coffee Talk, and Backburn, on the band’s first three albums, and most recently he wrote the instrumental Route 127B on ‘HGB20,’ the HGB’s 20th anniversary album. Dave has performed on all 7 HGB albums and has co-written with Duke and also with Pat on several vocals to include My Heart is Here to Stay from the ‘People, Places, Memories” album and Sweet Annie Mae on ‘HGB V.’ In addition to playing with HGB, Dave plays with multiple bands in the region including The Bill Hearne Trio, The Cathy Faber Band, Lani Nash, Dave Payne, and many other folks who also happen to be named Dave. He has recorded tracks with many regional acts as well as noted recording artists such as Chris Hillman, Garth Hudson and John Popper. Dave also plays guitar (acoustic and electric), bass and some banjo from time to time.
Laura Leach-Devlin
Laura Leach-Devlin is a native New Mexican, born and raised in the Albuquerque area. She was a child of the groovy 1960’s, the twelfth daughter of a rambling house painter man as she describes him. At a very young age, Laura recalls her father telling her that if she learned to play a musical instrument, she would never ever be bored. She now relays that he forgot to tell her to pick a small instrument, something that would be easy to transport! Throughout her developmental years, she dabbled in violin and acoustic guitar, never quite finding the one instrument that “struck a chord” with her interest. However, in later years after meeting her future husband, Dave Devlin, she was introduced to the big wide world of Bluegrass music. She began learning the mandolin under Dave’s tutelage, but he suggested she might be best suited to playing the foundational instrument in all forms of music. So, Laura took Dave’s advice (the only time we are aware of right now or that she will admit) and she settled on the biggest of all instruments, the DogHouse Bass. She dove hands-first into learning the bass, stand-up as well as electric and began playing at jam sessions and with local musicians. In late 2010, Laura joined Higher Ground Bluegrass (HGB), and has been holding down the low end with both hands ever since. She played the bass on the last four HGB albums: Bluegrass Classics, HGB V, CLANN and HGB20. Laura showed her vocal chops with a genuine delivery of the Shawn Mullins tune Catoosa County on HGB V, and again showed her vocal prowess as well as her songwriting abilities on her original song “Tinderbox” written for HGB20. The song was written in tribute to the Granite Mountain Hotshots who lost their lives on June 30, 2013 in the Yarnel fire. She also sings harmony vocals and serves as the band’s social media manager, keeping Facebook and Twitter up to date with the band’s activities. Laura is rock solid on the bass, has become a fine vocalist and her smile on stage is simply contagious.
Pat Mahoney
Pat’s musical abilities are based in his family roots with his mom playing the piano and his Dad playing both the trombone and the organ. He and his five siblings all played musical instruments. The home ensemble included the clarinet, guitar, drums, saxophone, and the violin. Pat was naturally drawn to the sound of the violin. At age seven his parents put Pat into private violin lessons, where he played classical violin until the end of his sophomore year of high school. In his senior year of high school, an older brother let him listen to an album from a popular band called “The Eagles.” The album was “Desperado.” A couple of the tracks on the album contained the five string banjo. The sound of the instrument intrigued Pat, he wanted more, which led to his discovery of “Bluegrass.” Pat set the violin down and found an inexpensive Crest banjo, spending the next couple of years developing his picking skills until he felt ready to join a band. Pat answered an ad in the local newspaper for a “fiddle player or fairly competent violinist,” thinking he would go to the audition and just might be able to take the band’s banjo player spot. He had his violin with him as a backup plan. The band wasn’t interested in Pat’s banjo chops, but they liked what he could play, even as a beginning Bluegrass fiddler, and he was invited to join the band. Pat was 18 at that time, and has been fiddling up a storm and performing in bands ever since. Pat credits the biggest advancement and development in his fiddling skills came when he took lessons from 3-time California State fiddle champion, Virgil Evans from Santa Cruz, CA. In 2010, Pat moved to Los Alamos, New Mexico to work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in environmental remediation. That’s where he met HGB guitarist Fred Bolton who was a coworker and friend of his sister in-law. Fred invited Pat to an HGB practice to introduce him to the band and see if there might a fit, as the band had been without a fiddler since 2003. Pat’s fiddling skills certainly caught everyone’s attention and he fit into the band perfectly. He has spent the last eight years playing, writing, recording, touring, and having fun with HGB, a group that truly has become a family. His co-writing of “Water For Gold” on the album HGB V was recognized with a New Mexico Music Award for Best Bluegrass in 2017. He considers himself fortunate to have had the privilege of playing with master musicians Byron Berline, David Grier, Matt Flinner and Wyatt Rice. He also played a John Steinbeck musical show with Warner Brothers recording artist Larry Hosford, and has opened for Newgrass Revival, Tony Rice band with Alison Krauss, Lou Reid, Peter Rowan, Tim O’Brien, Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen as well as Jim Lauderdale. Pat has a natural gift for gab, taking over emcee responsibilities for the band’s performances. He sings lead and harmony vocals.

Please follow and like us:
Pin Share
Follow by Email
error: Content is protected !!