Progressive Acoustic Instrumental Group The Jon Stickley Trio Headlines Weekend Concert in Northern Kentucky

Taking early inspiration from the likes of David Grisman and Béla Fleck, Stickley and his exploratory bandmates perform Saturday at Southgate House Revival

click to enlarge Jon Stickley Trio - Photo: Provided
Photo: Provided
Jon Stickley Trio
Jon Stickley is a virtuoso-level acoustic guitarist. But, as he shows time and again with his instrumental group, the Jon Stickley Trio, his musical gifts extend beyond ace technical chops, which are based on the flatpicking technique, a style commonly associated with Bluegrass.

Stickley’s versatile guitar work also exudes a distinct and impassioned “feel,” which probably comes in handy during the trio’s improvisational detours on stage. Similarly, Stickley is able to viscerally evoke imagery, moods and emotion with his compositional talents. And sealing Stickley’s artistic cred is an overall dedication to creative adventurousness. When asked during a recent interview with Virginia public radio outlet WMRA if the “progressive nature” of his music is intentional or organic, Stickley said, “Probably a little bit of both. One thing I do try to do is make the music unique.”

Stickley and his bandmates — violinist Lyndsay Pruett and drummer Hunter Deacon — make music that doesn’t fit snugly into any precise category. Though Bluegrass might be a major part of his musical foundation, Stickley wasn’t drawn in by pioneers and traditions; instead, he became captivated by the work of the music’s later deconstructionists/reconstructionists. Though he grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina enamored with Indie Rock big-shots like Superchunk and Archers of Loaf, Stickley was inspired to pick up (and eventually master) the tools of Bluegrass after falling under the spell of musical renegades like David Grisman and Béla Fleck, whose Jazz and Fusion-oriented innovations (among other stylistic amalgamations) paved the way for generations of boundary-exploding Bluegrass acts. Nurtured and embraced wholeheartedly by dedicated fans on the “Jam band” circuit (where it has become a dominant force), so-called Newgrass is in the midst of a golden era, with an endless stream of artists continuing to find new ways to reimagine those traditional sounds.

Listen to a Jon Stickley Trio album, including the most recent — 2017’s Maybe Believe — and you can certainly hear how important Grisman and Fleck were to Stickley, particularly when the streaks of Django Reinhardt-style Gypsy Jazz (a Grisman staple) pop up. But the shadow of influence is even more apparent in the exploratory mindset Stickley shares with both artists. You can feel it more in the layered, cinematic soundscapes, the evocative, kaleidoscopic arrangements and any number of other things the Jon Stickley Trio doesn’t share with those icons or any of today’s other Newgrass alchemists.

Catch the Jon Stickley Trio this Saturday, Feb. 2 at Southgate House Revival. Click here for tickets/more show info.

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