Three of the hottest musicians in the bluegrass acoustic music orbit, Sierra Hull, Noam Pikelny and Stuart Duncan, have teamed up for a few concerts in the Northeast this month. And the Barre Opera House snagged the night of Saturday Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m. to feature these exceptional musicians, as part of its Celebration Series.
This specific trio has not toured previously to my knowledge, nor recorded together. But their talent is such that they should burn up the stage, musically speaking, with their virtuoso playing.
Hull, at age 28, has been recording and performing since “tweenhood.” She was signed to Rounder Records at the age of 13 and released her debut vocal album, “Secrets,” in 2008 at the age of 16. The album peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Top Bluegrass Albums chart. Her career in some ways mimics another mandolin wizard, Chris Thile, who also released his first album at 13.
Hull has a long list of performance credits, and played Carnegie Hall at 12. She played the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. at 16, and the next year became the first bluegrass musician to receive a Presidential Scholarship at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
In 2011, when she was 20, Hull performed at the White House for the Obamas. She’s received five International Bluegrass Music Association nominations and the Bluegrass Star Award, presented by the Bluegrass Heritage Foundation, bestowed upon bluegrass artists who do an exemplary job of advancing traditional bluegrass music and bringing it to new audiences while preserving its character and heritage. Hull has become a virtuoso mandolin, mandola and guitar player as well as singer.
Pikelny, from Chicago, is 38, and has become a preeminent banjoist. He was in the group Leftover Salmon from 2002 until 2004 when he left to play in the John Cowan Band from 2004 to 2006. He’s a founding member of Punch Brothers along with Chris Thile. He won the first annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass in 2010. Pikelny has also been the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Banjo Player of the year in 2014 and 2017. He has four albums to his credit including the 2014 “Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe.”
Duncan is perhaps the busiest sideman in bluegrass and several other genres requiring a talented fiddler. He is a multi-instrumentalist as well, who has lent his particular taste and tone to countless artists and projects. He’s been known to trade instrumental licks with Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas, or to add complimentary fills for vocalists Alan Jackson and Barbara Streisand. He is often found both in the studio and on tour. His gigs have varied from Robert Plant to Panic at the Disco to any number of bluegrass artists.
Duncan has chalked up a career that includes four Grammys, a slew of Academy of Country Music Awards, and nine titles as the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Fiddle Player of the Year. His studio work goes back to 1979, when he played fiddle on three tracks of the George Jones album “My Very Special Guests.” He has performed on thousands of recording sessions featuring Nashville’s finest players and singers. He also sings, writes songs and plays mandolin, guitar and banjo.
Duncan’s the senior member of this exciting trio. As singular musicians Hull, Pikelny and Duncan are at the top of their game. As a trio one can only surmise that a super-group will take the stage in Barre Nov. 23.