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Blue Highway (photo credit: Scott Simontacchi)Band Bio

At the 20-year mark, Blue Highway is indisputably one of the most esteemed and influential groups in contemporary bluegrass. The band's eleven exceptional albums and compelling live performances give proof to the stellar reviews, Grammy nominations, and numerous awards earned by the band since it first took the stage on December 31, 1994. That first performance featured the same musicians that comprise Blue Highway today, making their 20th anniversary all the more remarkable..

With a deep bench of virtuosic songwriters, vocalists and instrumentalists, Blue Highway's hallmark is an unwavering commitment to the ensemble, the “democracy of the band” that makes Blue Highway a powerhouse.

Individually, Jason Burleson (banjo, guitar, mandolin), Rob Ickes (Dobro), Shawn Lane (mandolin, fiddle, vocals), Tim Stafford (guitar, vocals), and Wayne Taylor (bass, vocals) are masters of their respective roles. Together, in Stafford's words, they are “a democracy in the best sense of the word”: five gifted artists selflessly merging their talents into a seamlessly brilliant group sound. As a result, the band moves from strength to strength, more mature and impressive with each new album.

Blue Highway has five gifted writers in its ranks. Rob and Jason turn out the heart-pounding instrumentals, while Shawn, Tim and Wayne give Blue Highway a depth of songwriting talent unprecedented in sixty years of bluegrass bands.

With eleven highly-acclaimed albums to its credit, Blue Highway has garnered two Grammy nominations, a Dove Award, topped the Bluegrass Unlimited radio charts, and won numerous International Bluegrass Music Association awards. Refusing to coast on past glories, Blue Highway continues to push its music to new levels of accomplishment. Artfully balanced between tradition and innovation, it remains in the forefront of contemporary bluegrass music.

Individual Bios

Photo Gallery

For the 15th Anniversary Photo Album, click here
 
 
 

Awards & Nominations

IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association) Awards

  • Vocal Group of the Year (2012)
  • Song of the Year (2008-Through the Window of a Train)
  • Gospel Recording of the Year (2004-Wondrous Love; 1997-God Moves in a Windstorm)
  • Emerging Artist of the Year (1996)
  • IBMA Album of the Year Award (1996-It's a Long, Long Road; 2006, Celebration of Life: Musicians Against Childhood Cancer)
  • Dobro Player of the Year (Rob Ickes) (2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996)

Dove Award

  • Best Bluegrass Album (2004-Wondrous Love)

Grammy Nominations

  • Best Bluegrass Album (2005-Marbletown)
  • Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album (2004-Wondrous Love)

SPBGMA Awards

  • Gospel Group of the Year (Overall) (2005)
  • Instrumental Group of the Year (2003)
  • Dobro Performer of the Year (Rob Ickes) (2003)
  • Bass Performer of the Year (Wayne Taylor) (2001)
  • Guitar Performer of the Year (Tim Stafford) (2001)
 
 
 
 

Tim StaffordTim Stafford - Tim's distinctive guitar style, vocals, songwriting and arranging contributions are an integral part of the Blue Highway sound. A Kingsport, TN native, Tim helped found the band Dusty Miller (1990 SPBGMA International Bluegrass Band champions) and, early on, was a key player in Alison Krauss & Union Station when it was named IBMA Entertainer of the Year in 1991. Leaving Krauss's band in May 1992 to spend more time with his infant son Daniel, Tim won a Grammy in 1993 for his work on AKUS's Every Time You Say Goodbye (Rounder 1992), which was also named IBMA Album of the Year (1993). In 1994, Tim organized Blue Highway, whose first project, It's a Long, Long Road, spent six months at the top of the Bluegrass Unlimited charts and won IBMA's Album of the Year Award (1996). Tim's songwriting talent is reflected throughout Blue Highway 's repertoire and in recordings by artists such as Ronnie Bowman, Claire Lynch, Mountain Heart, Dan Tyminski, the Lonesome River Band, Larry Sparks, The Infamous Stringdusters, Kenny and Amanda Smith and Alecia Nugent. "Through the Window of a Train", co-written by Tim and Steve Gulley and recorded by Blue Highway, won IBMA's Song of the Year award in 2008. "Born With A Hammer in my Hand," co-written with Shawn Lane, was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2000 IBMA Awards.  Tim's work as a producer is also highly acclaimed, winning an IBMA Album of the Year award in 2007 for The Infamous Stringdusters' Fork In The Road (Sugar Hill 2007) (Tim Stafford & The Infamous Stringdusters, producers), and an IBMA Instrumental Recording of the Year award as producer and performer on Knee-Deep in Bluegrass: The Acutab Sessions. Tim's other projects include Down Around Bowmantown (co-producer) for ETSU's Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, listed on the Library of Congress American Folklife Center's Selected List of American Folk Music Recordings for 1989; Endless Line (FGM Records 2004), Tim's critically-acclaimed solo record; and Flatpicking Guitar Fundamentals instructional video (Flatpicking Guitar Magazine 2001). His Blue Highway solos have been published in a transcription book (Acutab Publications 1998). Tim has played on records by Willie Nelson, Jesse McReynolds, Jorma Kaukonen, Marty Raybon, Kenny Chesney, Tony Trischka, Michelle Shocked, Larry Sparks and many others. Composite Acoustic Guitars will be releasing a Tim Stafford signature model instrument this summer.  For more information about Tim: www.tim-stafford.com.

 
 
 
 

Jason Burleson - The original banjo player with Blue Highway, Jason is a native of Newland, North Carolina. A talented multi-instrumentalist, he brings all-around musicianship to the group, not the least of which is his distinctive, rock-solid banjo style. Writing for the Memphis Area Bluegrass Association, Betty Westmoreland observed about Jason and his habit of saying very little onstage: "His banjo does the talking, as is true of most superb performers.  From Newland, NC, in Avery County, Burleson is part of that fine crop of North Carolina banjo players. There must be something about the air, or water, or the soil in that part of the country—so many fine banjo players seem to come out of those hills."

Jason's instrumental compositions form an integral part of the Blue Highway repertoire, including “The North Cove” ( Through the Window of a Train), hailed by one critic as “a burning instrumental with a sinuous melody” that offers “more to chew on than just the whiz-bang pyrotechnics of many modern bluegrass instrumentals” (Smoky Mountain News). Jason also anchors the group's quartets with his bass vocals. A jazz devotee, Jason's talent hasn't been fully revealed yet to the bluegrass community and gives Blue Highway unlimited options for the future. 

 

 
Jason Burleson
photo by Cindy Baucom
 
 
 
 
Rob Ickes
Photo:  Senor McGuire
  Rob Ickes - A Northern California native, Rob moved to Nashville in 1992 and joined Blue Highway as a founding member in 1994. He is recognized as one of the most innovative Dobro players on the scene, contributing signature technique and greatly expanding the boundaries of the instrument's sonic and stylistic territory. He won The International Bluegrass Music Association's Dobro Player of the Year award for a record-setting fifteenth time in 2013; IBMA notes that he is the most awarded instrumentalist in the history of the IBMA awards. The youngest dobro player on The Great Dobro Sessions (Jerry Douglas and Tut Taylor, producers), which won the 1994 Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album, he was also on the Alison Krauss & The Cox Family album, I Know Who Holds Tomorrow, which won the 1994 Grammy for Best Southern Gospel. Rob has released four acclaimed solo albums on Rounder, a jazz album on his own label, ResoRevolution, and two albums with Three Ring Circle, comprising Rob, Andy Leftwich and Dave Pomeroy: a self-titled CD on Earwave Records, and Brothership (2011, ResoRevolution). An active session player in Nashville, Rob has recorded with a wide range of artists, including Merle Haggard, Alison Krauss, Alan Jackson, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, David Lee Roth, Toby Keith, Reba McEntire, Ricky Skaggs, Patty Loveless, Earl Scruggs, Steve Wariner, Marty Stuart, David Grisman, Peter Rowan, Marty Raybon, Jeannie Kendall, The Oak Ridge Boys, Claire Lynch, Lynn Morris, John Cowan, Harley Allen, The Cox Family, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. His work with Merle Haggard includes Haggard's 2007 release, The Bluegrass Sessions (McCoury Music). Rob is also a gifted resonator guitar teacher; his instructional DVD set on Homespun is a perennial favorite with Dobro students, and in 2007 he founded ResoSummit, a three-day annual instructional event in Nashville, featuring leading Dobro players and luthiers as faculty.  Rob's signature resonator guitar, designed by acclaimed luthier Tim Scheerhorn, is Wechter-Scheerhorn Model 6535R.  For more information about Rob: www.robickes.com and www.resosummit.com
 
 
 
 

Shawn Lane - One of the most affecting singers in the business, Shawn cut his musical teeth in the bands of Ricky Skaggs (who expressed a special regard for his tenor singing) and Doyle Lawson, before joining Blue Highway as a founding member.

A brilliant musician on mandolin, fiddle, and guitar, he is also a world-class songwriter. Shawn's songwriting is strongly represented in the Blue Highway repertoire; four of the 12 songs on Blue Highway's latest release, Through the Window of a Train, were penned by him, including the powerful “Sycamore Hollow”, deemed “a standout” by Billboard magazine, and “Where Did the Morning Go”, hailed by critics as an album highlight and described as “hypnotic” by the Smoky Mountain News. "Born With A Hammer in my Hand," co-written with Tim Stafford, was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2000 IBMA Awards.  (Click on the Lyrics links on the Music page for details of Lane's contributions to the Blue Highway discography.)  His compositions have also been recorded by Ricky Skaggs, Ronnie Bowman, Mountain Heart, Blue Ridge and others. Check out his great solo record, All for Today, released by Rebel in 2003.   Shawn Lane 's signature instrument is the Dearstone Shawn Lane Model Mandolin.

  Shawn Lane
 
 
 
 
Wayne Taylor  

Wayne Taylor - A gifted songwriter, vocalist, and rock-solid bassist, Wayne's Southwest Virginia pedigree adds soul to his singing and authenticity to his songwriting. A founding member of Blue Highway, Wayne's lead vocals are a signature element of the band's sound.

Wayne's songs are consistently among the most requested at the band's live shows: “Keen Mountain Prison,” “Don't Come Out of the Hole,” “Lonesome Pine,” “Riding the Danville Pike,” "Before the Cold Winds Blow,” and “Seven Sundays in a Row” are perennial audience requests. “Homeless Man”, described as “a stark reflection on a life lost” (Billboard Magazine), and a “sympathetic look at the life of a homeless veteran who feels alienated from the country he defended” (VOA News), is one of Wayne's exceptional songs featured on Blue Highway's latest album, Through the Window of a Train, and a timely and timeless contribution to the bluegrass songbook. Wayne's instrumental chops won him the 2001 SPBGMA Bass Performer of the Year award.

 
 
     photo gallery
 
 
Blue Highway - FanFest 2011
Blue Highway at IBMA's FanFest, Sept. 30, 2011, with special guests Jacob Burleson (mando) and Samantha & Jeb Snyder (click for larger image)
FanFest 2011 - Celebrity Jam with Blue Highway
IBMA's FanFest 2011: Celebrity Jam with Blue Highway (click for larger image)
Celebrity Jam - IBMA's 2011 FanFest
Blue Highway's fans include lots of great pickers! (click for larger image)
     
Blue Highway at Merlefest 2008
MerleFest 2008.  Photo by Cindy Baucom
Merlefest
MerleFest 2008.  Photo by Cindy Baucom
Mike Auldridge, Rob Ickes at IBMA
Mike Auldridge and Rob Ickes celebrate Mike's Distinguished Achievement Award at IBMA, Oct. 4, 2007.
   

 

Jason Burleson & George Shuffler
Jason catches up with cross-picking guru George Shuffler, who played with the Stanley Brothers for many years.
Rob Ickes accepting 2003 Dobro Player of the Year Award, IBMA
A very special moment for Rob, after Lynn Morris and Marshall Wilburn opened the envelope and read his name at the 2003 IBMA Awards Show.
Alaska Bluegrass Cruise - Blue Highway
Alaska Bluegrass Cruise, July 7, 2007
     
Shawn Lane, Travis Book - Alaska Bluegrass Cruise

The '07 Alaska cruise closed with Blue Highway, the Infamous Stringdusters, and the Claire Lynch Band onstage together – including Shawn and Travis Book of the ‘Dusters.

Rob Ickes, Jim Hurst, Chris Pandolfi - Alaska Bluegrass Cruise

Rob, Jim Hurst (Claire Lynch Band), and Chris Pandolfi (of the “Dustbunnies”, as someone called them) enjoy the moment.

Blue Highway with Ernie Hunt

Blue Highway with Ernie Hunt, a family friend who played music with Rob when he was a kid and taught him a lot.  (Thanks, Ernie!)  

     
Shawn Lane & Manzanita

Shawn Lane and the Salem, OR Manzanita group (10/15/06): Jerry Douglas, Barry Bales, Tony Rice, Shawn, and Dan Tyminski.

Rob & his grandpa

A young Rob Ickes jams with his Grandpa (standing), Mom (left, on guitar), and Megan Lynch (at left, in pigtails), in this photo from approx. 1980.

Tim&CheickHamalaDiabate

Tim Stafford and Cheick Hamala Diabate of Mali at a MerleFest 2008 guitar workshop. Photo credit: Jon Rucker.

     
 
 
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