In folk music, which includes but is not limited to, the blues and bluegrass, the touring duo of two musicians that complement each other by their song choices, instrumentation and vocals sometimes provide à magical performance.

by Mark Panfil

I remember seeing Brownie McGee and Sonny Terry at the Mariposa Folk Festival and Peter Rowan and Jerry Douglas in Rochester. Looking back, I realize these were the best ways to experience the masterful depth of Sonny’s harmonica and Jerry’s dobro and to fully appreciate the nuances of Brownie and Peter’s guitar and vocal styles.

Ickes and Hensley

Yes, this is leading up to the night at Iron Works just before COVID that my brother Chris and I saw Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley’s amazing duo performance. Rob was a founding member of the highly acclaimed Bluegrass band Blue Highway and 15-time dobro player of the year. Trey first appeared on the Grand Old Opry at age 11 and has been shaking up the guitar scene in Nashville ever since. The proverbial triple threat, singer, guitar master and songwriter, he and Rob put on a stellar performance, giving us a deeper glimpse into the total musicians that they are. Chris and I walked out of that show agreeing that these two performers were amazing and the striking similarity of Trey’s voice to Merle Haggard’s.

The great news is that Ickes and Hensley are returning to Buffalo at the Sportsmen’s Tavern on Wednesday, July 13, at 7 p.m.


Lonesome River Band

Another rare appearance of an internationally acclaimed bluegrass group will be taking place in a suburb of Buffalo. On Friday, August 12, the Lonesome River Band will be at the West Falls Center for the Arts, just south of Orchard Park. Since its formation decades ago, the Lonesome River Band continues its reputation as one of the most respected names in bluegrass music.

Sammy Shelor, a five-time International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Banjo Player of the Year and winner of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, leads a group that is constantly breaking new ground in acoustic music. With two stellar lead vocalists, Jesse Smathers (guitar) and Adam Miller (mandolin), and the impressive talents of Mike Hartgrove (fiddle) and Kameron Keller (bass), the LRB is a high-energy and precise bluegrass band that headlines major festivals across the country.


Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble

The Springville Fiddle Fest will provide a great opportunity to see several local and regional folk and bluegrass bands. The Fiddle Fest takes place on Saturday, July 30, on multiple stages on and close to the gazebo in Fiddlers Green Park in Springville NY and again this year, there is no charge.

The Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble kicks it off at 11 a.m. The group is made up of middle and high school students from all over Western New York who sing and play traditional bluegrass. The Fiddle Kids, led by Heather Pennington, will play fiddle favorites starting at 1 p.m. Katie Clark will be fiddling and singing with her family, the Panfil Family at 2:15 pm.

The schedule looks like this

Fiddlers Green Park Gazebo

11:00-12:15 Hey Mavis
12:15-12:30 Opening Ceremony
12:30-2:00  Hey Mavis
2:30-4:00    Chillbillys
4:30-6:00    Kody & Herren

WNY Fiddle Kids

Heritage Park Gazebo

11:00-11:45 Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble
12:15-1:45  Creek Bend
2:15-3:45    Panfil Family
4:15-5:45    South Buffalo Fresh Air Club



Concord Mercantile Stage

11:00-12:30 Mercantile Musicians
1:00-2:30     WNY Fiddle Kids
3:00-4:30    The Hick Ups
5:00-6:30    Hintz of Thunder

There will be an evening concert at Heritage Park Gazebo:
6:30-9:00  by the Sky Cats.


We are lucky to have free opportunities to see great local live music in the greater Buffalo area, but I ask local music lovers to please also embrace the shows that require a ticket and perhaps a drive to a venue you may have never visited before.

Brave, local music promoters occasionally are able to offer us these rare opportunities to see bands that truly draw thousands to their shows in the south. Please support these local venues by buying and attending these shows. The quality of these groups are beyond description. They need to be seen live .

As always, you can get up to date listings of local and touring bluegrass music 24/7 at

Have a great summer and I hope to see you out there enjoying live music in the greater Buffalo area.

As always, keep on pickin’.

The Editor

Author The Editor

More posts by The Editor

Leave a Reply