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Brushfire Stankgrass performs Jan. 11

By Derek Halsey (

Article Published: Jan. 10, 2014 | Modified: Jan. 12, 2014
Brushfire Stankgrass performs Jan. 11

Brushfire Stankgrass, featuring Ben Saylor, Will Saylor, Micah Thomas and Daniel Iannucci, will
perform Jan. 11 at Murphy’s in Boone.

Photo submitted

At the heart of the band, Brushfire Stankgrass, are the Saylor brothers, with banjoist Ben and guitarist Will.

Both began to play bluegrass at an early age, yet they eventually grew up to chase other forms of music, such as hip-hop and rock. The morphing together of all of those genres is what makes Brushfire Stankgrass unique.

Brushfire Stankgrass performs at Murphy’s Restaurant & Pub this Saturday night, Jan 11. The band is made up of Ben and Will Saylor, drummer Micah Thomas and bassist Daniel Iannucci. The group’s latest album is called “Microclimates,” and it just came in at No. 75 on WNCW’s Top 100 Albums of 2013.

“It started out as a little more of a bluegrass thing,” Ben Saylor said about the evolution of Brushfire Stankgrass. “We got a local bluegrass gig, and pretty early on we got a WNCW Studio B session and added a drummer, and from there, we’ve been going at it. We toured around North Carolina some, but we stayed here in Asheville probably longer than we should have. But in the last few years, we’ve been getting out and touring the region.”

As the sound of the band has grown, so has the definition of the term, “stankgrass.”

“People always ask us what ‘stankgrass’ is and what is the ‘stank’ and the ‘grass,’ and we describe our sound with a smell,” Saylor said. “‘Stank’ doesn’t necessarily have to have a negative connotation. It’s a good kind of stank, a stank that smells good to the senses, and we translate that into audio form with our music. It’s definitely something that comes out of Southern Appalachian straight bluegrass music. That is what we trained on, and that is what we started playing. Our first band was a family band, with our mom playing standup bass. But we grew up enjoying a lot of different types of music, from jambands to hip-hop. Right around the time when we named the band Stankgrass, the OutKast album, ‘Stankonia,’ came out, so it was a popular word at the time, and it kind of stuck.”

Will Saylor, Thomas and Iannucci all have jazz music in their backgrounds, as well, which adds to the Brushfire Stankgrass approach. One artist who is a major influence on the band is the late John Hartford, whose music has influenced many younger musicians of these times.

“I’d say our band is very much akin to a John Hartford type of sound,” Saylor said. “I really wish I would have had the chance to see him (before his death in 2001). He came through Asheville on his last tour, and I honestly didn’t know who he was yet. I really didn’t find out about John Hartford until I was 15 years into my banjo career. But yes, he is a huge influence, and we cover several Hartford tunes, like ‘Howard Hughes’ Blues,’ ‘Steam Powered Aereo-plane,’ ‘Turn Your Radio On’ and ‘Joseph’s Dream/Get No Better.’”

Still, Brushfire Stankgrass’ music is about the here and now, and all grooves are possible when it comes to their live shows.

“We don’t stop until we pack the dance floor, which we usually do at Murphy’s,” Saylor said. “Both myself and my brother play through a whole wide array of Moog analog effects. We run our acoustic instruments through a lot of analog electronic processors for some really unique sounds. Boone is fun, and Murphy’s is a classic jamband venue, for sure.”

The Jan. 11 show starts at 10 p.m. at Murphy’s, located at 747 W. King St. in downtown Boone. Admission costs $5. For more information, visit

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