Bluegrass artist stretches boundaries

February 07, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Don Rigsby is a busy guy: just starting a tour with his band, Midnight Call; producing three projects; teaching at Morehead State University; and spending time with his newborn son.

Rigsby said he enjoys producing and hopes to do that on a bigger scale, but bluegrass fans don't need to worry about him hanging up his mandolin, fiddle or guitar anytime soon.

"I like performing best," Rigsby said during a recent phone interview from Kentucky.

Don Rigsby & Midnight Call will be performing at Apollo Civic Theatre on Sunday afternoon. Midnight Call got a new fiddle player in September, Patrick McAvinue. The other band members are Robert Maynard on acoustic bass, Dale Vanderpool on banjo, and Clyde Marshall on guitar.

Rigsby, who turns 40 later this month, said he enjoys the adrenaline rush of live concerts. However, it can be disheartening if turnout is low.


As technology has improved and allowed the convenience of downloading songs at home, more people stay home and go out less often, Rigsby said.

For those who go to the Apollo on Sunday, Rigsby said they can plan on seeing a good show - one that focuses on the music and not fancy light and smoke effects.

His music, Rigsby said, straddles traditional and contemporary bluegrass.

"I'm not a slave to the traditional things. I'm not afraid to put a little bit of percussion on my records," but it's so light people might not notice it if they're not listening for it, he said.

On Sunday, Rigsby will play music from his four solo albums as well as his upcoming gospel album, "The Voice of God," which he expects to be released around April.

"It's going to stretch some boundaries, but not till they break," Rigsby said. The gospel album will run the gamut from hard-core, traditional bluegrass to blues.

Rigsby's Web site,, lists his musical achievements: nominated for two Grammys; twice was named traditional male vocalist of the year by Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America; and named Bluegrass Now magazine's vocal tenor of the year in 1999.

Before starting his solo career in 2003, Rigsby performed with Lonesome River Band.

In addition to performing solo, he plays with Longview, an all-star bluegrass band that has won two International Bluegrass Music Association awards. Longview releases a new album about every four or five years and has one coming out this March, "Deep in the Mountains."

Rigsby also is director of Morehead State University's Kentucky Center for Traditional Music, a program with the goal to preserve and promote traditional music. The college hosts several events, many of which are free, to expose people to traditional music.

Rigsby said MSU staff and students visit public and private schools to perform and teach youngsters about the history of traditional music such as bluegrass, folk, blues and gospel.

If you can reach children at the right age, Rigsby said, you can change their perception of what is cool. Kids often think what's cool is what's on TV and the Internet, Rigsby said. But it's OK for them to venture away from the mass media and decide on their own what is cool.

As the father of a 6-year-old girl, Rigsby knows that can be tough.

But performing, for Rigsby, is more fun with an audience. He knows if he wants his kids and their peers to appreciate traditional music, he's got to keep the music alive not just on stage but in the hearts of his future audience.

If you go ...

WHAT: Bluegrass concert featuring Don Rigsby & Midnight Call

WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10

WHERE: Apollo Civic Theatre, 128 E. Martin St., Martinsburg, W.Va.

COST: $14, including service charge

MORE: For tickets, call the theater at 304-263-6766. The box office will open at 2 p.m. Sunday. For more information, go to

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