Press

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  • “While most Americans were packing up their Christmas trees and trying to stick to their New Year’s resolutions, the Ventucky String Band was on the road, bringing their “golden age of country music” to pubs and concert halls across Western Europe. It seems an unlikely place for an Americana band to find an avid fan base, but bluegrass, rockabillly and roots music has a huge following in Belgium and the Netherlands.”–American Roots in the Low Countries, VC Reporter March 2017
  • Ghost of the Damned, Philville Records 2016 “The title song ‘Ghost of the Damned’ begins with mournful Mandolin solo joined by echoing dobro accompanying a criminal’s story. The crime theme continues with the murder of Roy Lee Centers, the singer who replaced Carter Stanley in the Clinch Mountain Boys. Dobro and harmonica set the tone for ‘Cursed Rover’ a horseman forever riding till the end of time. The pace of the music uplifts into California Swing rhythm with Matt’s song about Swing Music King Spade Cooley who killed his wife and died before he was released from jail. Fiddles abound in ‘Herlong Mamma,’ and vocals tumble out in tribute to ‘mammas that just don’t quit.’ Guitar dobro and harmonica wrap around the melody as they sashay through the traditional ‘Alabama Jubilee.’ An album highlight is ‘Columbus Stockade Blues’ which Matt delivers with a bluesy backbeat and intertwined guitar solos. Engaging warm vocals, swirling guitar and dobro solos, and a dash of old country rhythm make this an album worth playing over and over again!”–Brenda Hough, CBMA Bluegrass Breakdown (February 21st, 2017)
  • “The new Ventucky String Band album, the expertly woven tapestry of The Band Plays On, has musicianship in spades, in the staccato punch of plucked bass and the über-tight banjo harmonies. Songs like the peppy “Careful How You Catch ’Em” are so note perfect it’s hard to believe they weren’t pulled from a time capsule. But it’s also true to form in the deeply affecting lyrics, lovelorn and honest, like on “Buenos Aires Blues,” when singer Matt Sayles sings, “Time stretched me out, and I’m feeling like a sorry old fool.” Fun, succinct, and moving, too, it’s an accomplished work from a very talented bunch”   — Richie DeMaria, Santa Barbara Independent (Oct 20, 2015)
  • “I view all musical history as a tree, one with deep roots, a broad trunk, wide branches, and many limbs,” said The Ventucky String Band’s Matt Sayles. “The value of any type of music is intrinsically linked to the past, and any artist worth paying attention to understands the branches to which they are connected.” This year marks the first time the Ventucky String Band will be one of the featured acts at the festival, though their reputation precedes them as one of the premier bluegrass acts in the 805 since forming in 2010. You may have seen them before, either sharing a playbill with some of the biggest names in country and folk — Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakam, Asleep at the Wheel ”— Richie Demaria, Santa Barbara Independent (Oct 08, 2015)
  • “The Ventucky String Band’s handle is a play on the Poinsettia City’s redneck roots, back when many of those yahoo-friendly folks worked a few miles up the Ventura Avenue in the yet-producing oil fields. Matt Sayles out of Michigan is the frontman; Dave White out of Indiana plays banjo and mandolin; and Rick Clemens, the only California native, plays bass. There’s a new member, fiddle master Mark Parson, who’s one of the former drunken simians in Whiskey Chimp. Also giving a huge helping hand is Bill Flores (of Jeff Bridges’ Band “the Abiders”), a master musician who can and does play anything.”–Bill Locey, Ventura County Star 2014
  • “The strong lead vocal on ‘Good Woman’s Love’ and mandolin solo introduction is an album [ ‘The Band Plays On’] highlight and ‘Honey Don’t’ has a wonderful rollicking fiddle introduction and a fine flowing presentation. Lauren’s ‘Careful How You Catch ‘Em’ has an upbeat vocal with warnings about setting precedents in a relationship and advice to be ‘careful how you catch ’em, and how you keep ’em.’ This song has some mandolin riffs from Dave and Lauren’s fiddle trills like a clarinet. Matt’s songs [on the album] are slower paced and have more of a singer-songwriter sense. ‘Breathing Smoke’ is a done-me-wrong-revenge ballad with the singer lamenting in a jail cell, and ‘Buenos Aires Blues’ has a bluesy harmonica and the musings of a ‘sorry old fool.’ “–Brenda Hough, Bluegrass Breakdown (Oct 01, 2015)
  • “The Ventucky String Band has been plucking away around these parts since 2010,and in the process has established itself as one of the premier acoustic acts in the area. With its latest release, The Band Plays On, there are two new facets to the group that help take things to the next level. One is Lauren Donahue, who’s joined the group on fiddle and vocals. Having a female voice in the previously all-male lineup now gives the harmonies and vocals a new, interesting layer. The second reason Ventucky String Band is reaching new heights is the songwriting. Groups that focus heavily on the playing (and with the word “string” in the name, they certainly have to) tend to let the actual song take the back seat in order to get to the ripping banjo and mandolin solos. In the case of The Band Plays On, however, Ventucky String Band puts just as much focus on the storytelling and melodies as it does on the actual performance. Standout tracks like ‘Honey Don’t’ and ‘Autumn in My Mind’ are simple but beautiful songs that wouldn’t be out of place on a Steve Earle or John Prine record. The only real miss on the writing front is ‘Breathing Smoke,’ a story song with the overused “shot a man for sleeping with my woman” plot line that seems a little forced and awkward.  But one misfire on an eight-song album is nothing to complain about. Ventucky String Band has proved it can play on — and write on, just as well.”– Chris Jay, Ventura County Reporter, August 27th 2015
  • “On the wonderfully diverse album “Happenstance,” half of which was tracked live, the quartet casually conveys its mastery of traditional bluegrass instruments such as the fiddle and the banjo in a way that can only be described as “shredding.” Toe-tapping clever ditties like the swingin’ “Reaper Don’t Care” and the darker “Hell Needs Preachers Too” are juxtaposed by the absolutely sublime instrumental “High Desert Sonata” and “So Much Love in This World,” which could easily cross over into mainstream country radio. My personal favorite is the jazzed-up “Ventuck You,” a laugh-out-loud anti-ode to California girls that features Whiskey Chimp’s Bill Flores playing horns and tenor banjo. ‘I’ve seen enough of these girls with big shades on, thinking somebody cares about their goings-on, Struttin’ around like their shit don’t stink, famous in their minds but too busy to think.’ Good stuff.”–Michel Miller, Ventura County Reporter June, 2014
  • “When Carl’s Jr. launched the Western Bacon Cheeseburger in the early ’80s, one of its San Diego restaurants had receipts printed with the rather celebratory phrase “Shit Howdy!” at the top. The Ventucky String Band’s latest, Rush the Growler, is a bit like that surprise: Songs about chasing girls and chasing beer rub shoulders with energetic fiddles, fine guitar picking and harmonious harmonica playing. Titles like “She’s Looking Better Every Beer,” “Bottom of the Glass” and “Sick Sober & Sorry” are perfect for lost Sundays recuperating from the previous night’s alcoholic annihilation. It sounds as if they — bassist Rick Clemens, fiddler Mark Parson, guitarist Matt Sayles, mandolinist Dave White — had a real hoot making the CD (recorded live, in real time, inside a rustic cabin), and the overall effect is not unlike being invited to sit in on the recording session and enjoy the inestimable fruits of their ballsy labors.” —David Cotner, Ventura County Reporter August, 2013
  • “…reminiscent of the dour delivery of Son Volt’s Jay Farrar…Sayles’ love of the strangeness and beauty of Americana is reflected throughout the 12 songs.” — “Whisperin & Hollerin” Ireland 2010