Still cool waters
Stoney Creek, Libby Files heading to Brunswick
Um, Gwyneth who?
Meet Libby Files. She's bluegrass strong.
For almost 10 years, the Hedgesville, W.Va. resident has served as the manager and lead vocalist for The Stoney Creek Bluegrass Band, which will bring its trademark twang to Brunswick's Beans in the Belfry on Sunday.
Files helped found the band back in 2000, after a brief tenure with its musical progenitor, The Baxter Hollar Bluegrass Band, which began a West Virginia tour in the early 1990s before dissolving in 1997.
Rechristened Stoney Creek, the band's original roster named musicians Ron Hazlett, Larry Keesecker and Files. Before long, Files was the only founding member that remained.
As is the nature of the bluegrass beast, Stoney Creek members have come and gone through the years, says Files, but the current lineup Darrell Sanders on banjo and dobro duty; Brett Smeltzer on mandolin and guitarist Ed Barney has been burning up the charts, of late, thanks to a new CD, "Hot of the Press," released in August last year, and unprecedented airplay.
The band's latest single, "Going to Georgia," was launched via AirPlay Direct to radio on Dec. 26, soaring to number one on the digital delivery system's Bluegrass and Folk Top 50 singles chart the same day, while the album itself landed on AirPlay's Top 10.
It doesn't hurt that Files, herself, is receiving special notice. Says Frank Jurney of Virginia's Berryville Bluegrass Series: "Libby is among the rising number of female vocalists who are making a big impact on bluegrass music."
While humbled by the words, Files doesn't allow such lofty praise to go to her head.
"It's awesome to be compared to the female artists that are out there today," she says, while, in the same breath, noting that the music industry is flooded with equally ambitious bluegrass bands.
"The competition out there is tough," she says. "The bluegrass bands out there are fierce. You've gotta be on your game."
Luckily, Files keeps good company.
Sanders played banjo for the late Charlie Moore, as well as Bill Harrell and the Virginians, while Smeltzer spent quality time with Jack Sanbower and No Leeway, hailed as one of Maryland's top bluegrass bands throughout the 1990s.
Barney, who toured internationally as a guitarist with Up With People, is regionally renowned for his flatpicking style.
This current iteration of Stoney Creek has played together for three years, Files says.
"And they all sing," she adds. "They all put forth vocals for us, which is good."
Files found her calling early.
"I've always loved bluegrass," says the musician, who began playing guitar at age 12. "It seemed [all of the bands in the area] needed a bass player, so that's what I taught myself how to play."
Today, she and the boys tour local watering holes like Thelma's Restaurant in Hedgesville. But the band has done it all vineyards, regional music fests, and, last year, the 38th Annual Lucketts Fair in Lucketts, Va., where the band has also turned up at the performance venue formerly known as the Old Schoolhouse (now the Lucketts Community Center).
And one of these days, Files says, "I'll make it out to Gettysburg."
Their fans will likely follow.
"[They're] a good group of people," Files says of Stoney Creek's devotees. "They're pretty dedicated. They follow us pretty much wherever we go, within reason. If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be where we are."
A live recording lies on the horizon for the band. "We'll be going back into the studio real soon," says Files, adding that a gospel album is also in the works. "Hopefully within the year, we'll have three different recordings to offer."
Historically, covers have largely been the name of the game for Stoney Creek, but that, too, could change. Files' late sister, Dee Stotlemyer, penned seven original tunes, and Files hopes the traditional bluegrass and gospel songs soon will see the light of day.
In the meantime, any Stoney Creek newcomers planning to sit in on Brunswick's concert can expect "hard driving, high energy bluegrass," Files says.
"Just going out and playing for anyone who wants to listen to us is a great feeling."
Stoney Creek Bluegrass
-When: 7 p.m. Sunday
-Where: Beans in the Belfry, 122 West Potomac St., Brunswick
-For information: 301-834-7178