Nov 8, 2012 09:24 AM WV Sound
Keeping a beat in the Mountain State
Finding a Love for Bluegrass
Luke Shamblin had to learn bluegrass. It’s a genre of music with a long-standing tradition, and to involve yourself with it is to pick up on something larger, more rooted, than you. The songs reach back into our collective past, and the instruments outlive the players. For Luke, the process of learning bluegrass has unfolded across more than a decade.
Luke, an Elkview native, was given his first taste of the genre by his grandfather, Bob Summers, a musician known for his fiddle playing and involvement in gospel quartets. Bob passed away in October 2001, but left 15-year-old Luke his prized fiddle and a newfound love in music.
Luke went on to attend Glenville State College to study political science and history, but he also walked away with a two-year degree in bluegrass from the world’s only such program. Back then, Luke’s typical week included courses in everything from sound engineering and music marketing to music lessons on multiple instruments. “Professor Buddy Griffin (brother of the well-known Rex Griffin) knew how to push me to make me better and knows this music just as well, if not better, than anyone I have come in contact with,” Luke says. “He taught me that hard work and dedication to this music could make me into whatever type of musician I wanted to be.”
Much of Luke’s new record, Higher Ground, pulls heavily upon West Virginian songwriters, as he wanted to channel the state’s music history. “It’s our heritage, “ he says. “There are some amazing West Virginians who have had major success in the traditional music field.” He also looks to The Wheeling Jamboree, which is second only to the Grand Ole Opry as the nation’s oldest country music broadcast, as inspiration. “The Jamboree was always a great venue for bluegrass musicians to be heard and get their start,” Luke says. “These mountains and hollows have a story to tell, and bluegrass music is a great outlet for those stories.”
While Luke is only 25, he plans to release a new record every year for as long as he can continue. He’s a young guy with an appreciation of an old art, and he feels that bluegrass is as relevant now as it ever was. “As long as there are fans to play to, there is always a place for bluegrass music.”