A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

When ‘sideline’ gig become success: Bluegrass’ Sideline takes stage at Dixie Station Dec. 7

By Vicki Prichard
NKyTribune reporter

What started as a side project for some seasoned Bluegrass musicians turned into an award-winning band. This week they’re bringing their strings to northern Kentucky when the aptly named Sideline takes the stage at Dixie Station in Elsmere on December 7.

A well-pedigreed six-piece ensemble out of Raleigh, NC, Sideline is comprised of a talented group of string-masters who have garnered awards, Grand Ole Opry appearances, and national and international touring. The powerhouse includes founder and bandleader, Steve Dilling on banjo, Skip Cherryholmes and Bailey Coe on guitar, Jason Moore on Bass, Troy Boone on mandolin, and Daniel Greeson on fiddle. This week they celebrate five years of playing Bluegrass together.

Dilling’s Bluegrass portfolio includes more than 20 years playing with Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out. He says he derived pleasure from Bluegrass from an early age, falling in love with the music he heard as a youngster attending concerts and music festivals with his parents.

“My dad bought me a banjo for my 12th birthday, and from that point on, I knew that I wanted a career in music, says Dilling. “I was so fortunate to be able to follow my dreams.”

Bluegrass band Sideline: Steve Dilling and Skip Cherryholmes, Troy Boone, Bailey Coe, Daniel Greeson and Jason Moore

Dreams are often realized through circuitous routes, and Sideline, says Dilling, came about by accident.

“When I was in the band IIIrd Tyme Out, I would have people who didn’t necessarily follow Bluegrass music, but wanted to see me play live, ask me when I would be playing locally,” says Dilling.

So, he put a band together, comprised of artists with other musical commitments, with the plan to play locally just a few times a year.

“Since it was a side project, meaning that we were all in other bands, we called it Sidelines,” he says. “We recorded one project, “Session One,” which was going to be the only recording this band ever did, but that recording had some success and we decided to put the band together and take it out on the road; we just celebrated five years of touring.”

Northern Kentucky attorney Steve Martin, who also happens to be a banjo-picker, an IBMA at-large board member, and host of the award-winning, Steve Martin’s Unreal Bluegrass radio show, describes Dilling and his crew as “the real deal.” He interviewed Dilling back in June on Unreal Bluegrass, and considers him a friend.

“Steve Dilling is one of a handful of banjo players recognized as an inspiration to all other players,” says Martin. “He has that quality that combines not just ability to get the notes but also the timing of a metronome, and, a clarity of tone.”

And tone, says Martin, is hard to define, involving more than just clean, separated notes. But, he adds, players and fans know that maximum banjo tone when they hear it, and Dilling nails it.

“Steve Dilling constantly rings the bell with every note,” says Martin. “He is also a fine band leader – a totally different skill.”

Martin says Sideline has emerged as one of the best bands on the circuit.

“Professional, easy and familiar on stage, reflecting Steve’s personality,” says Martin. “They grab every audience member and make them feel like the music is just for them.”

The band is also of the charitable sort, at the ready to lend their talents to a worthy cause. The band was pleased to take part of the benefit collaboration album, Come See About Me, released last week through Mountain Home Music, based near Asheville, with proceeds benefitting IBMA’s Bluegrass Trust Fund, a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable institution.

The idea for the benefit, says Dilling, sprang from Doyle Lawson, who is on the IBMA board.

Steve Martin, Northern Kentucky attorney, host of Steve Martin’s Unreal Bluegress, and IBMA board members says Steve Dilling is the ‘real deal.’

“I think it’s a great idea, and we are proud to be part of this project,” says Dilling.

IBMA’s Bluegrass Trust Fund provides support for Bluegrass music professionals in the event of emergencies or grave setbacks. To date, the trust has given more than $800,000 in direct aid to professionals in emergency need.

“The trust has made a big impact on our music,” says Dilling. “There are so many musicians who unfortunately do not have health insurance, and this trust fund has really helped them out in their time of need.”

Martin, says the IBMA Trust Fund is a “prime concern for IBMA.”

“Certainly, education and preservation of Bluegrass are everyday concerns for IBMA, but ultimately IBMA was created to provide funds for Bluegrass musicians for emergency needs,” says Martin. “The trust fund can address those dire needs.”

The process is carried out without divulging the names of recipients. Some musicians, however, have shared their stories so as to speak to the significance and impact of the fund.

For instance, when the Cumberland River swelled in 2010, flooding much of Nashville, the trust provided funds to help mandolinist and guitarist, Ashby Frank, whose home suffered damages requiring extensive repairs. And in 2011, when resonator guitarist Phil Leadbetter who performed with groups such as Grasstowne, J.D. Crowe & the New South, and Wildfire, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, the fund helped with medical costs.

Much of the fund’s support comes from the music community. With musicians often donating time and profits from recorded and live events to the trust fund.

“Kind of an amazing wheel of continuous giving and responding to needs.
Bluegrass tries very hard to take care of its own,” says Martin. “Anyone can donate to the fund. The notion that the great performers we all derive so much pleasure from might be left in need is not acceptable.”

Doors open at Dixie Station at 8 p.m. on Friday, December 7. The band Chain Reaction will open for Sideline.

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