The circus comes to town


The hills and valleys of southwest Virginia have nurtured many remarkable bluegrass musicians, and Thomas Cassell carries on that proud tradition with a progressive twist. On Thursday, Thursday, Sept. 14., the young Norton, Virginia mandolinist and his group Circus Number 9 return to White Horse Black Mountain.

Their arrangements reflect lessons learned from bluegrass masters as well as players that have pushed the frontiers of the genre, injecting blues, jazz, folk and New Acoustic into their string band lineup. 

Thomas Cassell

In addition to Cassell, a recent winner of the prestigious 2016 Rockygrass mandolin competition, the youthful Nashville-based ensemble features 2016 National Banjo Champion Matthew Davis and guitarist Colin Hotz. Together, the dynamic group is a phenomenon on the new acoustic music scene.

Matthew Davis

As might be expected, bandleader Cassell lists pioneering mandolinists like Jethro Burns, Sam Bush, “Dawg Music” architect David Grisman, Mike Marshall and Chris Thile as influences, along with relative newcomer Sierra Hull. But he also cites flatpicking guitar heavyweights Doc Watson, Brian Sutton and Tony Rice as musical models, and his all-time hero is the late multi-instrumentalist iconoclast John Hartford.

Colin Hotz

“Listening to music is a vital part of learning music," Cassell said in reference to what young players like himself need. "Listen to something in every free moment you have.” He enjoys hearing how other people interpret music in unexpected ways and uses those insights in his approach to cover tunes and his original compositions. 


Show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 advance/$12 door.