Big Medicine

Since their formation in 1999, Raleigh-based Big Medicine has become one of the most accomplished string bands in the North Carolina Piedmont. Consisting of multi-instrumentalists Joe Newberry, Bobb Head, Kenny Jackson, and LaNelle Davis, the group specializes in old-time and bluegrass music, and are considered master interpreters of traditional material. The individual members of Big Medicine boast impressive resumes.

Missouri-born Joe Newberry, while best known for his innovative banjo playing, is also a prizewinning guitarist, fiddler, and singer as well. In addition, his gift for songwriting shows up in regular contributions to Big Medicine's repertoire, as well as showing up in the bluegrass hit parade through covers of his songs by popular performers. His song "Singing as We Rise," recorded by The Gibson Brothers and Ricky Skaggs, took home the Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year at the 2012 International Bluegrass Music Association Awards. Newberry has played music for most of his life, and in addition to performing with Big Medicine, he also can be found making music with Red Clay Rambler founders Bill Hicks, Mike Craver, and Jim Watson. When not working as a writer and editor, he does solo and studio work, and teaches and performs at festivals at home and abroad.

Bobb Head is a Texan transplanted to North Carolina, contributing top-notch guitar, banjo picking, and harmony vocals - and he is a bass player whom any string band would covet as a member. When he's not playing with Big Medicine, you can see him with the Stillhouse Bottom Band; with Dueling Shoes, a percussive dance ensemble; and the Deep Phat Friars, an irreverent southern-fried contra band. He has also performed with a number of pickup bands. Before moving to North Carolina, he played with the Privy Tippers in Tucson and, before that, with the Self-Righteous Brothers in Houston.

Kenny Jackson established his reputation as a gifted fiddler during his tenure with Leftwich, Higginbotham, and Jackson in the mid-1980s, co-founding the acclaimed old-time group the Rhythm Rats shortly thereafter. Jackson is a compelling singer, guitarist, and banjo player as well, distinctive in his interpretation of traditional music while being deeply rooted in old-time sources from the southern mountain region. Besides playing with Big Medicine, he is also a sought-after fiddle teacher, working with individual students in person and online, and at traditional music camps across the country.

LaNelle Davis, an eastern NC native, didn't come to the playing of old-time music as most people do - she came by way of dance and square dance calling. Drawn to the percussive sounds of the clogging teams she heard and saw at early 1970s bluegrass festivals, Davis sought out teachers of the steps and routines. After touring and performing extensively as a dancer and caller during the 1980s, her interest turned to music when a friend moved away and left a bass at her house. She credits her love of the percussive rhythm of dance with her affinity for bass playing. Known for her full-on, driving bass lines and singing, she has performed and recorded with numerous prize winning and nationally known old-time bands and individuals. Retired after a 30 year career in social work, Davis now spends her time playing music and making mosaic sculptures and murals.

Big Medicine has released three albums--Pine to Pine (2009), Fever in the South (2004), and Too Old to Be Controlled (2002)--and maintains a busy touring schedule with appearances at concerts and festivals throughout the United States.

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Kenny Jackson
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601 Jones Ferry Rd., Apt.F5
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Master Classes
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