Walker's Run is an acoustic bluegrass band based out of Lexington, Virginia who also play New Grass and Jazz music.
In 1997 Brennan Gilmore of Lexington, Virginia gathered together musicians from his hometown and from the University of Virginia, where he was studying international relations, to create the band Walker's Run. The group combined Rockbridge County mountain-music, Blue Ridge bluegrass and the Indie Rock experience of Gilmore's high school band, Concordia Discors. They packed major Charlottesville venues such as The Starr Hill Music Hall while becoming regulars at smaller venues like Millers and Michael's Bistro. Their repertoire included new takes on the "old time" canon, an eclectic group of covers and crowd favorites along with original songs. The Walker's Run sound is best define by compositions like "Torrent" by songwriter, Gilmore.
The band sold thousands of copies of their eponymous debut CD Walker's Run before taking a long-term hiatus in 2002 when their founder began his professional career as a United States Foreign Service Officer which takes him to long-term posts abroad. During Gilmore's stateside posts, the band reunites and invites new fans to local shows. In the interim band members have continued separate musical careers, including collaborations with Sub-Saharan and North African musicians and reggae fusion to producing bluegrass records.
In 2009, the group re-formed, welcoming two new members, mandolin player Andy Thacker with Adrienne Young and Fairweather Bums, and fiddler Nick Reeb of King Wilkie. The other band members are founding members Brennan Gilmore on guitar (switching from mandolin) and vocals and Zack Blatter on upright bass. Will Lee, of the legendary Magraw Gap and an early musical mentor to the younger Walker's Run members growing up in Rockbridge County, often joins the group on banjo and vocals.
Since founding Walker's Run, Gilmore has created two other acts: Kantara, an Arab-Appalachian collaboration that earned him an award from the U.S. Secretary of State for its cultural impact. As Gilmore states: "A couple of old fiddle tunes have now become oud and darbouka tunes." Kantara means "bridge" in Arabic. Most recently Gilmore founded Borden Grant, named for the provision of land by King George II of Great Britain on which Rockbridge County, Virginia was later situated.
Two members of Magraw Gap, the musical inspiration for Walker's Run, have performed with the group: Will Lee and Danny Knicely. Lee and Knicely also perform as a duo. Lee's father joined the Stanley Brothers as lead guitarist after playing with Bluegrass Tar Heels, special protegées of Bill Monroe.Ann Marie Calhoun (née Simpson) has toured with Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, performed with Ringo Starr, and played with the rock supergroup SuperHeavy--Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart, Joss Stone, AR Rahman, and Damian Marley--on their debut studio album.
Early Walker's Run members Billy Cardine and Ben Krakauer have helped form other groups--The Biscuit Burners and Old School Freight Train respectively--in addition to their own solo careers. Ann Marie's sister Mary Simpson, who has also played fiddle and sung with the group, has originated Whisky Rebellion. She joined Yanni in September 2010, for his South American tour, also performing with the composer in Puerto Rico.
Gilmore, Lee, Knicely, and Calhoun perform with another group out of Lexington and Rockbridge County, Gary Ruley and Mule Train. As Gary Ruley states: "There's so many great pickers who live in or near Rockbridge County that it's not difficult to get a bunch of friends together and make music."
Individual members have won a number of performance awards at music festivals through the year, some as a part of other groups.
Walker's Run and its members have appeared on prestigious stages throughout the United States and overseas, including the Kennedy Center, Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Theater at Lime Kiln, and many others. Walker's Run were highlighted at the 2009 Watermelon Park Festival in Berryville, Virginia, where Magraw Gap had reunited for an appearance the year prior, and Gary Ruley and Mule Train performed the following year.
Walker's Run performs traditional bluegrass material in a hard-charging "mountain metal" style, always pushing the edges into other genres such as jazz, blues, reggae, and even rock. They have mastered bluegrass covers of Beatles tunes as easily as those by reggae great Bob Marley.
"There's a roughness to the music. Our sound is more raw mountain music than cleaner traditional bluegrass."
--founder Brennan Gilmore
Distinctions, honors, and awards:
In April 2012 the group performed at the Sala de Conciertos La Paz (SCON) as a benefit for La Escuela de Música del Estado, the state music school of Mexico in La Paz, Baja California Sur, México.,
Gary Ruley and Mule Train were the 2010 winners of the Rockbridge County, Virginia Chamber of Commerce Rockbridge Community People's Choice Awards "Group Arts/Entertainer of the Year".,
Ann Marie Calhoun was the winner of the "My Grammy Moment" contest at the 50th Grammy Awards on February 10, 2008, playing live with the Foo Fighters during the broadcast.,
The Pat Ruley Trophy for Best All Around Blue Grass Performer at the Maury River Fiddler's Convention--which held its 17th annual event in 2010 in Buena Vista, Virginia--was won by Will Lee in 2008.,
In the past half-decade current and previous members of Walker's Run have won numerous awards at the Maury River Fiddler's Convention including first place finishes for Will Lee on guitar in 2005, 2007, and 2008, and second place awards to Danny Knicely for bluegrass fiddle in 2007 and 2009, and to Will Lee for guitar in 2006.,
In 2006 Brennan Gilmore won the prestigious Secretary of State's Award for Public Outreach from the U.S. State Department for "ground-breaking efforts to engage non-traditional audiences and promote Arab-American cultural understanding through music" after founding Kantara --a musical group that creates an "alchemy of Appalachian old-time and bluegrass and North African melodies and rhythms"--and touring the world with it.,
Will Lee's father joined the legendary Stanley Brothers as lead guitarist after playing with Bluegrass Tar Heels, special protegées of Bill Monroe. On his mother's side, Grandpa Clark was a fine ragtime pianist whose two sons both play guitar, while William Penmon Lee, the grandfather he was named after, was a respected clawhammer banjo player in Alabama and Mississippi.,
Danny Knicely's grandfather, A. O. Knicely, played old time guitar, mandolin, and fiddle as leader of the Knicely Family Band. His father played bass and banjo in A.O.K.'s band; he also led his own country and bluegrass band, Dominion Express. Danny's mother had two groups: Heartland, a country and gospel band, as well as a large dance troupe, the Massanutten Mountain Cloggers.,
Magraw Gap, a band including Will Lee and Danny Knicely, took first place at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1995.,
Andy Thacker-- mandolin/vocals,
Zack Blatter -- bass,
Nick Reeb -- fiddle/vocals,
Ann Marie Calhoun (née Simpson)--fiddle/vocals,
Brennan Gilmore (guitar), Zach Blatter (bass), Will Lee (banjo) of Walker's Run perform at Bel Rio in Charlottesville, Virginia,
April 17, 2009.
Brennan Gilmore on guitar at Bel Rio in Charlottesville, Virginia April 17, 2009.
Danny Knicely on violin, playing with Gary Ruley and Mule Train at The Southern Inn in Lexington, Virginia, Christmas 2008
Will Lee on banjo, David Knicely on bass, playing with Gary Ruley and Mule Train at The Southern Inn in Lexington, Virginia, Christmas 2008
Brennan Gilmore on mandolin, playing with Gary Ruley and Mule Train at The Southern Inn in Lexington, Virginia, Christmas 2008
Ann Marie Calhoun on violin, playing with Gary Ruley and Mule Train at The Southern Inn in Lexington, Virginia, Thanksgiving 2008