Cade Slayden and Ryan Kelly first met at the Montana Fiddle Camp. Both attended in 2015 and 2016, then, as kids do, they returned to their lives and lost touch. But fate put them together again in 2021 when Ryan had a few friends over and Cade walked in. “It was like, ‘I know you!’” Ryan recalls. “We played bluegrass all night and decided we should form a band. We had a band in place by the next month.”
The name of the band, North Fork Crossing, came from the scenic surroundings in their native Montana. “My father had a fly-fishing outfit on the Blackfoot River in Montana,” says Cade. “My two siblings and I worked on the north fork of the river.”
Cade says he grew up in a musical family. “I was very musically focused throughout high school. I knew that’s what I wanted to do and pursue in my life,” There is no doubt that Cade has found his place in the music world. “The community as a whole is booming, and we are growing with it. The live music scene is exploding. There are a few strong bands now from Bozeman.”
A few of those bands include the Kitchen Dwellers, Lanie Lou and the Bird Dogs, and The Last Revel.
“Their banjo player has helped us to get gigs,” says Cade. Other artists they are inspired by include Bill Monroe, Nick Dumas, Doc Watson, Tony Rice, John Hartford, Billy Strings and Harry Clark, to name a few. “We listen to quite the spectrum of music,” Cade says. “Also, Mountain Grass Unit blows our minds with their music playing abilities. We like progressive music as much as we like traditional.”
Describing themselves as “a little bit jam grassy, but traditionally focused,” North Fork Crossing does some covers, from traditional Doc Watson tunes to the Beatles’ “Get Back” played in bluegrass style. “It helps us to connect with a different audience.” But it’s not only covers for the band. “We have quite a few original tunes in the process of being finished for our first album,” Cade says. “It’s been a long time coming. Right now we have ten to twelve original songs.”
The album was recorded in a live recording style. “We did all the instrumentals in one take,” says Cade. “We did it right here in our hometown of Bozeman, Montana. It’s got a cool live feel to it, and it portrays what you will experience if you come to a North Fork Crossing show.” The album was engineered by Josh Kaltenbach.
North Fork Crossing plays mostly in the Montana area for now. Their shows are fast-paced and high energy, with something for everyone, from traditional bluegrass to psychedelic rock. They manage to blend it all into their own unique sound that they pride themselves on calling “the evolution of string band music.”
The band is made up of Cade on lead vocals and guitar, Ryan on mandolin, Rabi Phelan on upright bass, Matt Hickey on banjo and Silas Rae on fiddle.
In this season of giving thanks, Ryan says he is grateful he was able to grow up in a place like Montana, where he was exposed to bluegrass at an early age.
“I played cello through high school and that morphed into playing in a jazz band. My parents have always been very supportive of whatever I wanted to do.”