THE PRICE SISTERS
by Susan Marquez
If 2018 is anything like 2017, the Price Sisters are going to be a couple of busy young ladies. With a new album set to be released in early 2018, Leanna and Lauren Price have a full schedule of touring, playing at festivals and workshops and anywhere else they can share their take on traditional Bluegrass music.
The twin sisters have created quite a buzz in the traditional music community with their own unique interpretation of bluegrass music. Their lovely harmonies were honed while growing up in Sardis, Ohio. “We come from a musical family,” said Leanna, who recalls the family gathering on the front porch after supper when the weather was nice and singing along with their parents. “If it was cold or rainy, we’d sing in the kitchen.”
When the girls were six, the movie “Oh Brother, Where Art There” came out. “We listened to that soundtrack a lot,” said Lauren with a chuckle. “Harmony began to make sense to us.” The girls started lessons on instruments when they were nine - Lauren on mandolin and Leanna on fiddle. “We played a few talent shows when we were 11 and 12, mostly around Sardis. My dad played guitar for us.”
The turning point came when the twins went to the Augusta Music Festival in Elkins, West Virginia in 2010 when they were 16. The festival was intense, with a full-emersion into Bluegrass music. “Leanna signed up to take a fiddle workshop with Darol Anger,” said Lauren, “and I signed up for a mandolin workshop with Mike Compton. I didn’t know who he was, but I wanted to play mandolin like him.” As it turns out, Compton was the mandolin player on the “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” soundtrack. “Something clicked for us at Augustus, and we began to take our music much more seriously.”
The girls went to every workshop and festival they could during their junior and senior years at high school. “We were kind of ‘ate up’ with all things Bluegrass.” Lauren laughed. “The music was addictive to us.” The sisters became known for their Bill Monroe-type mandolin playing and Kenny Baker-like fiddling. “They are the foundation of Bluegrass, and we have always stayed pretty true to that.” While some kids played sports, the Price Sisters played music. “When we realized how big the Bluegrass community is, we wanted to start at the beginning and learn as much as we could.”
They went to college at Davis & Elkins in West Virginia. “We were supposed to play with an old time string band when we got there, but they were going through faculty changes and that didn’t work out,” said Lauren. A concert in Kentucky was a life-changer for the sisters. “We needed a place to practice and our guitar player, Scott Napier, said we could practice at the college in town.” That college was Morehouse State University, where the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music is located. “We had no idea that existed,” said Leanna. When they walked in, they saw a photograph of Bill Monroe and Bobby Morehead from the 1966 Fincastle Bluegrass Festival hung behind the front desk and they instantly knew they were in the right place. “We met Raymond McClain, Center’s director, and Jesse Wells, the assistant director, and they took us on an impromptu tour of the school.” They transferred the next semester and graduated with Bachelor of Science degrees in Traditional Music in May 2017.
Napier, who plays with the Lost and Found Bluegrass Band, sent a self-produced CD the Price Sisters made with their family in 2013 to his band’s label, Rebel Records. Dave Freeman, the label’s owner. Freeman liked what he heard and said he looked forward to hearing more. They were signed to the label in December 2016 and with Bill VornDick as their producer, they set out to record their first CD as The Price Sisters in Nashville. “They asked us who we would want on a record, and we got Ron McCoury (guitar), Charlie Cushman (banjo), Mike Bub (bass), and Alan Bartram (vocals),” said Leanna. The self-titled album features six traditional Bluegrass tunes and one new song in the traditional vein. Their haunting harmonies add a special touch to each song.
Their second CD, “A Heart Never Knows,” is set for release in February or March 2018. “We are very pleased with how it turned out,” said Leanna. “There are four new original songs out of the 12 on the album. The rest are older tunes that we kind of ‘dug up,’ so to speak. They are songs that have only been recorded maybe one other time, most at least fifty years ago at that. We really like to find older tunes that may not be as familiar and bring them back to light.”
Their plans for 2018 include playing as much as they can. “It’s a privilege for us to play anywhere,” Lauren said. “We’d also like to be nominated for an IBMA award, but for now, we are happy to perform and promote our new album.”