The music has always been big medicine for us, and that's how our band name came to be. If we never set foot on a stage, we’d still be playing music - at home, at gatherings of friends and family, at festivals and fiddlers conventions. Traditional music has been passed along and passed around that way for a long time by people who have shaped its rugged beauty, strength and grace, each musician or singer in their own unique way. The result is music that can move the heart, lift the spirits, make you cry, or tickle your feet, and we feel honored and delighted to be able to share it with each other and with you.
Big Medicine consistently serves up a powerful potpourri of deep-rooted old-time mountain music, early style bluegrass, original songs, and fresh arrangements. One of the most influential old-time bands in the American traditional music scene since 1999, Big Medicine has released three critically acclaimed albums and have performed for concerts, dances, festivals across the US and overseas. Members of the band, all veteran multi-instrumentalists and singers, are some of the most highly-regarded contemporary performers of American traditional music. Big Medicine's instrumental dexterity, powerful singing, and authenticity combined with a lively creativity in their interpretation of traditional music have won them fans and critical praise nationwide as well as overseas. Music critics and reviewers describe Big Medicine's blend of fiddle tunes, ballads, heart songs, hymns, and early bluegrass as “joyful,” “impressive,” “spirited,” and “powerful.” And from the stage of A Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor said of Big Medicine "That's how string band music is supposed to sound... absolutely effortless. They're just a great band - I love this band."
Kenny Jackson is one of the premier old-time fiddlers of his generation, a player of uncommon subtlety and individuality, and he's 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, Kenny has been a part of one outstanding string band after another. He toured during the mid-80s with with Leftwich, Higginbotham, and Jackson, co-founded The Rhythm Rats in 1988, and Big Medicine in 1999. Kenny is also a sought-after fiddle teacher, working with individual students in person and online, and at traditional music camps across the country.
Joe Newberry is a Missouri native and North Carolina transplant who has played music most of his life. Best known for his powerful and innovative banjo playing, he is a prizewinning guitarist, fiddler, and singer as well. In addition, Joe’s 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. Joe 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 and banjo picking, 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, a 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.
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, LaNelle 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 recordedwith numerous prize winning and nationally known old-time bands and individuals. Retired after a 30 year career in social work, LaNelle now spends her time playing music and making mosaic sculptures and murals.