At a time when most people feel constantly distracted by technology and barraged by the news, authenticity and straightforward honesty are paramount. There’s something about the music of The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys that cuts right through the noise of the world and speaks plainly to the soul. Formed in the Smoky Mountains, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys are at once exactly what you would expect and not at all what you would expect from a tattooed East Tennessee Bluegrass outfit. No strangers to hard work, the boys are as much at home riding in their restored Eagle tour bus as they are crawling underneath to fix it when it needs maintenance. But they take pride in being ambassadors of their genre, and the group has brought their music from rural bluegrass festival stages to the rock clubs of Europe, and even the Grammy Red Carpet, with stunning results. “I think to a certain extent everyone is just craving music that they can feel, and any music that feels real will reach any audience” says CJ Lewandowski, the groups founder.
In 2014, Lewandowski was working at Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery in Sevierville, TN. The distillery employed musicians to play for visitors seven days a week, and Lewandowski, who primarily plays mandolin and sings, was occasionally hired to fill in when the entertainment didn’t show. Eventually, the distillery approached him about forming a band for a full time slot, so he reached out to long time music friends Jereme Brown, who plays banjo for the group, and Josh Rinkel, who plays guitar. “Jereme was doing a lot of welding work at that time, and Josh was running a sign company”, says Lewandowski, “I think we were all ready to do something new, something with our music but we didn’t know when or how”. Bassist Jasper Lorentzen happened to be working in the tasting room at the distillery, and he turned out to be the perfect addition to the band. Apparently the bluegrass world agreed, as the group garnered the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Emerging Artist of the Year award in 2018. Then, in 2020, the finishing touch was added to the quartet when Laura Orshaw, a seasoned fiddle player and singer, joined the Boys.
Material for the group’s freshman Rounder Records album, "Toil, Tears & Trouble," is a combination of original songs and old numbers that honor the group’s mentors and bluegrass heroes. “We love to dig up old songs that haven’t been heard in years and bring them back into the spotlight”, explains Lewandowski. The record has enjoyed great acclaim, receiving the band's first Grammy nomination for "Best Bluegrass Album," an "Album of the Year" nomination by the IBMA, and winning the "Song of the Year" award from the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America for the tune “Next Train South”.