The Sound Cafe
Hip Boston-Based Bluegrass Group, Mile Twelve, Set To Release New Album 'Close Enough To Hear'
By Stevie Connor.
Mile Twelve, Boston’s modern string band, are back in motion. From the first manic downbeat of their virtuosic new record, Close Enough to Hear, you’ll discover a band that is ready to explode from a restless pandemic induced hiatus. You’ll hear the same warmth and innovation that earned the band IBMA’s 2019 Album of the Year nomination and 2020 New Artist of the Year Award, and that’s gained them an international reputation as one of the most dynamic bands in contemporary acoustic music.
Heard as a whole, Close Enough to Hear displays the vast creative potential of the bluegrass quintet—banjo (BB Bowness), mandolin (Korey Brodsky), fiddle (Ella Jordan), acoustic guitar (Evan Murphy) an upright bass (Nate Sabat ) — in the hands of world-class musicians.
Born in the small town of Marton, New Zealand, Catherine "BB" Bowness spent her early years working and living in her family's Fish-and-Chip shop. Although an unlikely origin for a bluegrass banjo player, New Zealand would offer BB her first introduction to the instrument, sparking a lifelong love and fascination. A world away from the heart of bluegrass, BB spent much of her childhood teaching herself the instrument, and through dedication and tenacity became New Zealand School of Music's first banjo student. Inspired by her New Zealand predecessors, The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band, BB was always drawn to the five-piece full band, and after heading to America in 2012 she co-founded her current group, Mile Twelve. Immersing herself in the traditions of bluegrass and having studied jazz performance at university, BB's banjo playing is an exciting synthesis of new and old ideas. "She demonstrates a command of the instrument, and plays with great rhythmic clarity both in the traditional and progressive realms. J.D. Crowe co-mingles with the future," says Tony Trischka. Her euphoric energy and love of the genre are readily apparent in any of her live performances. Currently, BB lives in Cambridge, MA. Mile Twelve has won numerous IBMA awards, including 2020 New Artists of the Year and 2017 Momentum Band of the Year. BB won the 2015 Freshgrass Banjo contest and was a winner of the Steve Martin Banjo Prize in 2020. BB plays an original 5 string 1927 RB3 that was owned by a Gibson endorser, Lester Miller. It was sent back to the factory in 1936 to have a flathead ring added.
Evan Murphy plays a Collings D1 guitar. It’s mahogany back and sides and sitka top, modeled after the famous Martin D18. He bought it at the Music Emporium, which in his opinion is certainly the best acoustic instrument store anywhere near Boston. He use Wegen picks and D’Addario strings. He’s studied with Michael Daves, Chris Eldridge and Bryan Sutton, though Sutton has influenced my technique and approach more than anyone. He started playing guitar at 17 years of age, but got more serious about bluegrass at 22 when he enrolled in Bryan’s Artist Works school. That website is basically where he learned to play.
Ella Jordan grew up outside of Austin, TX, playing twin fiddles with her sister. Heavily influenced from the start by the Texas sounds of Bob Wills, Johnny Gimble, and George Strait, she started going to fiddle camps all over the country at a young age. This led her to the brilliant tutelage of fiddlers such as Buddy Spicher, Billy Contreras, Darol Anger, Mike Barnett, Tristan and Tashina Clarridge, and more, who continue to be some of her greatest inspirations. Ella was the youngest ever winner of the Old Settlers Youth music contest, was a recipient of the Daniel Pearl Memorial violin, as well as the Fletcher Bright scholarship (at Berklee) and was selected as a participant of the 2020 Acoustic Music Seminar. She plays a Johann Artmann/Pepper and Son fiddle with a Morizot bow, and uses Thomastik Superflexible strings.
Korey Brodsky is a Boston-based mandolinist and guitarist. Growing up in Connecticut, he built strong roots in bluegrass music through studying with Jim Allyn, Betsy Rome, and Michael Daves. Since then, his musical explorations have ranged from old time to Bach to jazz. He has been featured in numerous publications such as Flatpicking Guitar Magazine and Bluegrass Unlimited, was a 2013 IBMA Youth All Star, a member of the 2018 Acoustic Music Seminar, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, and a finalist in the 2021 Freshgrass guitar awards. Korey plays a Brentrup Model 23 mandolin, uses D’Addario strings, and Wegen picks.
Nate Sabat is an award-winning bassist, singer-songwriter, arranger and instructor based in Brooklyn, NY. He plays a 2017 New Standard Ruggeri Bass with C-extension and removable neck custom built by Jed Kriegel, and uses Thomastik Spirocore strings and a vintage Reid Hudson bow. Nate’s studied under jazz bassist Scott Lee, classical bassist Susan Hagen and old-time fiddle legend Bruce Molsky. While at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, he received an achievement award from the Bass Department. A native-New Yorker, it was only natural that he first gravitated to jazz on the upright bass. But upon arriving at Berklee, he found his musical home in the acoustic realm. Since then, he’s made waves on the instrument, contributing to the ever-growing pool of virtuosic players taking the acoustic world by storm. With a relaxed, vocal sound and equal fluency with pizzicato and the bow, Nate takes full advantage of the never-ending variety of sounds and textures the bass has to offer. GRAMMY-winning cellist Eugene Friesen says, "Nate has so much going for him: The ability to propel any groove with chops and subtlety, a sweet bow sound that can vocalize any melody, fiercely great intonation, and, most importantly, a musical intelligence and intuition that operates with a constant smile.”