Hollywood, MD – The Hollywood Volunteer Rescue Squad will present its annual Bluegrass Festival on Saturday May 11 at the St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds.  Gates open at 11 a.m. and the show starts at Noon.  The event will be held inside, rain or shine.  All proceeds from the day’s event will go toward the Hollywood Volunteer Rescue Squad Building Fund. 

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 1965 GM 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, with stunning results.  In today’s modern world of “Candy Grass” and “Bubble Gum Bluegrass”, as promoter Jay Armsworthy puts it, everyone is just craving music that they can feel.  The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys are putting Bluegrass right where it’s least expected.  Every once in a while, a band comes along that gets everyone’s attention because they are doing things right, have the perfect chemistry, and are creating a sound that resonates.  The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys could very well be the salvation of the struggling traditional festivals while being the ‘ambassadors of real’ to the fringe events.

C.J. Lewandowski was working at Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery in Sevierville, TN when the band first formed. 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 welding work at that time, and Josh was running a sign company.  They were all ready to do something new that included their music but didn’t know when or how. Bassist Jasper Lorentzen happened to be working in the tasting room at the distillery, and turned out to be the perfect final addition to the band. The four friends played multiple times a week for a year and half, honing their band sound, meanwhile word was spreading about their music.  Their first gig they played out of town was a festival in Alberta, Canada, and a week later they went on a two week tour of Europe.  And it’s been all uphill from there for the Po’ Ramblin’ Boys.

Their debut album, “Back to the Mountains”, was a combination of original songs and old numbers that honor the group’s mentors and bluegrass heroes.  They love to dig up old songs that haven’t been heard in years and bring them back into the spotlight. It’s no surprise, then, that their latest single “Next Train South”, is a song cut by one of Lewandowski’s teachers from his native Missouri, Dub Crouch, along with Norman Ford and the Bluegrass Rounder’s back in 1974.  It’s old and rare songs like this that they love to sing because when they bring them to a larger audience, their heroes and their music will not be forgotten.

The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys passion for bluegrass is as clear as it is contagious. With a heavy touring schedule across the United States and Europe and recently signed record deal with the esteemed Rounder Records, the Boys are well on their way to becoming the quintessential bluegrass band of their generation. Despite all of their recent success, they maintain a humble perspective.  Bluegrass music has left such a mark on them that they feel they owe something back to the music.    As Lewandowski puts it, “There’s no telling what could have happened to us, what we would have become if we hadn’t found this music. It’s gotten us through a lot, the good and the bad.  When I think about all of the damn medications that I didn’t have to take because I had music to turn to; We didn’t have to go to the doctor and pay for something to make us feel better, because we had this music, so we really want to honor it by bringing it out of the shadows and onto new stages and wider audiences. Because we know that if we can bring Bluegrass to new folks, those folks will come with us and support the bluegrass community.”

Also keeping the traditional sound will be the Virginia Ramblers from Charlottesville, VA.  The band is back by demand from their performance at the 2017 Bluegrass for Hospice. 

Each year the Hollywood Bluegrass Festival also has many local Bluegrass groups who perform throughout the day.  This year enjoy the likes of Recycled Bluegrass, 15 Strings, the Wednesday, Anderson’s Bar, Hump Day Band, and The Dixie Ramblers.  Troy Jones will be doing the sound for the festival. 

The event will be held inside.  Chairs will be provided, but feel free to bring your own lawn chairs if you’d like.  There will be food & non-alcohol beverages available for purchase and feel free to BYOB.  There will be 50/50 raffles and a raffle for a full scale John Deere Green Wagon at $5.00 each or 3 for $10.00.  Tickets are available in advance for $20.00 per person by mail or online.   To purchase using a credit card, go to: https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4043274.  By mail, send a check or money order made payable to: Hollywood Volunteer Rescue Squad along with a self-addressed stamped envelope to: P.O. Box 741, California, MD.  Tickets can also be purchased at the gate for $25.00 per person and under 12 are free with a paying adult.  The festival gates will open at 11:00 am and the event runs from 12:00 pm to 6:00 pm.  The St. Mary’s County Fairgrounds is located at 42455 Fairgrounds Road in Leonardtown, MD.  For more information, go to http://www.hvrs.org/content/bluegrass/ or call 301-737-3004.