Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper has announced the addition of three new members to the band; Charlie Lawson on guitar and vocals, Ashby Frank on mandolin and vocals, and Blake Bowen on bass and vocals.
A native of Indiana, Charlie Lawson helped form his first band in 1994 with the help of his mother and good friend, Vic Rigsby. A few years later, when Rigsby was no longer able to travel due to illness; Charlie renamed the band Charlie Lawson and Oak Hill, with the encouragement of his dear friend. Charlie and his band went on to win several accolades including the SPBGMA Midwest Band of the Year in 2000 and as front man; Charlie won SPBGMA Midwest Entertainer of the Year 2001 through 2003. Following his mother’s cancer diagnosis in fall, 2003, Charlie quit the road to help his family and would not return until June 2010 when he received an invitation to work with Karl Shifflett and the Big Country Show. Charlie credits his love for traditional bluegrass to his musical mentors, Flatt & Scruggs, Jimmy Martin and Reno & Smiley, whom he studied and learned the art of singing lead and being an entertainer.
Ashby grew up in central North Carolina in the small town of Tyro. By the age of 16 he had already won multiple mandolin contests in the region, including the prestigious championships at Merlefest and Galax. Since the release of his first recording project in 2000, First Crossing, Ashby has extensively toured North America and Europe with artists such as Special Consensus, Marty Raybon, Ronnie Bowman, Alecia Nugent, Jeanette Williams, Melonie Cannon, The Crowe Brothers, and Mashville Brigade. Now making his home in Nashville, Ashby is also an accomplished #1 hit Bluegrass songwriter, session musician, and vocalist.
Born into a musical family, Blake Bowen was introduced to bluegrass at a very early age by his father, bluegrass band-leader Jimmy Bowen. Blake began playing bass at the age of 7 and joined his father’s band just a few years later, touring the bluegrass festival circuit extensively. After his father took a hiatus from the road, Blake continued his love of playing and worked with successful groups such as Grand Ole Opry member Jesse McReynolds, Michelle Nixon & Drive and most recently as the full-time bassist for Randy Waller & the Country Gentlemen. Citing bass influences such as Bob Moore, Barry Bales, Tim Dishman and Tres Nugent, Blake is drawn to both contemporary and traditional bluegrass music, making him a well-versed player in his own right.
I’m really excited about adding Charlie Lawson, Ashby and Blake to the band. Charlie is a fantastic traditional singer and player and Ashby is a master of the mandolin. Blake is a real solid bass player and the energy these guys bring to the band is really wonderful. Charlie Cushman and I have worked hard at finding just the right musicians for the kind of traditional music we want to play and I think we’ve found the perfect fit with all of them – Michael Cleveland.
For more information on Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper, please visit www.FlamekeeperBand.com.