Big Sky Stringband

Big Sky Stringband

 Chicago, Illinois, USA

With an emphasis on strong songwriting, layered music and lively performances, Big Sky Stringband plays a unique blend of American roots music featuring elements of folk, rock, bluegrass, blues, and jazz.


Big Sky Stringband is a Midwest touring quintet that performs a broad collection of original American roots music and unique covers. Founded by Jay Stanek (acoustic guitar/vocals) and Chris Meier (mandolin/vocals) initially in 1997, the band builds a new generation of folk-rock around its core strengths: solid songwriting and textured grooves.

In 2001, Meier & Stanek expanded the line-up to include drums (Zach Malasto), electric guitar (Brandon Cochran, also vocals), and bass (Dick Mallory). With train wrecks, clotheslines and broken fences as the backdrop, the group weaves stories of mill workers, first loves, and mine fires into a tapestry of Americana. But these songs are more than a glimpse at American life, they are the quest for the American Dream embodied in song.

Big Sky highlights include:
-Headliner, WXRT Local Anesthetic Live Show, February 2007
-Taste of Chicago, Taste Stage, July 4, 2009
-Taste of Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, Summer 2008
-Sheffield Garden Walk, Chicago, Summer 2007
-Chicago Emerging Artists Stage, Chicago Auto Show, February 2006
-Six-time headliner, Barrington Brew Festival, Barrington, IL
-“Centralia” featured in PBS documentary about Centralia, Pennsylvania
-Live show recordings have been downloaded more than 6,000 times
-“Slow Train” featured song download from Coke’s entertainment Web site (summer, 2007)
-Featured artist, Chicago Music Guide (12/09)

Big Sky Stringband has shared the stage with:
-Sam Bush
-Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra
-Trombone Shorty
-The Radiators
-Cosmic Railroad
-Covert Operations
-Devil in a Woodpile
-Catfish Haven
-Katie Todd
-Michael Glabicki (Rusted Root)
-Greensky Bluegrass
-Woodbox Gang
-Cowboy Mouth
-Backyard Tire Fire
-Trampled by Turtles
-And more

To hear additional songs, please visit or


Slow Train

Written By: Jay Stanek/Chris Meier

She left the child behind
At the station with her peace of mind
Suitcase firm in hand
It took the distance to understand

Hey mister, can you lend me a dime
She’s just aching for one more line
She says I’m sorry
But there’s so much on my mind

The faces flash past; like black into white
The hum of the engines and the dimming of the light
But it’s never enough to make it alright
She rides it from night until day

Streets wet with rain, she’s killing time
And the nightmare’s only one step behind
She’s sleeping late in the house of the blind
She lies there dreaming of what she’ll find

The faces flash past, like black into white
The turning of the wheel and the dimming of the light
But it’s never enough to make it alright
She rides it from night until day

Like doves on the wind until they hit the ground
On the heels of the world they will carry you on
On these paper wings we will touch the sky
Until the end of the line

She left the child behind
At the station with her peace of mind
Suitcase firm in hand
It took the distance to understand

Eric Heywood

Written By: Jay Stanek/Chris Meier

You can’t sing the words I know by heart
You can’t walk right into Lawrence, dig the seal off John Brown’s heart
You can’t hide out in this town
You’ve been standing at the station but the last train done gone down

Ragtime damned Rig Veda screams
I’m all tore down on Crescent City dreams

Heard the word you hit the wall
As Petrarch is my witness, I grant you halos all
The junkies all speak English in Saigon
If we be damned bring on the daylight, cause we will soon be gone

And Harry Belafonte’s not to blame
If I could, I would do the same

Burroughs stands with lantern held on high
Points the way down to Lecompton as your family waves goodbye
Red River carries you down stream
With your face above the surface, your head inside a dream

The prairie stars above are turning blue
I’m a hundred thousand miles away from you


1140 (2008) - 13-song solo LP from Big Sky frontman, Jay Stanek. Features several songs with members of Big Sky Stringband

Turning of the Wheel (2007) - Six-song EP featuring the band's first studio tracks since 2003. Called a "toe-tapping winner" by Illinois Entertainer

Flyin' Blind (2005) - Live album featuring 12 original and 2 traditional tunes

TwangOff Homegrown Series: August 2004 (2004) - Live album featuring band's winning TwangOff performance

Electric Demo (2003) - Featuring four original electric songs

Big Sky String Band (2001) - Ten song acoustic release performed entirely by Jay Stanek and Chris Meier, and featuring the song "Centralia" as heard on NPR and PBS

Set List

The band performs sets varying in length from 45 - 120 minutes depending on the situation and venue. Big Sky Stringband has played several multi-set, four-hour shows in the past; however the band's deep repertoire of originals, covers and traditional songs can pack a punch even in shorter sets.

Sets generally contain 70% original material with 30% covers and traditional songs.

The band occasionally performs as an acoustic duo or trio at the venue's request.

To hear additional songs, please visit or