Sweet Sunny South
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Sweet Sunny South

Band Country Bluegrass


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"Sweet Sunny South Bell Creek Dance Club Review"

It was love at first sound for me and Sweet Sunny South. A historian and a romantic, I cottoned to the touching concept of paying tribute to a beloved old barn with a rich history of local Saturday night dances, as the second and third cuts do. I was entranced by the interspersed reminiscences that serve as introductions and conclusions to the songs. I cheered their defiant mission statement: “Bluegrass. Old-time. Anytime.” My essentially old fashioned self was attracted by the groups sepia-tinted web site and I had to laugh at the photo on their home page where they sat, looking for all the world like the Culhanes, smiling with self-aware irony at the camera. I fell solidly in love when I heard “Me and My Old Still” (“We rock and we reel…..she’s my knockout, she’s my lover, she’s my copper-headed still…..”)

Sweet Sunny South hails from Paonia, Colorado and consists of Rob Miller on guitar, Shelley Gray on acoustic bass, Cory Obert on fiddle, Bill Powers on mandolin and plectrum banjo, and everybody on vocals. Adam Burke guests on vocals on “Bell Creek Dance Club” and “Homestead Market.” Powers and Miller write all songs except three (one of which was written by Stephen Foster and the other by Uncle Dave Macon). They are not a flashy band, but their songs possess humor and drama. They imbue their songs with restrained sentimentality, straightforward and matter-of-fact, never cloying or sweet. They tell stories. They draw vivid pictures. You’re so entranced by the subject matter that you take nearly for granted their solid pitch, flawless timing and quietly competent musicianship.

You might ask, “Why haven’t we heard of this band before?” Well, if you’re reading this, you’ve heard of them now and you have no excuse. Sweet Sunny South may not be famous, but they make the world a better place any old way. ELF
- Bluegrass Now - November 2005

"Sweet Sunny South Release Their First CD"

The Paonia band Sweet Sunny South's first CD Bell Creek Dance Club, released this month, reveals not only the band's bluegrass and old-time roots but also a love for the history of the Western Slope town.

Listening to the CD makes us all want to move to Paonia, but if we can't, at least we can listen to the CD, and hope to entice the band to play in our towns.

Sweet sunny South is Rob Miller on guitar, Bill Powers on mandolin, Cory Obert on fiddle and Shelley Gray on bass, with all on vocals. About four years ago, the band grew out of a love of bluegrass and traditional music from DJs of the bluegrass show on Paonia's community radio station KVNF - Rob, Bill and Kevin Dirk. Originally a five piece with Kevin on (Scrugg-style) banjo, the band has evolved to incorporate more of an old-time feel, especially as a four-piece after Kevin left the band to work on building a house and spend time with his newborn daughter. Bill adds old-time banjo sound on Bell Creek Dance Club with plectrum banjo.

Bell Creek Dance Club is named after a song Bill wrote inspired by a decaying building on the back road between Paonia and Hotchkiss. He read an article in the local paper about the history of the dance club building and sat down to write about how "the band stomped out the rhythm, while the crowd called out for more, they'd fly around that place 'til they were sore." The story of Saturday night dancing and socializing became the theme of the project when the band talked with their producer, Adam Burke, about interviewing locals who recall their memories of introducing aspects of each song and tying it all together into a sweet an powerful package of Colorado rural history and timeless themes of love, dancing, and good times. Although the project is inspired by history, most of the songs are original, with seven written by Bill and one by Rob.

Sweet Sunny south is celebrating their CD release June 3 at the Paradise Theater in Paonia, they are the host band for the North Fork Bluegrass Festival at Delta County Fairgrounds in Hotchkiss June 11-13, and they have several upcoming shows.

All four members of the band are DJ's on KVNF. Bill and Shelley are self-employed making antler chandeliers and furniture and handmade mica lampshades. Rob works from his home in the medical equipment sales field and runs Pickin' Productions, which books acoustic music in Paonia, and Cory is an independent contractor.

"Each person in the group brings some great skills, and there is a lot more to having a band than just playing songs," says Bill. "We have the same goals and that is so much of why it works. And we have fun with all the aspects of having a band."

Bill started playing guitar with friends in College in Texas, was a Grateful Dead fan, and even played in a band that had four drummers. Touched by Jimmy Martin tunes on the Will The Circle Be Unbroken album and knocked out by bands like Strength in Numbers at the Telluride 1990 festival, Bill was pulled toward bluegrass and newgrass. "What grabbed me about the music was that I played guitar well enough, but to think I could never play like that. So I guess it was the technique that got me," he says. "When I first started doing the bluegrass show on KVNF I was on an endless search for progressive bluegrass, Bill Monroe didn't appeal to me at all. Kevin Dirk, our original banjo player, was the one that helped me to see the light. Once I started to get traditional bluegrass I really loved it."

Bill describes his songwriting as a way that he can contribute something new and different to traditional roots music today. "We haven't been at it that long and I've never felt like I was adding much at all to what people were doing on traditional numbers. the onl thng for me to do was to try to offer something new so as not to be compared to everybody before that have played the not out of those songs. I feel like I should learn because they are lessons in how you do this or that, but if I spent my time learning all that, I wouldn't have time to come up with my own stuff." but it's also just natural to write songs, he says, "The stuff just comes out. I can't really stop it."

Rob explains that the David Grisman Quintet drew him into bluegrass and traditional music. "At first I heard jazz, and then the roots, which pretty much pointed me to Bill Monroe."

"We all have influences, and at this point we're not so fixated on playing traditional bluegrass, as we are experimenting within our different styles, while still allowing bluegrass to be found at the core," Rob says. "I am a DJ, I hear a lot of different music and I can't quite define our style myself. It's unique, it works, it's old time, and it's bluegrass."

Cory came to the band through Kevin who was getting together to play music with Bill, Rob and original bass player Willy Kistler, dubbed "The Brewglass Boys" at one of their early gigs at the "Pizza My Heart" restaurant in Paonia. - CBMS Pow'r Pickin' -

"Sweet Sunny South - Wild-n-Swingin' Review"

Not many bands dare to reconstruct a make-believe car race between James Brown and Muhammad Ali through an instrumental bluegrass ditty. But Sweet Sunny South doesn’t flinch as it rips through “Cochetopa Ropadopa” on its latest album, the self-produced Wild-n-Swingin’.

Offering a blend of bluegrass and “old-time” country music –with an occasionally funky swagger – SSS is building a reputation at bluegrass and folk fests across the state.

Their first release, Bell Creek Dance Club, was a nostalgic concept album steeped around a 1940’s era dance hall. On Swingin’, the Western Slope acoustic quartet continues to flesh out its style and captures more of its live energy. Vocal harmonies flow; bass lines strut; fiddles, mandolins and banjos duck and bob like Ali in the late rounds. Once through the album and you’re wondering why you’re not eating watermelon slices and drinking grain alcohol in a field as you hit play on the CD again.

Swingin’ is mostly original tracks, penned by guitar player Rob Miller and mandolin player Bill Powers, whose syrup-and-sawdust voice sounds like it’s coming to listeners through a phonograph from deep in Appalachia. A couple traditional fiddle tunes let Cory Obert show off his fingers and pipes, and SSS has even crafted a swinging jig to highlight standup bass player, Shelley Gray, a.k.a. Laura Ingalls Wilder-n-Swingin’ herself.

Sweet Sunny South will be all over the state before the summer ends, including at Red Rocks on September 24, where they’ll open the Colorado Grass Roots Festival for acts like John Hiatt and Bela Fleck. If you catch them live, you’ll find SSS crowded around a single mic, dressed to a T and goofing around between songs. To grab a copy of the album or find out tour dates, visit sweetsunnysouth.com

Joshua Zaffos
- Fort Collins Bulldog


and due out june 1...




They present a unique blend of original songs, mandolin romps, mixed with traditional oldtime and cajun fiddle tunes.

Playing as a full time band for most of their 5 years together, while staying based in the smalltown of Paonia, Colorado, the group has been seen at many festivals and theaters headlining and having a great time with audiences young and old.


SSS has gained a reputation for a lively and entertaining stage show, as well as fine songwriting. They have recorded two very popular studio CDs ('04, '05) of mostly original material that are enjoying strong reviews and getting heavy airplay on radio stations across the nation as well as Europe. In '06 they released a live effort, full of previously unreleased original music, and this June 07 expect the new studio project, "SHOWTIME" - with Aaron Youngberg (previously of Hit & Run) producing.

At their shows you’ll find them weaving in and out around a single microphone and dressed to a “T” in clothing reminiscent of a bygone era. They escort the listeners down a windy path of historical journeys, beautiful ballads and rollicking fiddle tunes complete with a healthy dose of humor that keeps the crowd smiling.

Banjo and Mandolin player Bill Powers, a Mississippi Native, writes most of the bands’ songs, which take the listener on scenic journeys into dusty old American music. Cory Obert plays a mean old-time fiddle, sometimes with a Cajun flare and sings a solid high tenor. Rob Miller also writes, plays the D-28 and sings lead and harmony. The newest member, Shelley Gray (a.k.a. “Laura Ingalls Wilder-n-Swingin”) plays the ‘ol kay Bass, sings, hollers, and puts the "Sweet" in Sweet Sunny South.

Sweet Sunny South represents the traditional music of greats such as The Stanley Brothers and The Carter Family at the same time drawing influences from more contemporary bands such as The Freighthoppers, The Wilders and The Reeltime Travelers.

For booking information contact Rob Miller 970-527-4791.