Tangleweed is a band of five forward-looking musical reactionaries from Chicago. While the instrumentation is standard bluegrass, the music is anything but. With a repertoire both broad and deep, they've described as "a band playing on a pirate ship off the coast of New Orleans in the 1920s".


Tangleweed is a band of five forward-looking musical reactionaries from Chicago, Illinois. The group has just released its third CD, Most Folk Heroes Started Out As Criminals. Their first two albums, Just a Spoonful and Where You Been So Long?, received airplay in 22 countries, earning the band enthusiastic fans around the world.

Their two most recent albums were recorded with engineer Mike Hagler (Wilco/Billy Bragg, among others) at Kingsize Sound Labs in Chicago. The CD’s feature Tangleweed originals mixed with classic bluegrass, old-time country, and Irish fiddle tunes. With Most Folk Heroes… their repertoire continues to expand, adding mountain murder ballads (‘Little Sadie’), Irish rebel songs (‘Join the British Army’), and classic rock (‘Dead Flowers’) to the mix. The result is the band’s most far-reaching effort to date: fourteen songs representing the past and future of string band music.

The five members of Tangleweed have developed a tight-knit approach to writing, recording, and performing that is raising the bar for acoustic bands of all stripes. Their original compositions, such as 'California,' 'Logjam,’ and 'Hard Times' are being played on radio programs all over the world, and have twice cracked the Folk Music Airplay Charts. Their 'Wrap Yourself Around Me' was a semi-finalist in the 2005 International Songwriting Competition. With four of the five band members now writing, arranging and singing their original material, Tangleweed is just beginning to reveal their true potential as a quality source of new Americana.

Tangleweed quickly graduated from quiet coffeehouses to high-profile Chicago venues like The Hideout, Double Door, Old Town School of Folk Music, Schuba's, Fitzgerald's, Abbey Pub, and Martyrs, developing a massive song-list and a faithful local audience along the way. The past two years have seen the band take their act nationally with appearances at major festivals such as Wakarusa and performances further away in Hawaii, Colorado, Tennessee, and North Carolina. They have also raised their profile with songs featured on the Old Town School of Folk Music Songbook recordings (Bloodshot Records) and the PBS program Roadtrip Nation. The band is a staple at Chicago events such as the Country Music Fest, Folk and Roots Fest, Summer Dance, Looptopia, and the Chicago Marathon. Television appearances include WTTW's Chicago Tonight, CBS2's Morning News, and ABC7's Evening News.

Tangleweed formed after Ryan Fisher (banjo), Paul Wargaski (upright bass) and Billy Oh (fiddle) met on the set of Chicago’s Jeff-nominated local theatre production The Cotton Patch Gospels. Once the production closed, the trio agreed they shared a chemistry worth preserving, and Tangleweed was born. Kenneth Rainey (mandolin, veteran of Chicago’s Kennett Brothers) was added to the line-up after he and Fisher found a common bond when they were admonished at a local bluegrass jam for attempting a Thelonious Monk tune. Rainey’s Logan Square neighbor Scott Judd soon sat in on guitar at one of the band’s weekly coffeehouse sets, and was added as a permanent member then and there.

Tangleweed combines high-energy performances with impeccable musicianship and a wide-breadth of influences to create a unique sound that is simultaneously modern and old-timey. The band has been hailed in reviews worldwide as a welcome breath of fresh air for lovers of stomping bluegrass, banjo-jazz, and high lonesome harmonies.

Check out Most Folk Heroes Started Out As Criminals or an upcoming performance and hear for yourself.


Most Folk Heroes Started Out As Criminals: Squatney 45002
Where You Been So Long?: Squatney 45001
Just a Spoonful: Squatney 45000
Old Town School of Folk Music Songbook, Volume Two: Bloodshot (forthcoming)

Set List

We do anywhere from one to three sets a night depending on the venue. Here is a partial repertoire list:

Angeline the Baker
Arkansas Traveler
Back in the Saddle
Balkan Square Dance
Bill Cheatham
Black Eyed Susie
Blackberry Blossom
Blue Bossa
Blue Monk
Blue Ridge Mountain Blues
C-Jam Blues
Cherokee Shuffle
Cold Cold Ground
Cold Frosty Morning
Cold, Cold Ground
Crazy Creek
Darling Companion
Darling Nikki
Dead Flowers
Dirty Dog
Dixie Breakdown
Don't Think Twice
Don't this Road Look Rough and Rocky
Drunkard's Blues
Farewell Blues
Fire on the Mountain
Fisher's Hornpipe
Foggy Mountain Breakdown
Footprints in the Snow
Fox on the Run
Freight Train
Ginseng Blues
Great Big Taters (Sally Ann)
Grey Eagle
Hard Times
Hesitating Beauty
High on a Mountain
Holy Ground
Home for Dinner
Home Sweet Home
Honeysuckly Rose
Honky Tonk Women
I'm Troubled
In the Pines
Interstate Pulloff
Jar of Porter
Jesus Saved Me
Join the British Army