Drawing their name from Jimmy Martin’s 1958 done-me-wrong song, Rock Hearts came together in 2013, fusing the talents of a bunch of southern New England bluegrass veterans “who love to sing and pick bluegrass, old country tunes, and seek out newer tunes from other genres to ‘bluegrass-ify’.”
From the moment they got together, they all knew they had something special cooking up. After extensive previous music careers, lead singer/rhythm guitarist Alex Mcleod says, “We all agree that for the first time, we’re all at this point in our professional music lives where we have found the perfect situation. Joey [Deetz] our banjo player says, ‘You know what we do? We speak the same musical language’.” Rounding out the lineup are: Billy “BT” Thibodeau (mandolin, guitar, lead vocals), Austin Scelzo (fiddle, vocals), and Rick Brodsky (bass).
With the big splash the band made with a showcase (Bluegrass Ramble) at the most recent IBMA Bluegrass Music Awards last September, it’s clear that Rock Hearts’ unified vision is giving them a powerful voice in the bluegrass scene. As Grammy nominated singer-songwriter-publisher Rick Lang says, “For anyone unfamiliar with this group they are a powerhouse, featuring some of New England’s finest. They bring lots of talent, experience, and a distinctive sound of their own.”
While the band hasn’t set out to create a specifically “new” sound, Alex McLeod explains that “We try and play traditional-leaning bluegrass with a sprinkle of experimentation.” In reference to the songs from outside the tradition that they’ve covered in “bluegrassified” form (such as Townes van Zandt’s “Don’t Take it Too Bad”), Alex says (laughing), “We like to harvest songs from non-bluegrass genres. My feeling is that they were bluegrass songs, it’s just that the original writer didn’t realize they were.”
Rock Hearts is scheduled to record the follow-up to their high successful 2020 debut record, Starry Southern Nights, in April 2022.
By Dan Walsh