The ladies have found their groove in Americana music, that’s for sure. One great example is the Loose String Band from Galax, VA. The five women range in age from 15 to 23. They’ve been together for nine years, bringing their unique sounds and harmonies at bluegrass conventions, special events, ceremonies, and festivals. These ladies are well known in the Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounding areas for their nice blend of tight vocal harmonies and sweet rhythms.
They have also been recognized in Ohio, as the best entertainment of the entire travel expo in Columbus, performed at Merlefest in 2015, and at IBMA in 2016, as well as Song of the Mountain at the famous Lincoln Theater in Marion, VA.
The members of the Loose String Band are Channing Combs (Guitar), Grace Davis (Bass), Mary-Claire Hooper (Fiddle), Ashley Hultman (Banjo), and Lindsey Nale (Mandolin). They have all grown up together almost like sisters.
Sisters Ashley and Lindsey formed The Loose Strings Band when they were 10 and six years old, respectively. After finding a banjo and fiddle in their grandparent’s house, the girls started taking lessons at Barr’s Fiddle Shop in Galax, VA. (Lindsey originally started on fiddle and switched to mandolin within the last few years.) “We asked our friend/neighbor, Channing, to choose an instrument and join us,” they said. “She chose to play guitar, and we started going to practices together. With the help of our instructor, Stevie Barr, we decided to become a band.”
Shortly after, they asked Grace to join the group and she agreed to play bass. “Grace comes from a bluegrass family, and had started out playing the fiddle in a group called, The Galax Little Leaves.” The newest addition to the group is fiddler, Mary-Claire Hooper. “She is our youngest member and has been with the group for almost two years now. Mary-Claire has played fiddle from a young age and continues to blow us away with her talent. We are extremely grateful for one another’s friendship and the ability to make bluegrass music together.”
Although they would like to be fulltime musicians, the ladies of LSB still maintain fulltime occupations while pursuing their passion for playing music together. Grace is a financial advisor, Channing works in accounting/income tax, and Ashley works as a registered nurse in labor and delivery. Lindsey is in college at East Tennessee State University where she is majoring in Speech Language pathology, and Mary-Claire is still attending high school, where she is very active in clubs such as Fellowship of Christian Students, and Student Council.
The girls are proud to be associated with Galax, VA, known to many as the Bluegrass Capitol, and home of the oldest and largest fiddlers’ convention. People travel miles bringing their RVs and campers to Felt’s Park to camp and compete in this competition. The Galax Fiddlers’ Convention has been around for 82 years and is quickly approaching its 83rd year. “We feel it is unique to our group that we were raised in this area where bluegrass music is so prevalent, and hope that our music continues to draw from our hometown roots,” they told us.
The band has written some original songs and has a CD featuring seven of their originals. Lindsey, Ashley, Grace and Channing all took part. “Lindsey has had some experience writing for the band, it’s a fairly new thing for her but she’s planning on expanding her knowledge regarding songwriting this summer with some friends in Nashville. We have recorded two of her original songs, but together as a band we co-wrote a lot of the songs on our second CD.”
Although the band features five women, they weren’t originally just a ladies band. “We have had two males in the band,” they said, “but over time it seemed that we made friends with female musicians. When the guys decided to leave the band, we already had friends who we knew would be a good fit for our band. It definitely makes for a good time traveling when we’re able to help each other choose outfits and get ready for our shows,” they said.
Their latest CD, As We Travel, was recorded at Mountain Fever Studios and produced by Aaron Ramsey. “We had a lot of fun making this music, and hope that our listeners enjoy it. We chose a different array of music for this CD from groups like The Carter Family, and The Kendalls. Our previous CD had our original tunes, and on our upcoming album we hope to have all new and original material too.