Clack Mountain String Band

Inspired by the people and place that surrounds them, CMSB is connected by a common vein that injects a high level of energy into each song. "Folks often ask us to describe the kind of music we play and I guess from a commercial stand point you can call it 'old time' or 'string band' music, but to us it's just music," says Ratliff. Melody lines are played out on the fiddle with accompaniment from the knock down banjo and pushed by the vigorous rhythms of the guitar and doghouse, known as 'Rowan County Rhythm.' Their vocal harmonies are also very distinct and tend to blend seamlessly not only with each other but also with the music. The tunes come from oral transmission, intense listening (thanks to the archives at the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music), hours upon hours of jamming with all of their old time peers, and original compositions. Clack Mountain String Band is vastly influenced by the mountains and rolling hills of East Kentucky and people like Lee Sexton, George Gibson, and their dear friend Art Stamper, whom we all miss very much. On the forefront of a diverse and blossoming music scene in Morehead, Kentucky, CMSB consists of four core members; Karly Higgins, Jesse Wells, J.T. Cure and Brett Ratliff.

Jesse Wells comes by it honest as he continues a legacy in his family of musicians, artists, and down right good people. Jesse has been attending fiddler's conventions and festivals since an early age and has been greatly influenced by his father Jaime Wells, who is an old time fiddler. Through his extensive work as an archivist and professor of trad music, Jesse is becoming known as a fine fiddler in his own right and an all around good source for mountain music. He plays fiddle, banjo, guitar, banjo uke, mandolin and sings harmony vocals for the Clack Mountain String Band and does so with great intensity and a feel for how to drive a song into the next realm. He can also play soft fiddle tunes with a high degree of dignity and sweetness. Jesse was reared in Red Bush, KY and lives today in Morehead.

Brett Ratliff is the knock down banjo player of the group and comes from a small coal mining community called Van Lear, KY. Along with banjo, Ratliff also sings, plays guitar, harmonica, jews harp, and bones with the group. He is a founding member of the Morehead Old Time Music Association for whom CMSB works alongside in helping give old time mountain music a presence in the Morehead community and beyond. As a banjo player, Ratliff is rapidly becoming seasoned as a student of life and mountain music, and along with the rest of the Clack Mountain String Band, hopes to put his own experiences and emotions into the music in order to relate with whoever is in earshot.

J.T. Cure came to Morehead from Elkhorn City, KY along the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River. J.T. cut his teeth early on playing bass for a punk band in Elkhorn and this is evident in the energy he brings to any musical ensemble. He has displayed many faces which include jazz upright bassist, Indie rock, and Honky Tonker extraordinaire, all which contribute to his unflinching knowledge of music. But more than just knowledge, J.T. has the ability to feel a tune and can use that in the best interest of the music.

Karly Higgins is the only member of the band originally from Rowan County. She plays rhythm guitar and sings with phrasing and emotion indicative of her roots and adds an aura of whimsy when she performs. Karly morphed with the Clack Mountain String Band in passing as she became increasingly known in the region for her authentic mountain sound. She also bows a cello on occasion as well as writes songs. Karly is country to the bone.

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