I’ve spent some time on YouTube listening to Billy Strings, a new discovery for me, and someone who—along with Molly Tuttle—has convinced me that the future of bluegrass is in good hands. After all, the lad is only 27. (The future of rock, in contrast, is bleak.) His real name is William Apostol; he changed the last name after, well, I’ll let the Northern Express tell it 7 years ago:
“I was born on my grandpa’s birthday, so they named me after Grandpa Bill,” says Strings, who just turned 20 and whose given name is William Apostol. “I got the name Billy Strings from my Aunt Mondi, who was a real spiritual, hip Indian lady. She’s the first person who called me that — she said “˜look at little Billy Strings play’ when I was a child.”
He is of course the real thing, and in my view is fully as good as Doc Watson. My only beef is that he’s overly inked, but that’s his choice, and it doesn’t affect his music. At any rate, I promised to put up a few of his songs, and it was a really hard choice. There are so many good ones, even on YouTube. If you like him, do your own sleuthing.
Here’s Billy’s own composition: “Dust in a Baggie,” about being jailed for methamphetamine. This is at his debut at the Grand Ole Opry, and, as one commenter noted, “The edgiest thing ever played at the Opry in 100 years.”
A smoking version of “This Heart of Mine”. Strings really has assembled a fantastic young bluegrass band:
Here’s Strings’s rendition of a song made popular by Doc Watson, “Tennessee Stud”, written and recorded in 1959 by Jimmy Driftwood:
Strings fooling around with a vintage Martin dreadnought at Carter Vintage Guitars, which makes videos of players noodling on classic instruments.
“Lost John” on a Martin D-21:
Finally, here’s Phil, a guitar teacher, analyzing one of Strings’s performances, “Turmoil and Tinfoil”.