Free shows in Big Sky Town Center July 19 and 26
By Brian Hurlbut Arts Council of Big Sky

BIG SKY – The Black Lillies, an award-winning Americana band from Nashville, will play at Town Center Park on Thursday, July 19 as part of the Arts Council of Big Sky Summer Concert Series.

“Earthy and gritty, their songs speak of pain, love, revenge and revelry with such spirit that they seem to be carved out of the planks of an abandoned backwoods cabin,” wrote Relix magazine about the Black Lillies.

Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Cruz Contreras founded the group in 2008, and it now also includes electric guitar and pedal steel whiz Tom Pryor and drummer Jamie Cook, both formerly of the everybodyfields, as well as bassist Robert Richards and vocalist Trisha Gene Brady. They play a mix of country, roots, rock and blues, straight from Appalachia.

In April 2009, the Black Lillies released Whiskey Angel, their debut recording. Recorded live in Cruz’s living room, it appeared on “Best of 2009″ lists across the country and won the Independent Music Award for Best Album, Americana. The group’s current album, 100 Miles of Wreckage, has also been nominated for awards and spent more than five months on the Americana radio Top 40 charts.

Performance highlights include playing Bonnaroo Music and Arts, Pickathon, CMA Festival and Fan Fair, Americana Music Festival; appearing on National Public Radio’s Mountain Stage; and four separate PBS concert specials. The band played its first show on the Grand Ole Opry in June 2011 and has played there nine times since.

The following week, on July 26, ACBS will bring the refreshing, soulful sounds of Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers to town. Nicki came to Big Sky last summer with her husband’s band, the Mother Hips, and she’s excited to return with own group this year.

Listen to her vintage-tinged brand of rocking country, and you’ll understand why this is a breakout year for Nicki. Her music is like an enchanting friend you’ve known for a short while but feels like you’ve known forever.

Her story began at a New Year’s Eve party, when she sang an impromptu blues song that caught the attention of musician/producer Tim Bluhm (The Mother Hips). With his encouragement she began to write songs and perform; and they soon recorded her debut album Toby’s Song (2008), which appeared on Jambase’s top 10 albums of the year. They married shortly after and formed her band with childhood friend and guitar player, Deren Ney. With the addition of Steve Adams on bass (ALO), Dave Mulligan on rhythm guitar and drummer Mike Curry, the band has continued to grown.

Nicki has since shared the stage with Chris Robinson, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Steve Kimock, Jackie Greene, Pegi Young and Josh Ritter.

Since her sophomore album, Driftwood (2011), Nicki has become the “it girl” of the San Francisco music scene, performing with her band, the Gramblers, as a duo with her husband, and as a guest artist with other revered performers. Driftwood’s sound ranges from the AM magic of Linda Ronstadt, to the charming duets of Johnny and June Cash, to smokey Memphis soul.

Nicki’s warm, strong voice and striking presence have undeniable appeal, confirmed by her sensational performances and rousing reception from music lovers at every show. She and her band are gaining traction with their Van Session recordings on YouTube, in which they perform a cover song while driving in their tour van. Their version of “I Can’t Go For That” by Hall and Oates has almost a million and a half views.

All of this summer’s concerts are free and take place in Town Center Park on Ousel Falls Road in Big Sky. The park opens at 6 p.m., and music typically starts at 7 p.m. Food and beverages from local vendors will be available. All ages are welcome—but please no glass containers or pets. Parking available. For more information and to hear songs from the artists, visit bigskyarts.org.