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San Francisco Bay Area musician and Virginia native Bill Evans has been involved with bluegrass music and the banjo for over twenty-five years as a player, teacher, writer and historian. He occupies a unique niche in the banjo world: celebrated worldwide for his traditional and progressive bluegrass banjo styles as well as his outstanding original compositions, he also enjoys a reputation as an outstanding instructor as well as being an expert player of 19th century minstrel and classic/parlor banjo styles.
Bill currently performs and tours nationally with Due West, which was an official showcase act at the 2004 International Bluegrass Music Association Trade Show in Louisville, Kentucky.
Bill also performs with the Bluegrass Intentions, a traditionally oriented band featuring Alan Senauke and Eric and Suzy Thompson. This band's debut recording on Native and Fine Records, Old As Dirt, has received rave reviews and international radio airplay.
For the last several years, Bill has authored "Off the Record," one of the most popular monthly instructional columns for Banjo Newsletter magazine. He hosts his own NashCamp Fall Banjo Retreat with Sonny Osborne, held each year west of Nashville, Tennessee. He has also presented banjo workshops across the country at many major folk and bluegrass festivals and has taught at virtually every important music camp, including the Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, Port Orchard, Washington; Augusta Heritage Center's Bluegrass Week in Elkins, West Virginia; the AcuTab Banjo Seminar with J.D. Crowe and Sonny Osborne in Roanoke, Virginia; South Plains College's Camp Bluegrass in Levelland, Texas; the California Bluegrass Association’s Bluegrass Jam Camp in Grass Valley, California; Steve Kaufman's Acoustic Kamp in Maryville, Tennessee; and Nashcamp in Cumberland Furnace, Tennessee. He has been on the teaching faculty twice for Banjo Newsletter’s Maryland Banjo Academy as well as two times for the Jack Hatfield/Banjo Newsletter/SPBGMA workshop held each February in Nashville. He also teaches private lessons out of his home in Albany, California for students at all ability levels, including intensive sessions for out of town students.
Bill released his second solo project Bill Evans Plays Banjo in late 2001 on Native and Fine Records. A collection of twelve original bluegrass instrumentals along with a remake of Bill Monroe's classic "Heavy Traffic Ahead," Bill Evans Plays Banjo brings together some of the most outstanding acoustic musicians on the West Coast, including Darol Anger (fiddle), John Reischman (mandolin), Todd Phillips (bass) and Rob Ickes (dobro). Other musical guests include Missy Raines, Don Rigsby, Mike Compton, Jim Nunally, Nina Gerber, Steve Smith, Greg Spatz, Glen Duncan, and Mike Bub. In writing about this release, Chicago Tribune wrtier David Royko says "Bill Evans has created an instrumental masterpiece...an album certain to be viewed in the future as a classic" and named this recording to his Top 10 Bluegrass CDs of 2001 list. Bill Evans Plays Banjo was also named a Top 5 Bluegrass Instrumental Recording of 2001 by Dave Freeman in his County Sales newsletter. In addition, "Heavy Traffic Ahead" has been on Bluegrass Unlimited magazine's Top 30 Singles Chart for seven months, including four months in the Top 10 of that survey. To download mp3 samples from Bill Evans Plays Banjo, click here.
Native and Fine, his 1995 Rounder Records debut featuring David Grier, Stuart Duncan and Mike Compton, was awarded an honorable mention for 1996 Acoustic Instrumental Recording of the Year by the Association for Independent Music (AFIM) (to hear a short sample, click here). From 1993 to 1997, Bill toured nationally with Dry Branch Fire Squad and appears on their 1996 Rounder recording Live! At Last. He co-produced and appears on Dry Branch Fire Squad member Suzanne Thomas’ Rounder Records 1998 release Dear Friends and Gentle Hearts, which features guest appearances from the Seldom Scene, the Lonesome River Band, IIIrd Tyme Out and others. This recording was named "1998 Bluegrass Recording of the Year" by Keith Lawrence of Knight-Ridder Newspapers and was a finalist for IBMA’s 1999 "Recorded Event of the Year" award.
Bill also appears from time to time as a special guest with the Jim Hurst Band and Laurie Lewis, Tom Rozum & The Guest House Band. He has also performed with the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, Robin and Linda Williams and Their Fine Group, Peter Rowan, Suzanne Thomas, Don Rigsby & Friends, the Lynn Morris Band, the Kathy Kallick Band, the Gary Ferguson Band, Jeannie Kendall and the Falls City Ramblers. Bill was the founder/leader of the 1980’s progressive bluegrass band Cloud Valley, based out of Charlottesville, Virginia.
Bill is the co-host for the Homespun Tapes video The Banjo of Sonny Osborne and is a contributor to the Oxford University Press Encyclopedia of Country Music (1998), In addition he is the co-editor of The Banjo of J.D. Crowe from AcuTab Publications. Bill is the subject of cover stories in Muleskinner (June-July 1999), Bluegrass Now (Jan.-Feb. 1996) and Banjo Newsletter (July 1996, May 2001) magazines in addition to being included in the June, 2002 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited. Bill's first instructional video, Power Pickin': Up The Neck Back-up for Bluegrass Banjo from AcuTab Publications, is now available. Two new AcuTab instructional DVDs and a new book from Mel Bay are set to be published in 2005.
A doctoral candidate in ethnomusicology from the University of California at Berkeley, Evans has taught courses in American music history at the University of San Francisco, the University of Virginia and Duke University. In 1994-95, he was the Associate Director of the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Kentucky. In 1997, he was a artist-scholar in residence at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond as part of this university’s New Perspectives in the Arts series and more recently has been a performer in residence at Carleton College, Northfield, MN and Morehead State University, Morhead, KY. Bill was also a recipient of a Brown Foreman-Al Smith Artist Fellowship in musical composition from the Kentucky Arts Council, this state's highest award for achievement in the arts.
Bill with his custom made elk skin lined Dogwood strap
Bill making the old five string explode