Bluegrass Band of the Year: Marshgrass Mamas 

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Ruta Smith

If there’s any such thing as a Charleston supergroup, Marshgrass Mamas fit the bill. The eight-piece band features Cary Ann Hearst (Shovels & Rope), Hazel Ketchum (The Hungry Monks), Kristen Meierer (YeeHaw Junction), Caitlin Cahill Pape, Dee Payne, Rayne and Gina Perez (Cane Creek String Band), Chandler Marburg, and Lauren Cahill (The Lowhills). Of course, the downside of having such busy musicians in one band is that they don’t get to play together all that much. In fact, the band took a 10-year hiatus from the stage while the women were busy with their own projects and families, coming back together when former member (and Della Mae mandolin player) Jenni Lyn Gardner asked them to reunite for one of her local shows two years ago.

But just because they weren’t onstage doesn’t mean they weren’t playing. “We try to get together for some front-porch pickin’ at somebody’s house at least once a week,” Meierer says. “Primarily we’re a bunch of girlfriends who got together 16 years ago and just started having ‘chick picks,’ and we ended up getting a gig a Shorty’s Pizza on Highway 41. Then we all started to have babies, so we quit for about 10 years. “

The group’s calling card is their vocal harmonies, which Meierer says simply comes from having “a lot of singers in the band and a lot of people who sing really well.”

So when it’s time to break in a new song, they’ve got a bit of a headstart on the typical ensemble.

“It’s just a matter of someone pitching a song to the band and everything else falls into place,” Meierer says.

And if their schedules don’t allow them to keep singing those songs onstage, there’s always the porch.

“We’ll play out when we can, and when we can’t, we try to get together on one of these Johns Island front porches,” Meierer says.


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