ELIZABETHTON — Trinity Valley Travelers will be the featured band for the Covered Bridge Jams concert for Saturday, Sept. 18, starting at 7 p.m. “We want everyone to come out and experience this fantastic group of musicians,” said Elizabethton Recreation Manager David Nanney.
Trinity Valley Travelers may be better know to some of its longtime fans as High-Test Grass, the name it used to use. The band is bluegrass steeped in the musical traditions of Southwest Virginia and the surrounding area of Middle Appalachia. The band’s repertoire consists of hard-driving bluegrass music mixed with lonesome ballads and traditional bluegrass gospel songs.
The band consists of Eric McMurray from Gate City, Va., on lead and harmony vocals, mandolin and fiddle; Kris Rasnake of Lebanon, Va., on bass vocals and banjo; Garnet Lester of Glade Spring, Va., on lead and harmony vocals and rhythm guitar; Eric Blankenship of Coeburn, Va., on harmony vocals and upright bass; and Carter Lester from Glade Spring, Va., on lead guitar.
McMurray is a multi-instrumentalist who has been playing for 46 years. He has won many contests on banjo, guitar, mandolin and fiddle. He has been a member of the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass Pride Band, Scott County Boys, Moccasin Gap Bluegrass Band, Turkey Creek and Tennessee Skyline, and was a founding member of High-Test Grass. He has also spent time playing in the Nashville area with Spencer’s Mill, as well as with 12th Avenue South, which was the Tuesday night house band at The Station Inn in the late 1980s.
Rasnake started learning the banjo from his father, Randy, at the age of 9. Since then, he has been one of the Larry Sparks’ Lonesome Ramblers, a part of Ernie Thancker and Rt. 23, a member of Blue Moon Rising, and he has filled engagements with Ralph Stanley as one of the Clinch Mountain Boys.
Garnet Lester has been in the Southwest Virginia/East Tennessee bluegrass scene for the better part of 30 years. He learned guitar from his grandfather as a child. He is a former member of The Chip Ridge Boys, the Sounds of Gospel Grass, Fescue, Bluegrass Expedition and most recently was a part of High-Test Grass.
Eric Blankenship also plays many instruments and has been playing music for 15 years. He learned to play guitar when he was 8 years old, then the bass, mandolin, banjo and piano. His love for music originated playing along with family members at church. In 2016, he played bass for the Possum Hollow Boys. Trinity Valley Travelers is his first formal band.
Carter Lester is proficient on many instruments as well. He plays rhythm and lead guitar, banjo and bass. He is currently a freshman at Patrick Henry High School in Glade Spring, Va. He has been a full-time member of Valley Grass and a part-time member of High-Test Grass for the past two years.
Come on down to Covered Bridge Park Saturday night at 7, said Nanney. “Bring your lawn chair and a friend. Leave your worries behind, sit back and enjoy a wonderful free concert while relaxing in Historic Covered Bridge Park.”
From staff reports