An Interview With East Tennessee’s Bluegrass Phenoms The Po Ramblin’ Boys

Deep in the rolling hills, peaks, and valleys of the Smoky Mountains, among the moonshine and sunshine, dwell some boys that were made to ramble. The Po Ramblin’ Boys are a four-piece bluegrass outfit that possess all the elements of an authentic, boot tappin’, straw chewin’, arm lockin’ sound that appeals to generations.

Listening to the Po Ramblin’ Boys can easily conjure images of George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson hightailing it from Mississippi trouble, or performing as the Soggy Bottom Boys in the classic Coen Brothers film “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” They can hang with the best of ’em, and execute with spot on charm and Dixieland enchantment bluegrass music often delivers.

We were lucky enough to catch an interview with vocalist and mandolin-shredder C.J. Lewandowski, and chat with him about their inspirations, albums past and present, their lengthy 50+ tour dates (not counting shows earlier in the year) and much more.

Music Mecca: So how long have the Po Ramblin’ Boys been ramblin’?

Po Ramblin’ Boys: The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys started in August 2014 as a house band at a legal moonshine distillery in Gatlinburg, TN. It has been the same 4 members since the beginning.

MM: I see you guys have quite an extensive list of tour dates throughout the year- is there a particular show/venue you look forward to most?

PRB: We are tickled to have a schedule for 2018 like we do have. There are more rolling in every week, and it’s really a blessing. Joe’s Val Bluegrass was a GREAT time and we had such a blast. I’d say we are excited about Merlefest at the end of April and RockyGrass in July. Those festivals are slightly out of our realm, and we are anxious to see how that kind of crowd receives our version of Bluegrass.

MM: Which leads me to my next important question: which food can almost always be found on the tour bus/van?

PRB: Lately, most of the food found on the bus has been Jug’s farm fresh eggs, braunschweiger, pork rinds, Rue Farm Potato Chips, Dr. Pepper, Moscato wine, and Pabst Blue Ribbon. That sounds horrible. Never realized that until I listed it like that!

MM: Been a few years, but congrats on releasing your debut album, “Back to the Mountains.” Is a second album in the works? Places where you’d like to record it?

PRB: We are currently in the studio at Sound Biscuit Productions in Sevierville, TN. The album should be released in May 2018. It’s a full gospel album called, “God’s Love Is So Divine.” We are excited to get it out for our friends. It has some really special songs and guests on it that mean a lot to us. C.J. just released a mandolin instrumental project called “Ozark Mandolin.” It features all tunes that he or his mentor, Jim Orchard, wrote. It also features an All Star band of Bob Minner, Jason Barie, Jereme Brown, Josiah Shrode, and Jasper Lorentzen. We are in contract with a label right now for a secular project set to release in the first quarter of 2019, with two singles to drop in 2018. I can update you when it officially acceptable to give out more information.

MM: If you could open for one band (currently alive/playing) who would it be?

PRB: We aren’t too caught up in opening up for someone. Maybe Del McCoury? We are concentrating on being the headliner, so we aren’t thinking of who to open up for, lol.

MM: If you had to pick one bluegrass artist to attribute you doing what you do, who would it be?

PRB: That’s a very hard question. We are all influenced by several different musicians and that’s what makes us so unique. We brought all our influences together to make what we have. Can I do a Top 3? (MM: Of course…) Ralph Stanley, James King, and Bill Monroe. There’s so many others though: Jimmy Martin, Don Brown, Tommy Brown, Karl Shiflett, Charlie Moore, The Osborne Brothers, The Traditional Grass, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Cedar Hill, Dub Crouch & Norman Ford, Larry Sparks, Jim Orchard, Jim Simpson.. the list is almost endless.

MM: What’s your favorite thing about Sevierville, Tennessee?

PRB: Well, we all live in the mailing district of Sevierville, but we are a good ways from town. I’d say that’s the best part. Sevier County is very bluegrass supportive. A lot of our friends have day jobs playing the theaters and businesses, or for the city. The best thing is the mountains. We all love the culture, music, relaxation, and people of Appalachia. There’s music in the mountains and I think we feed off the land musically as much as we do if we have a garden. The mountains have voices and stories if you listen close enough.

MM: How about your favorite non-bluegrass artist?

PRB: I’m gonna say our collective favorite is Merle Haggard. We got to meet Merle in 2015 and it was truly life changing. He was super supportive of us and very kind to us. His songs touch our heart strings, like they do with several others. George Jones is there as well. Traveling down the road we listen to Merle, George, Hank Sr and Jr, Pokey Lafarge, Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, and The Country Side of Harmonica Sam.

MM: If you hear this name again it’ll be too soon: Justin Bieber or U2?

PRB: Who?

Much thanks to C.J. and The Po Ramblin’ Boys for taking time out of their busy schedule to chat with us, and if you fancy yourself some bluegrass, you oughta get on the hype train and get familiar with PRB.

You can learn more about The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys and listen to their music on their website HERE!

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