See the Raelyn Nelson Band in Ashville, NC (Jan 4, 2019)
by:  Jason Gilmer

For a while Raelyn Nelson used a more traditional instrument — the acoustic guitar — as she fronted her band.

Then she discovered the ukulele.

“The most fun part is that I can move around and it looks like I’m a rock star with all of the moves I can do,” she said. “I can move around like crazy and it looks cool because it’s a tiny little instrument.”

She found the instrument because her bandmate, Jonathan Bright, in the Raelyn Nelson Band, which plays at 9 p.m. Friday at The Grey Eagle in Asheville, N.C., had just finished a recording using the instrument. It was a a tribute to The Replacements, done completely with the ukulele, and Nelson began to pick on the four-stringed, typical-Hawaiian guitar.

“Country music fans in Hawaii might beg to differ that the ukulele isn’t a country (music) sounding instrument,” she said.

But, honestly, Nelson and her band can’t be considered all that country.

“It’s country grunge rock. It’s caffeinated,” said Nelson, who is the granddaughter of country legend Willie Nelson. “It’s basically Loretta Lynn-style country melodies with a backing rock band.”

Rolling Stone Country magazine once described the sound as music that “mixes old country and dirty garage rock.”

Want to go?

Who: Raelyn Nelson Band with Drunken Prayer
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: The Grey Eagle, 185 Clingman Ave., Asheville, N.C.
Tickets: $12 (advance), $15 (day of show)
Info: 828-232-5800 or

The group has released several singles and an EP, and have a new album that will be released this year, Nelson said.

Some new songs will make it into the upcoming setlist, Nelson said, but she isn’t sure about some of the slower, or mid-tempo, songs like “Everything Falls.”

“I don’t know if I’ll play that, it will just depend on the vibe,” she said. “I hate bringing (the vibe) down because it always takes a few songs to bring everyone back up and dancing again.”

This won’t be the Nashville, Tenn.-based group’s first foray into Asheville.

“We played in Asheville once at Salvage Station and loved it,” Nelson said. “I didn’t get to spend much time in Asheville but I hear all this good stuff about it, like it’s this trendy little hippie town.”

Nelson isn’t just a country-rock act, as she has another project called Mmhmm with friend Hannah Fairlight. The folky duo’s self-titled debut was recently named Best Folk Rock album by the website Folk N Rock.

“Mmhmm doesn’t take anything seriously,” she said. “We’re doing the Smothers Brothers bit. Their’s is more of a comedy bit with a little bit of music, while ours is the opposite. It’s a lot of fun and it makes people laugh.”

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