The Daily News Record

August 17 2017                                                                                                              Keeping It Traditional: Junior Sisk & Rambler's Choice to Play at Court Square Theater                                                                                                               Shelby Mertens                                                                                                     

A staple in Virginia bluegrass, Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice will be making a stop in Harrisonburg on Aug. 27 to play at Court Square Theater for the first time.

The band, known for its traditional bluegrass sound, originally called just Rambler’s Choice, formed in 1998. They later disbanded as its members went their separate ways, but reformed in 2008 as Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice.

Junior Sisk, the band’s lead vocalist and guitarist, has won numerous honors from the International Bluegrass Music Awards, including Male Vocalist of the Year in 2013 and 2017. The band won Album of the Year for 2012’s “Heart of a Song,” and Song of the Year in 2012 for “A Far Cry From Lester and Earl.”

The band also includes Jason Davis on banjo, Jamie Harper on fiddle, Kameron Keller on bass and Johnathan Dillon on mandolin.

Sisk started playing traditional bluegrass at 14 years old, growing up in Ferrum, a small town between Roanoke and Martinsville. He was influenced by his parents, who both played bluegrass.

“We had a family band growing up,” Sisk said. “We played a lot of fiddler’s conventions and stuff like that. I was raised on The Stanley Brothers pretty much.”

Sisk started writing bluegrass songs in the 1990s. He wrote the songs “Game (I Can’t Win)” and “Tears Are Blinding Me” for Lonesome River Band.

Sisk joined his first band, Wyatt Rice & Santa Cruz, in the ’90s before forming Rambler’s Choice. After the first Rambler’s Choice, he played for a band called The Lost and Found for six months, and then the band Blueridge for five years. Rambler’s Choice reformed after Sisk left Blueridge in 2006.

He also hosts a festival in Floyd called Chantilly Farms Bluegrass and BBQ Festival on Memorial Day weekend for the last eight years.

Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice’s latest and seventh album is “The Mountains Are Calling Me Home,” which was released in March of this year. The band recently signed onto Mountain Fever Records, located in Willis, Va., after years of releasing albums on Rebel Records in Charlottesville.

Sisk has made it his mission to keep the sound of traditional bluegrass alive.

“We try to keep it traditional with our own taste,” Sisk said. “There’s not a lot of folks out there now that’s still keeping it traditional. It’s more progressive to get the younger crowd. We do it all; we try to get the young ones and the older ones as well. We like to look out into the audience and make ’em cry, and we like to make ’em laugh. We’re all over the place.”

Sisk said fans at the Aug. 27 show can expect “energy and excitement.” The set list will include both old and new hits.

“We’re going to do some old stuff back from Wyatt Rice to today’s,” he said. “We try to mix it up.”

Doors open at 6 p.m. with the show starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are $16 in advance or $18 at the door. For more information, call 540-433-9189 or visit the event page.