Hot Diggity: Looking good and playing even better

Hot Diggity Bluegrass Band (New Zealand)

When it come to band photos the blokey bands try, but Hot Diggity are way more photogenic. Could it be that they smile and laugh and generally give the air of real live fun?

Hot Diggity is the only all female bluegrass band in New Zealand, but that is not why you should go see them at Kiwigrass. You should listen to them because they are one of the best bluegrass bands in New Zealand and as the photos imply, their shows are lots warm-hearted fun.

They play original songs by Heather Carrigan (mandolin, guitar and vocals) and Deborah Mackenzie (guitar and vocals) along with plenty of bluegrass favourites. If you were not told who wrote these songs you would probably go home and Google them to see where they came from because they totally sound the part.

Kiwigrass identity Jenine Abarbanel supplies bass and vocals, with Sue Drake on banjo and vocals and Krissy Jackson fiddle and vocals, combining to make a powerful five piece with a lively sound, hot chops, and tight harmonies.

Hamilton County Bluegrass Band: The ties that bind

Hamilton County Bluegrass Band (New Zealand)

The Hamilton County Bluegrass are quite simply the foundation on which New Zealand Bluegrass is built.

Hamilton County became overnight stars in New Zealand as the resident band on the NZBC’s The Country Touch in the late 1960s. That show’s host Tex Morton lured them to Australia where they toured for two years with the massively popular Slim Dusty.

In the middle of their stay across the Tasman they travelled to Nashville and appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, and on their return to Sydney recorded the Kersbrook Cottage LP, still a touchstone of Australian bluegrass music.

Hamilton Country Bluegrass Band Discography

Hamilton County Bluegrass Band (Festival)1966
Live at the Poles Apart (KiwiPacific) 1968
Country Touch (KiwiPacific) 1968
Yesterday’s Gone (KiwiPacific) 1969
Fifth Season (EMI) 1970
Live at the Wynyard Tavern (EMI) 1970
For You (EMI) 1971
Kersbrook Cottage (EMI) 1972
Country Road (EMI) 1973
Hamilton County Bluegrass Band (EMI) 1976

Legends Alive (Festival) 1992 (four tunes)
Hamilton County 1968-1973 (KiwiPacific) 1993
Encore (KiwiPacific) 1996
The Very Best Of the HCBB (EMI) 2002
Highway of Legends (Rajon) 2005 (four tunes)
The Tavern Revisited (EMI) 2006
Highway of Legends 11 (Rajon) 2006 (four tunes)
Anthology (EMI/Universal) 2014

Lonely Heartstrings rebound

Lonely Heartstring Band (US)

Awesome Lonely Heartstring Band won over the first Kiwigrass with their beautifully polished music, friendly disposition, and great Kiwigrass academy teaching skills. Now they have agreed to make a quick trip back just for Kiwigrass 2020.

If you haven’t heard Lonely Heartstring Band before check out their Smoke and Ashes CD or ask someone who was at the last festival. Nourished by deep roots in the expansive canon of traditional American music, the band embodies the modern American condition — an understanding and reverence for the past that informs a push into the future.  Members George Clements (guitar, vocals) Patrick M’Gonigle (fiddle, vocals) Charles Clements (bass, vocals) Matt Witler (mandolin) and Gabe Hirshfeld (banjo) bring together their own musical styles to create a sound greater than the sum of its parts.

Combining soulful instrumental virtuosity with soaring three-part harmonies, their growing repertoire of original songs and compositions showcases not only their considerable talents, but a dedication to meaningful roots-conscious music.
Since their beginnings in 2012, The Lonely Heartstring Band has been on the rise and shows no sign of slowing down. With their 2015 IBMA Momentum Award and their 2016 release of their debut full-length album, Deep Waters, on Rounder Records, this band is an amazing addition to the Kiwigrass lineup.



AJ Lee and Blue Summit: Winners of the American 2019 FreshGrass Band

AJ Lee and Blue Summit (US)

“Could This Kid Be the Next Allison Krauss?” Mother Jones magazine asked about AJ Lee — and for good reason.

AJ Lee and Blue Summit (US), are a bluegrass band led by singer, songwriter, and mandolinist AJ Lee and features Sullivan Tuttle (yes, Sully belongs to that family of Tuttles) on guitar and vocals, Jesse Fichman on guitar and vocals, and Chad Bowen on bass, singing sweet harmonies and sometimes singing lead on popular Grateful Dead tunes. This year, Jan Purat joined Blue Summit on fiddle, rounding out the band’s sound.

The band has been the darling of the North Bay, California bluegrass scene since their first appearance in Santa Cruz. Drawing from influences such as swing, folk, blues, jazz, country, soul, and rock, their undeniable talent and insatiable passion for bluegrass harks back to traditional classics while remaining uniquely modern. Over the years, Blue Summit’s performed all around the US as well as in the UK, Ireland, France and their schedule includes a guest spot in New Zealand at the Kiwigrass bluegrass festival . They’ve accrued many devout followers and distinctions including the Freshgrass 2019 Band Contest Winner, IBMA 2019 Momentum Vocalist of the Year, 2nd Place at the 2019 Winfield Guitar Competition, and numerous awards in Northern California.

In 2019, AJ Lee and Blue Summit came out with their debut album, Like I Used To, which consists entirely of AJ’s original songs. Equipped with these new songs and their archive of nostalgic tunes, they’ll continue playing to both familiar and new audiences, endearing themselves to the country and the world.