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Plank Stompers forge the future of Loudoun’s bluegrass

The Plank Stompers lay down their unique brew of ‘Appalachian funk Americana grass’ at Monk’s BBQ in Purcellville on Dec. 11. Times-Mirror/Hannah Dellinger
The Plank Stompers are a product of what’s around them.

The group’s sound is symbolic of Loudoun County itself. It is rooted in the deep, rich history of the Appalachia, with sounds of Bluegrass that have rang through the Blue Ridge mountains for hundreds of years. Updated funky horn breakdowns, acid rock guitar riffs and sometimes downright silly, fun lyrics are spiced into the music to add a tailored touch.

“Sometimes we call it ‘space grass,” said Eric Burnham, mandolin and harmonica player.

“I just described it on a poster as ‘Appalachian funk Americana grass,” added Ben Walters, bass player.

The Bluemont-based band played to hyped, rowdy western Loudoun crowd at Monk’s BBQ in Purcellville on Dec. 11.

The audience was made up of multiple generations, even some families.

“Playing blue grass music is special, because it appeals to every age group,” said Walters. “It’s highly accessible music.”

An entire generation of Plank Stompers fans have listened to bluegrass for their entire lives, said Rudy Bzdyk, keyboard, fiddle and trumpet player.

“They’re really into seeing young people play something that they value and seeing that connection there,” he said. “At the same time, we get all weird and funky sometimes. Everyone around our age likes to get down with their bad selves and that’s fun for them, too.”

Bluegrass is a genre that never really went away, the band agrees. And it never will leave Loudoun.

“A lot of people are seeking an aspect of our American culture that [they] feel really proud of or linked to,” said Burnham. “I’ve grown up here in the Blue Ridge and that’s where blue grass comes from. Once we started playing this music it was like, this is ours.”

Bluegrass is the perfect music to play on a Friday night at a barbeque joint with a group of friends, said Will Spawdling, guitar and whistle player.

“It’s just a very fun style conducive to group settings,” he said. “It’s all acoustic so you can grab a guitar or a fiddle or a mandolin and get in a circle or a group and start playing.”

The updated twist on Bluegrass that the Plank Stompers brand for themselves mirrors the artists’ modern influences.

“I personally love all of the different sounds that I hear and all of the different kinds of people I see,” said Bzdyk. “Everyone brings their own flavor to the soup.”

Because their sound is so pliable, the group can translate its sound to any venue. They played about a dozen music festivals this summer and have been adding bars in D.C. to the gamut of venues they frequent. The group will even be playing at the legendary 8X10 in Baltimore this February.

Each member of the Plank Stompers is a skilled, fine-tuned, top-notch musician. They all teach lessons to up and coming new musicians and play with other bands.

The group serves as curators of Loudoun’s culture and sound. They say they keep playing because it’s what they were put in this time and place to do.

“I feel like music is almost like a spiritual calling,” said Burnham. “It’s pulling me down this path.”


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