New Dangerfield (Jake Blount, Kaia Kater, Tray Wellington, Nelson Williams) Reignite the Black String Band Tradition

Article Contributed by HearthMusic | Published on Saturday, April 27, 2024

Black music lies at the heart of most American roots music, but a century of erasure has obscured the origins of the music today. Now four brilliant musicians, each visionaries in their own right, are re-centering Black traditions in string band music. New Dangerfield brings together Afrofuturist fiddler Jake Blount with composer, songwriter, and old-time banjo player Kaia Kater, bluegrass banjo iconoclast Tray Wellington, and powerfully versatile bassist Nelson Williams. Embodying the innovative aspects of the Black string band tradition, Wellington, Kater, Williams and Blount are well-acquainted with the contemporary, the experimental, and the speculative.

“I put together New Dangerfield originally to collaborate with other Black artists that I feel are constantly breaking barriers with their music,” says Tray Wellington. “It quickly became apparent, though, that this is a project that roots music wants and needs. As we continue to make strides individually in our careers, it influences the music we make as a group. Having a joint goal of further stating roots music is for all people, and with each of us having different backgrounds, it makes for a magical and truly individual sound to add to the Black string band tradition. Working from a shared place of love for Black string band music and culture, we’re developing new sounds and new ideas that keep these traditions fully grounded in the present while steeped in shared history.”

The group takes their name from Dangerfield Newby, one of five recorded Black abolitionists among John Brown's raiders who died while taking part in Brown's infamous raid on a federal armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia in 1859. New Dangerfield’s debut single, “Dangerfield Newby,” releasing with Free Dirt Records on April 26, pays homage to this historical figure by reconfiguring a traditional fiddle tune – ‘Dangerfield,’ learned from fiddler Eddie Bond, also known as ‘Old Sport’ – and deftly rearranging the number to canonize Newby's revolutionary sacrifice. By taking a traditional instrumental tune and turning it on its ear, the band demonstrates the unique prism through which they make music and synthesize these age-old folkways. Each of these four powerful artists has risen to carry the torch for the ancestors who first built this music, but have been forgotten and erased today.

New Dangerfield on Tour

Sunday, April 28


Wilkes Community College, Wilkesboro, NC

Thursday, July 11 — Sunday, July 14

Winnipeg Folk Festival

Birds Hill Provincial Park, Winnipeg, MB

Saturday, August 3 — Monday, August 5

Canmore Folk Festival

Canmore, Alberta

Saturday, August 10

Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival

Waterfront Park, Medical Lake, Washington

Sunday, August 11

Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival

Waterfront Park, Medical Lake, Washington

Thursday, August 15 — Sunday, August 18

Green Mountain Bluegrass & Roots Festival

Hunter Park, Manchester, VT

Friday, September 20

Bourbon & Beyond

Kentucky Expo Center, Louisville, KY

Sunday, September 22

Freshgrass – Mass MoCA

Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA