Tray Wellington takes a Detour to the Moon on upcoming album

Article Contributed by Mountain Home … | Published on Tuesday, May 21, 2024

It’s been a busy stretch for young banjo phenom Tray Wellington, whose 2022 full-length debut, Black Banjo, drew attention from roots music observers ranging from Bluegrass Today and No Depression to the Wall Street Journal. Since then, he’s joined with other young Black roots musicians to form the New Dangerfield string band, toured relentlessly across the United States with his Tray Wellington Band, and released a series of singles that alternated cutting edge, banjo-led original instrumentals (“Moon in Motion 1,” “Blue Collared Dog and His Green Eyed Friend”) with a couple of inspired vocal covers in Kid Cudi’s megahit, “Pursuit of Happiness,” and John Hiatt’s gripping “Lift Up Every Stone.”  

Now those singles have been gathered up alongside 3 new tracks in a new album for Mountain Home Music Company. And though some of it has already been heard, Detour to the Moon — now available for pre-save/add ahead of its July 12 release — nevertheless builds on Black Banjo to stand as an impressive, organically well-rounded statement that confirms Wellington’s stature as a boldly innovative artist whose roots run deep and wide.  

“I am beyond grateful for everyone who has supported me in my musical career and development,” Wellington says in the liner notes to Detour to the Moon. “As I look at my music, I often view it as an adventure. My main goal is to continually explore through my music, to have continuous growth, and more sources to pull from. As I am always looking forward on the highway in front of me, eventually I needed to take a detour to showcase the journey so far.”

Sure enough, Detour to the Moon doubles down on the North Carolina native’s mastery of a wide variety of styles and illustrates just how organically he’s incorporated those sources into his own work. In addition to already released singles, the album includes both the smooth jazz flavor of his original, “Spiral Staircase” and a bona fide jazz classic in Duke Ellington’s epic “Caravan,” where Wellington and his collaborators evoke both the legend’s original presentation and Bluegrass Hall of Famer Bill Keith’s 70s era reworking of the tune as a banjo tour de force. On these, session stalwart Drew Matulich swaps his acoustic guitar for an electric, while Wellington and former band members Josiah Nelson (fiddle, mandolin) and Katelynn Bohn (bass) are joined by drummer Mike Ashworth (Steep Canyon Rangers). Then, on the collection’s lone original vocal, “Till Summer Was Gone,” the bandleader turns the spotlight on Tray Wellington Band singer/guitarist Nick Weitzenfeld — and, just as “Lift Up Every Stone” featured guest appearances from sacred steel guitarist DaShawn Hickman and his wife, singer Wendy Hickman, this one finds Weitzenfeld’s vocal lead framed by striking harmonies from Wellington’s New Dangerfield bandmate and acclaimed Americana artist Kaia Kater.

The result is a stunning collection that fulfills fans’ calls for a new album, even as Wellington serves notice that it’s a way station on a lifelong creative journey. “Detour to the Moon,” he offers, “is dedicated to this idea and we are on our way to the final destination. Alas, that’s a long while away and the moon will have to do for now. See you on the adventure!”

Pre-save/add Detour to the Moon HERE.