Sometimes it’s the things closest to home you don’t appreciate as much as you should.
We’re not saying Becky Buller of Manchester isn’t appreciated by those who’ve heard her play fiddle or hear her sing.
But Buller, bluegrass musician extraordinaire, is a Middle Tennessee treasure that in our opinion should be even more appreciated. She is a bona fide bluegrass star.
The Becky Buller Band will get a somewhat rare chance to play before local folks at the Lynchburg Music Fest on Aug. 24, the second day of the two-day country/bluegrass extravaganza.
She has played 46 of the 50 states and internationally to wide acclaim.
Just this month, she was nominated for the International Bluegrass Music Association’s 2019 Fiddler of the Year Award. If she wins, the trophy can go alongside the other eight IBMA awards she’s already won. When she won the 2016 Fiddler of the Year, she was the first female to ever do so.
In 2016, she became the first person to win IBMA instrumental and vocal awards in the same year. First. Person. Ever.
As if that weren’t enough, she’s a songwriter – in fact, that’s how she broke through – penning or co-writing songs for Ricky Skaggs (“Music To My Ears”), Rhonda Vincent ("Fishers of Men"), Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver ("Be Living"), Josh Williams ("You Love Me Today"), Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out ("My Angeline,” "Rest My Weary Feet,” and “Cottontown”) and The Infamous Stringdusters (“Freedom”), As a writer, she’s a two-time Grammy winner for “Freedom,” and “The Shaker, “which was featured on the Travelin’ McCoury’s self-titled release that won the Best Bluegrass Album Grammy Award.
She was named the 2015 IBMA Songwriter of the Year.
In 2018, she topped all artists with eight IBMA nominations.
For those who haven’t ever heard of her, much less heard her music, Saturday’s performance with her top-flight band will be a treat, one of those can’t-miss gems you might not know of at a music festival.
A Minnesota native, she first made her mark winning the Minnesota Old Time Fiddle Championship in 1996 at the age of 17.
Growing up in Minnesota, Buller played fiddle with her parents and another couple in the group Prairie Grass. She studied classical violin and participated in the Mankato Area Youth Symphony and the Minnesota All-State Orchestra while in high school.
But fiddle was her true love.
She came South to attend East Tennessee State, and graduated in 2001 with a public relations degree. She also took part in the acclaimed Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music program. Also that year, Buller’s songwriting nabbed a first-place finish in the bluegrass category of the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in Wilksboro, NC.
She lived in the Nashville area for a time, met musician Jeff Haley of Manchester, got married and settled there.
Before going out on her own in 2015, she played on the road with Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike for 10 years and then two years with Darin & Brooke Aldridge.
She’s released four albums, the latest being 2018’s Crepe Paper Heart, which featured that year’s IBMA Gospel Recorded Performance Of The Year, “Speakin’ To That Mountain,” co-written with Jeff Hyde of the Eric Church Band. Bluegrass Today magazine named Crepe Paper Heart the No. 1 Bluegrass album of the year.
She’s moonlighted with the all-female bluegrass super-group, The First Ladies Of Bluegrass, which includes all the first women to win in their respective categories at the IBMA awards: Alison Brown (banjo, 1991); Buller (fiddle, 2016); Sierra Hull (mandolin, 2016); Missy Raines (bass, 1998); Molly Tuttle (guitar, 2017). They walked away with the 2018 IBMA Recorded Event Of The Year award for their work on “Swept Away.”
As talented as she is as fiddler and vocalist, it might be her songwriting that sets her apart.
Writing since she was in high school, she cites the usual bluegrass suspects, such as Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, as inspiration but she’s all over the board with other influences, including James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel. In fact, she’s recorded two Simon and Garfunkel songs – “Keep the Customer Satisfied,” a deep cut from the Bridge Over Troubled Water album and another lesser-known S&G song, “A Hazy Shade of Winter,” which the band does a very faithful rendition of, replete with the final “Ha!” at the end of the song.
Another influence is Christian artist Annie Herring, and Buller’s faith infuses several of her songs.
“Fishers of Men” is one of those songs and she told Bluegrass Today that “Of all the songs I’ve been privileged to write, that one has reached the widest audience, thanks to Rhonda Vincent. I have had so many churches call to ask for permission to use the tune. Every time I go to church with my husband’s family, someone asks us to sing it.
“The message of the song comes right out of Mark 1:16-18 “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ said Jesus, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.
“The Bible has so many amazing stories. Of course I believe it’s the Word of God, so that makes the stories even more powerful to me. I’ve always had a hard time memorizing Bible verses on their own, but I remember them if I can write a song around them. It’s a wonderful resource for songwriters.”