At the heart of Sleepy Man Banjo Boys is a phenomenon not new to the world of bluegrass music. Going back to teenage musicians such as J.D. Crowe and Vassar Clements back in the day, and a pre-teen Ricky Skaggs being brought onstage by Flatt & Scruggs, young pickers have occasionally surfaced in bluegrass, much to the pleasure of audiences. In these modern times, that scenario has happened with the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys, who have appeared on the Late Show With David Letterman and The Today Show.
All of 11 years old, at the heart of the group is banjo wiz Jonny Mizzone. Jonny was on full display at 2012’s IBMA World Of Bluegrass. He took part in a banjo workshop featuring Sammy Shelor, Gena Britt, Peter Wernick, and Mark Johnson, and when Steve Martin ended his emotional speech that started the IBMA Awards Show tribute to Earl Scruggs, the first musician he handed off to was Jonny.
So, that brings us to the new album The Farthest Horizon. Usually, albums recorded by talented young musicians turn into one-dimensional showcases of their abilities. And, that is exactly what happens with the first smoking cut, “Time Lapse,” an original instrumental written by Jonny’s fiddle-playing brother Robbie (13), who plays in the band along with brother Tommy (15). But then, a cool thing happens with the second song “The Farthest Horizon,” as the tempo is slowed and wonderful musical nuance appears. The wealth is spread amongst the siblings, and the tunes are thankfully varied, interesting, and impressive. Also appearing on this album is the trio’s uncle Chris Mizzone, Sal Ciaravino, and Andy Leftwich. The project also introduces a fine young singer named Ashley Lilly, who is the late Everett Lilly’s granddaughter. (www.sleepymanbanjoboys.com)DH