The five members of Balsam Range—Buddy Melton, Darren Nicholson, Marc Pruett, Caleb Smith, and Tim Surrett, all natives of Haywood and Jackson Counties—bring with them established reputations as distinguished bluegrass and gospel musicians.
Fiddler Buddy Melton has been described by bluegrass legend Tony Rice as having “one of the most exciting and purest voices I have ever heard.” He was a member of Rock Springs Reunion when they had a recording in the top ten of the bluegrass gospel charts, and later played with the country/bluegrass band Jubal Foster. He has performed or recorded with Porter Wagoner, Rhonda Vincent, and Tony Rice, among many others, and his self-titled first solo album was released in 2007.
Mandolinist Darren Nicholson has played many times at the Grand Ole Opry, and has appeared with George Jones, Merle Haggard, Marty Stuart, Doyle Lawson, Vince Gill, and a host of other major bluegrass and country artists. He toured for three years as part of Alecia Nugent’s band, and has appeared on an IBMA Album of the Year, Ricky Skaggs’ 2006 A Celebration of Life. He recorded his first solo album, self-titled, in 2006.
Marc Pruett is one of Western North Carolina’s most admired bluegrass banjo players. He appears on Bill Monroe’s 1973 Bean Blossom album, and five of Ricky Skaggs’ albums, including the Grammy-winning Bluegrass Rules! (1997). Over the course of his career he has also performed or recorded with Jimmy Martin, Rhonda Vincent, Jerry Douglas, Tony Rice, Arvil Freeman, the Whitewater Bluegrass Company, and many other notable national and regional artists.
Guitarist Caleb Smith, a lifelong Haywood County resident, has been playing music since early childhood. He was one of the founders of Harvest, a bluegrass gospel band which toured nationally, and he was the 2006 winner of the Power Grass Music award for both male vocalist and guitarist of the year. Smith is also a great songwriter, whose work has been recognized in the Singing News charts multiple times.
Tim Surrett has been a popular Southern gospel singer for many years, including a decade with the Kingsmen Quartet. He was named Favorite Musician of the Year in 2004 and 2005 in the Singing News Fan Awards, and during his time with the Kingsmen, the quartet won the Singing News Fan Award for Favorite Band of the Year every year from 1989 to 1995. He is also an extremely talented multi-instrumentalist. In 2006 he recorded a solo album, Mountain Home.
Balsam Range is remarkable in that among its many musical assets it has a full house of top-notch bluegrass singers. The band’s members take turns singing lead, and together sing harmonies that are full of interesting surprises while fully rooted in classic bluegrass tradition. It is a special occasion when a band of this caliber comes into being.
The band’s most recent recording, Papertown, won the 2013 International Bluegrass Music Association Award for Album of the Year, after spending five consecutive months at the top spot on the Bluegrass Unlimited National Bluegrass Survey Chart.
Balsam Range plays for concerts, festivals, church events, benefits, and other occasions.