Big Country Bluegrass plays music that has become known to many as Galax- or Mount Airy-style bluegrass—the sounds and style that evoke memories of Ted Lundy, Larry Richardson, Roy McMillan, Joe Edd King, and L.W. Lambert. Big Country Bluegrass has been playing this straight-ahead, hard-edged bluegrass for two decades.
The band was formed by husband and wife Tommy and Teresa Sells in the late 1980s. In the ensuing years, they played numerous fiddlers’ conventions, capturing their share of individual and band honors, as well as performing at festivals and concerts in the Southeastern United States. In January 1997, the group signed a long-term recording contract with Hay Holler Records of Blacksburg, Virginia. They have since concentrated on performing at festivals and concerts. In the past few years, they appeared at major festivals in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, New Hampshire, Ohio, Florida, and West Virginia.
All band members live in communities along the Virginia/North Carolina border, in close proximity to Galax, Virginia, a mecca of traditional bluegrass music. Tommy Sells plays mandolin and handles most of the emcee work. Teresa Sells plays rhythm guitar and sings lead and tenor parts. Tommy and Teresa live near Mouth of Wilson, Virginia. Jeff Michael of Wilkesboro, North Carolina, plays lead and rhythm guitar and fiddle, and he does a lot of the lead singing. Other current members of the band include Lynwood Lunsford and Tony King.
Ashe County banjo great Larry Pennington played with the group for 15 years before he passed away from Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Surry County fiddler Billy Hawks played with the group for several years, and Jimmy Trivette of Ashe and Watauga counties sang and played guitar with Big Country Bluegrass.
The band released four self-produced albums prior to signing with Hay Holler Records and now has ten releases on the label. The band signed with Mountain Roads Recordings of Bristol, Tennessee, for a release in 2008. Big Country Bluegrass performs at festivals and venues all around the region, including the Carter Fold, Floyd Fest, Mountain Music Jamboree, and several bluegrass festivals.
Big Country Bluegrass is available for performances, and to give classroom programs for college students.