“Combining their precise instrumental skills with their powerful harmony, the Marshall Brothers and Highroad produce music embedded in the bluegrass tradition with feeling and soul,” reports The Mount Airy News. Brothers Eric and Steve Marshall, along with Tim Ramey and Patrick Lindsey, make up the Surry County-based bluegrass band that celebrated its ten-year anniversary in 2008.
Steve and Eric Marshall grew up in Mount Airy, North Carolina, a community well known for traditional music. Their mother played piano and organ and sang in church along with their father. Their parents were also bluegrass fans, and they frequented area events with live music. “We grew up around bluegrass music,” Steve says. By the time he was thirteen years old, Steve learned to play guitar. “I learned by watching other people and listening to the musicians in the area,” Steve recalls.
He later learned to play mandolin as well, and Eric learned to play banjo. “We played some bluegrass off and on over the years,” Steve says. “In 1997, we really started playing a lot together.” The brothers were playing and singing at the Salem United Methodist Church with Wayne McMillian when they had the idea of forming a bluegrass band. Starting as the Salem Aires, then Daybreak, then Mountain Soul, the group finally settled on the Marshall Brothers and Highroad as the band name. Several musicians have played with the group, including Tim Ramey, Steve Sexton, Jeff Haynes, Larry and Jerry Lowe, Tim Parks, and others. “There have been a lot of different people that have played with us at different times,” Steve says.
Today, Steve plays guitar and mandolin with the group, Eric plays banjo, Tim Ramey plays bass, and Patrick Lindsey plays guitar and mandolin. Steve does much of the lead singing with the group, and he plays his own mandolin style. “My biggest influence has always been the Stanley Brothers and Larry Sparks,” Steve says. “I haven’t tried to copy anyone’s style, but my mandolin playing reflects what Ralph Stanley does on the banjo.”
Eric started playing banjo because he loved the sound and wanted something he could use to fill in the gaps when the brothers were singing. He spent a lot of time learning on his own and listening to local banjo players, including John Bouling from Holly Springs, who gave Eric a few lessons. Eric sings lead and harmony parts and writes some songs the group performs.
Tim Ramey and Patrick Lindsey are from the Galax, Virginia, area. Tim began playing bass in 1997, and he also sings the bass harmony part on many of the group’s songs. Patrick Lindsey plays guitar and mandolin with the group, and he sings the baritone harmony part.
The Marshall Brothers and Highroad are available for performances at festivals, churches, and other area events.