[message type=”custom” align=”center” width=”98%” start_color=”#FFFFFF” end_color=”#FFFFFF” border=”#216108″ color=”#456A4A”]When Van Ramey and Ron Bowling started sharing their songs with each other in 2008 each was impressed. They started rehearsing the songs with banjo and dobro player Steve Maynard who is a walking history book of Bluegrass music. Soon a blend of vocal harmony and instrumental adaptation to the original songs developed into a sound that is similar in ways but different in many others to traditional Bluegrass.
Many of the original songs have a rural, Kentucky flavor shaped from the memories of characters in real life such as Aunt Ollie’s porch or Willie’s moonshine still.
Then of course what country boy does not remember the lonesome cry of the whippoorwill just after sunset. There are also songs of faith, like Van’s “Faith” or finding peace at the “Foot of the Cross”. And no one will overlook the banjo picking on Steve’s “Full Stride”. The band also remembers the ones who serve our great country with patriotic original tunes such as “Old Soldier” and “Soldier’s Wish”.
But before you get the impression that original songs are all Custom Made Bluegrass does. The band is comfortable performing traditional Bluegrass songs or Country songs “grassed up”. But the pride is the new CD recorded at Skaggs Family Records which features all original songs. And the band is looking forward to getting back in the studio soon to record another CD of original songs.
So, if you get a chance, look at the schedule and attend a performance of Custom Made Bluegrass. You won’t be sorry![/message]
Van Ramey – Guitar, Vocals
Singer/songwriter Van Ramey grew up in eastern Kentucky playing guitar, mandolin and banjo. He resides in Winchester with Suzan, his wife of thirty years. He plays with the praise team at Mt Carmel Christian Church. Van has been in a number of bands over the years from Waterwheel, a rock band in the early seventies to Backwaters a bluegrass band in the eighties. More recently, he was a member of the house band at the Leeds Center for the Arts. When Van and Steve put together Custom Made, he found a place to get back to his roots in playing as well as writing bluegrass music.
As a teacher, Van used songwriting to teach and to motivate students in the portfolio writing process. In his songwriting, each verse creates a snapshot which creates a visual image of the characters and settings in the song. The powerful use of character and setting imagery created by the lyrics in MOUNTAIN BRIDE leaves the listener with the visual imagery of a three hour movie.
While using this form of songwriting, the human condition also becomes a “snapshot”. The soldier with post traumatic stress in A SOLDIER’S WISH shows the listener the human condition from the viewpoint of the soldier as he continues to serve his country. Character sketches would be incomplete without the wisdom handed down through the generations. Songs are no different. Van’s use of the character sketch is apparent in songs like AUNT OLLIE AND JIM CROW. They describe the homespun genius in the aunts and uncles of every listener. Again, Van uses those colorful snapshots to create visual imagery that stays in your mind and your heart.
Traditional is a most often used to describe music written long ago. Yet, Van’s music gives the listener a traditional bluegrass feel while creating the modern visual imagery usually reserved for DVDs.
Ron Bowling – Mandolin, Vocals
Born and raised in Jackson County, Kentucky, Ron is proud of a rural heritage and close family ties which influence his songs. He got his first guitar at age 12 and at 15 started playing banjo. His was motivated by Saturday afternoon and evening television featuring Flatt and Scruggs, Porter Wagoner, The Wiburn Brothers and others as well as Friday and Saturday night Grand Ol’ Opry shows.
Ron graduated from Eastern Kentucky University, spent almost eight years on active duty in the Army and followed that up with another 20 years in the active Army Reserve. He earned a Law degree from the University of Kentucky and practices in Lexington. He is a founding member of the group, plays mandolin and sings lead and harmony.
Ron and his wife Charlene live in Georgetown and between them have five children. Ron’s songwriting reflects Bluegrass, traditional Country, and Gospel roots. He feels the best compliment he can get is that one of his songs sounds too old fashioned!
Kevin Chilton – Banjo
Kevin has been playing the banjo for close to 40 years. Kevin is a 5th generation banjo player on his dads side, and has learned from some of the greats such as Wayne Fields, Buddy Spurlock, his dad Leon Chilton, and others.
Kevin calls Lawrenceburg Kentucky home, living there all his life. He grew up playing in a family Bluegrass band consisting of family members on his moms side. Kevin went on to play some banjo with Josh Graves, the famed Dobro player for Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys.
Kevin also played with Clyde and Marie Denny for a time. He took a break from playing music for awhile, then in 2001 he helped form the group Stringtown, with which he played and recorded with for 12 years.
Kevin started playing and recording with Custom Made Bluegrass in 2013.
Dylan Blanton – Bass
My name is Dylan Blanton. I’m 25 years old from Saylerville Kentucky in Magoffin County, home of Charlie Sizemore.
I’m glad to be playing bass for Custom Made Bluegrass.
My influences are Jason Moore, Jerry Cole, Jason Hale, Van Ramey, Ron Bowling, David Carroll, and Billy Self.
I just love bluegrass all around good people
Kathryn Jenkins – Fiddle
Kathryn is originally from Jessamine County, Ky. She grew up in a musical family and began playing fiddle at age 7. Kathryn has performed with various bluegrass and gospel groups through the years. She was a member of the first graduating class from The Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music in Hyden, KY and earned a bachelor’s degree in Audio Engineering from Middle Tennessee State University.
Kathryn is currently an Instructional Specialist at the Kentucky School of Bluegrass and Traditional Music where she teaches individual string lessons, music theory and recording courses. She and her husband Ben reside in the mountains of East Tennessee.