The trio of Bryan Sutton, David Holt and T. Michael Coleman first performed together at Merlefest in 2011. “It was a good fit,” said guitarist Bryan Sutton, who has performed at four different editions of SMF: with the Tim O’Brien Band, Noam Pikelny & Friends, Hot Rize and his own band. “We all cut our teeth on the same music.” Over the years, all three artists won Grammys with the legendary Doc Watson. Coleman played bass with Doc in the 1970s and ‘80s, Holt played with Doc as a duo starting in 1998 and Sutton and Doc won a Grammy for their duo performance of “Whiskey Before Breakfast.” This musical common ground allows for seamless communication between the three on traditional tunes and originals.
Banjo player Noam Pikelny has performed at SMF on multiple occasions with the Punch Brothers, and leading his own band. Hailed by the Chicago Tribune as the “pros’ top banjo picker,” Noam is a founding member of the Punch Brothers, a string ensemble which The Boston Globe calls “a virtuosic revelation” and The New Yorker describes as “wide-ranging and restlessly imaginative.” In September of 2010, Pikelny was awarded the first annual Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. Pikelny is a three-time Grammy Award nominee. His album Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe was described by The New York Times as “a token of reverence, a feat of translation and a show of dominion,” and was named Album of the Year at the 2014 IBMA Awards.