Iron Horse was formed in 2000 in the famous hit recording capital of the 60’s and 70’s, Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The band consists of four members including:
The bands roots go back to the late 1970’s, when Tony Robertson and Ricky Rogers were charter members of the popular local group, “The Next in Line”.
Through the years and after involvement with several groups, the present band was born as a result of the participation of Tony Robertson, Vance Henry and Ricky Rogers in the Jake Landers Band. In January 2003, Anthony was asked to fill an opening for a banjo player and the present Iron Horse configuration evolved. Iron Horse creates much of its own music, with an innate ability for cross-genre arrangements. Iron Horse has three self-produced albums, containing previously un-released compositions, and Iron Horse-composed originals.
Bio, (Long Version)
Anyone listening to the innovative, hard-driving instrumental licks and strong, precise harmonies of this Bluegrass Band will want to strap in to their seat and prepare to be thrilled with the ride. The compilations produced by this extremely progressive band truly bring delights to the listening experience. These guys are uniquely gifted in arrangement and presentation of lyrics and melody.
The belief that a group of men, with the help of God, can do anything certainly has found wings within the hearts of Iron Horse members, Tony Robertson (mandolin,) Vance Henry (guitar,) Ricky Rogers (bass,) and Anthony Richardson (banjo.) Their vision and talent for producing a distinctive interpretation of bluegrass standards as well as crossover standards has caused fans, peers, musical engineers, and recording labels alike to agree that these guys are outside of the box of restraints and boundaries. They are, without a doubt, just in their inception of making their mark on the consumer of great acoustic and bluegrass music. Every indicator at this point is that their impact will be genuine and intriguing.
“Iron Horse” has a new sound for Bluegrass and they always perform with a spirit and sense of style that pays the most gratifying compliment to acoustic and bluegrass lovers; a warm mixture of family influence, belief in God, and an unwillingness to deny their creative urges.
The variety and energetic composition presented on the live stage performances and recorded projects definitely prove that the well-blended arrangement originalities provided by Iron Horse have merit that will stand on its own in any genre.
Nothing could be more depictive of the strength and character of the songwriting abilities of these band members than their first project released in 2001 which was entitled “Riding Out The Storm.” It is composed of a more traditional style bluegrass. It has The Marshall Tucker Band’s, “Fire on the Mountain”, Marshal Warwick’s “Leaving Me” & “Going Home”, six Iron Horse originals and two from the pen of Jake Landers to round out the project.
The “New Tracks” project released in 2005 boasts a track list of such favorites as “Dancin’ With the Angels” (Peter H. Rowan/Jubilation Music International), “Face of Christ” (Christopher M. Rice), “Where No Cabins Fall” (Nolan Jeffress/Hartford Music Co., SESAC), three Iron Horse originals, two from Jake Landers just to name a few. The mix will take you from rejoicing during “Shine Jerusalem” to wiping tears during “Old Elijah” (A. Paxton).
Iron Horse “A Small Town Christmas” released in 2009 is sure to be a treasured tradition in every bluegrass home. With all of the songs written, performed and produced by this ever emerging band the warmth and sincerity of each track is inviting and infectious. This project has the potential to become as much a symbol of the season as blanket of new snow.
The Bluegrass Tribute to Metallica – Fade to Bluegrass
Catalog#: CMH 8401
Release Date: 10/14/2003
|Metallica’s thundering drums, heart-pounding guitars and anguished vocals tell the story of people lost in the hustle of modern society. Bluegrass music sings the tale of people stuck between heaven and hell, the farm and the city and love and hate. In many ways Metallica and bluegrass are brothers, one raised in the urban jungle and the other in the country. So what happens when these two estranged siblings get together? FADE TO BLUEGRASS: THE BLUEGRASS TRIBUTE TO METALLICA has the answer. Banjo and mandolin replace electric guitars and high lonesome harmonies soar in place of growling vocals to create a surprising and moving tribute. Performed with passion and skill by Alabama bluegrass band Iron Horse, and featuring classics such as “Unforgiven,” “Enter Sandman” and “Fade to Black,” FADE TO BLUEGRASS: THE BLUEGRASS TRIBUTE TO METALLICA is a family reunion between brothers heavy metal and bluegrass.|
|A Tribute to Ozzy Osbourne – Black & BluegrassRelease
Catalog#: CMH 8410
|Thanks to MTV, Ozzy Osbourne and his family are household names– sort of a Beverly Hillbillies for the 21st century. Black and Bluegrass: A Tribute to Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath couldn’t agree more. Trading Ozzy’s anguished vocals for high-lonesome harmonies, and screaming guitars for lightning-quick banjos, this collection gives the music of heavy metal’s founding father the bluegrass treatment. Performed by Iron Horse and featuring such classics as “Crazy Train,” “Paranoid” and “Mama, I’m Coming Home,” Black and Bluegrass cooks up a tribute as good as mama’s cornbread– with a side of chicken heads.|
|A Bluegrass Tribute To Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Bluegrass
Catalog#: CMH 8847
Release Date: 1/4/2005
|Led Zeppelin – the original monsters of metal. The sights and sounds of Zeppelin’s flight through the history of rock are unforgettable – Robert Plant twirling his mike like a demented lasso, as he launches into the otherworldly howl of “The Immigrant Song;” the raucous beauty of a Jimmy Page guitar solo; bassist John Paul Jones and drummer John Bonham pumping out their rhythmic, rolling thunder. The ultimate live band, Zeppelin’s showmanship thrilled crowds around the world, while their records took fans on a wild ride from hard rock to high art. A mandolin gently strums a peaceful, backwoods melody… wait a sec, this is a Led Zeppelin tribute! Whole Lotta Bluegrass: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin is a blazing collection of classic tracks, played to the acoustic max. The hottest banjo pickers and fiddlers tap into the raw, untamed power of Zeppelin, turning hits like “Whole Lotta Love” into high-intensity bluegrass jams. Lyrical covers of mystical, folk-flavored tunes like “Bron-Y-Aur Stomp” round out the mix, but the focus here is on the basics – play-it-loud, Led Zep-inspired bluegrass rock.|
|The Bluegrass Tribute to Modest Mouse – Something You’ve Never Heard Before
Re-Release Date: 1/9/2007
|Like so many indie bands who hit it big, Modest Mouse seemed to pop up overnight when they dropped their smash hit Good News for People Who Love Bad News. However, they had been winning over fans with their mix of clever wordplay and eclectic songwriting for well over a decade by the time “Float On” took over the airwaves. The foundation of the band—Isaac Brock, Eric Judy and Jeremiah Green—have made it their business to create some of the most disarming music inside or outside the mainstream. In the end, it is their unique approach to popular music that has so many fans, new and old, swooning to their endearing anthems.
Something You’ve Never Heard Before is an unorthodox tribute to one of music’s most unorthodox bands. Iron Horse is treading on uncertain terrain to be sure, but their deft mix of technical picking and minimized harmonies has turned this album into a singularly haunting and angelic experience. It is a testament to the talent of Modest Mouse that this tribute will certainly ring true with fans of all music. Something You’ve Never Heard Before is good news to fall on anybody’s ears.
|A Bluegrass Tribute to Metallica – Fade To Bluegrass Vol. II
Catalog#: CMH 8950
Release Date: 1/31/2006
|You can’t spell “metal” without Metallica. For over twenty years, they’ve set the platinum standard for high-velocity ferocity, with their chainsaw guitars, machine gun drumming, and in-your-face tales of society’s outcasts. Brilliantly assured musicians, Metallica has forced critics and fans to accept and finally to love their brand of hard-thrash rock. Their songs have become classics, driven by riffs that stick to the insides of our skulls, long after we’ve pressed the eject button in a spasm of metal-ized satisfaction.
From out of the metal storm rides Iron Horse, the Alabama bluegrass band with the passion to match Metallica song for song. Fade to Bluegrass Volume II is a hand-picked collection of Metallica hits, restrung and refined into beautiful acoustic jams. Reeling fiddles, blazing banjos and the sweetest harmonies prove that bluegrass and metal have more in common than meets the ear — they’re both on a mission to connect fans to the music that moves them.
Strummin’ With The Devil – The Southern Side of Van Halen
Catalog#: CMH 9090
|Release Date: 6/6/2006|
|From the get-go, Van Halen proved breathtaking and gutsy in equal measure. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons “Strummin’ with the Devil” works so well. In its own hard-pickin’ way, this collection offers a similar sense of musical discovery. Here are those same still-sharp rock gems we know and love retooled using a different sort of metal. Come to think about it, bluegrass and Van Halen have much in common – including an emphasis on exceptional instrumental prowess and timeless tales of everyday drama played out in great songs of haunting and enduring power. Having David Lee Roth, the man himself, kick off this party celebrating the timeless music of which he was such an essential part is more than just thrilling – it’s downright moving. Could this be magic? Definitely.
The Bluegrass Tribute to Black Label Society – Life, Birth, Blue, Grass
Catalog#: CMH 9181
|Release Date: 9/19/2006|
|Black Label Society isn’t a band. It is a way of life. Zakk Wylde and his musical cohorts simply provide the necessary soundtrack. Black Label Society songs are anthems of infuriation, determination, and retribution. Guitar player Zakk writes songs that mix tough-as-nails riffs with an undeniable southern-fried stomp. There are Beserkers worldwide and Black Label Society exists for them all.
Despite the metal machinery that surrounds Zakk Wylde, there is an earthy approach to his music. Zakk is no stranger to acoustic music that conjures up images of rural countrysides. The Bluegrass Tribute to Black Label Society replaces the insane Les Paul riffage with equally intense banjo fills and speedy mandolin licks. Some of the sweetest voices in bluegrass find the country soul of Black Label Society. Sit beneath the tree and enjoy this tribute.
The Bluegrass Tribute to The Shins
Catlog#: CMH 9125
|Release Date: 1/9/2007|
|Although it took them a while to grab the World’s attention The Shins’ gentle pastoral pop has now earned them an enviable position as one of the most revered and talked about new bands of the moment. With flourishes of psychedelic atmospherics, beautiful harmonies and intensely personal and often bizarre lyrics their first album became a word of mouth success and now has the status of an indie classic. Their songs resonate with bittersweet emotion along with an often odd or unsettling atmosphere. For sure, The Shins are as unique a band as you will come across in a long time.
The Bluegrass Tribute to the Shins reinterprets the band’s progressive pop sound, giving their songs a refreshingly rural twist. The Shins’ melodies and harmonies lend themselves perfectly to these beautifully crafted, countrified covers. Banjo, mandolin, and acoustic guitar combine to enhance the Shins’ organic spirit. James Mercer’s lyrics are given new life when they are belted out with a distinctly bluegrass passion. This album gives a discernible new flavor to old favorites.
Take Me Home – The Bluegrass Tribute To Guns N’ Roses
Catalog#: CMH 9153
Release Date: 9/11/2007
The Bluegrass Tribute to Guns N’ Roses harnesses the power and precision of Iron Horse. Izzy’s larger-than-life riffs and Slash’s indelible solos are played out on mandolin and banjo. High-lonesome harmonies capture the range of emotions in Axl’s unmistakable voice. Guns N’ Roses stands the test of time. This tribute is a rightful acknowledgement 5
The Gospel According To Hank Williams
Catalog#: CMH 9470
|Release Date: 10/23/2007|
|Hank Williams’ gospel songs are the manifestation of the war raging within a man who, by the age of twenty nine, had lived and been drained of every drop of life’s energy this possession can exact.
The Gospel According to Hank Williams: The Bluegrass Gospel Tribute brings us one step closer to the origins and trials of country life that spawned the searching and heartbreak Hank’s music continues to embody. These bluegrass renditions by Iron Horse are elemental, ethereal, and essential.
The Bluegrass Tribute to Classic Rock
Catalog#: CMH 1276
|Release Date: 10/9/2007|
|On this dynamic new bluegrass tribute, perennial FM radio classic rock favorites are given the bluegrass treatment. Tracks such as Steppenwolf’s ‘Born to be Wild’, Styx’s ‘Come Sail Away’ and Kansas’ ‘Carry On Wayward Son’ are faithfully rendered in traditional bluegrass style to create a whole new set of classics for your road trips
A Boy Named Blue: The Bluegrass Tribute to the Goo Goo Dolls
Anyone that is lucky enough to sit through a stage show performed by these guys today might find a new twist on an old traditional style of playing traditional bluegrass instruments such as mandolin, banjo, upright bass and guitar. Bold renditions of the legendary rock group Metallica’s originals with titles such as “One,” “Ride The Lightning,” “Enter Sandman,” “Fuel,” and “Fade to Black” to name a few will absolutely blow you away. The hours of practice and hard work only serve to compliment the insistence of perfection that accompanies this group in all of their efforts. They are guaranteed to please any crowd with their unique blend of traditional and progressive music.
To know the members of this truly great band is to hear them say “God has favored our undertaking.” To hear them give credit and accolades to family members, other great musicians and friends is a reminder of the fact that this group has developed through the influences of many people and many people will be blessed as a result.
Every person that has ever had something handed to them that has been done before and then pressed to develop a fresh, new “spin” understands what a storm really is. These four multi-talented musicians have emerged from this tumult with evidence of creative genius.
Tony Robertson (mandolin/vocals) became interested in playing music around the age of thirteen. Tony recalls listening to his Dad and his uncles playing some of the old time songs by such greats as Hank Williams, George Jones and Merle Haggard. The mixture of great Country Legends loved by his parents, along with traditional bluegrass favorites such as Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs and the Country Gentlemen loved by his uncles presented this up and coming youngster with a desire to play music. Tony’s Uncle, John William Michael or J.W., as he is known, was learning to play the five string banjo and it was this sound and drive that really inspired this young heart to become a student and pick up an old guitar that his Dad had lying around the house. Robertson is quoted as saying “ In the early 70’s my uncles, Lindon Michael (rhythm guitar,) J.W. Michael (banjo,) Tonis Michael (bass fiddle,), along with Larry McWilliams (fiddle,) and Charles Masonia (mandolin) formed a bluegrass group called “The Dixie Bluegrass Boys.” This group of men would shape, mold and encourage me in ways that they would never have known that they could.”
At age fifteen Robertson began learning to play an “A” style mandolin that belonged to his Grandfather. At age sixteen a friend loaned him a nice Gibson “A” style that he played for a couple of years. Robertson (mandolin) along with his cousins Sammy Michael (bass) and Ricky Michael (guitar), made his first public appearance on stage at his uncles’ annual Dixie Bluegrass Boys festival in Barton, Alabama. The “First Time” applause was all that was needed for Robertson to be smitten with the Bluegrass Bug.
In 1976 Robertson helped to form a group called The Home Made String Band along with his cousin Sammy Michael, Alan Watkins, a banjo player from Greenhill, Alabama and a guitarist named Hugh Banks, later replaced by Ricky Rogers. By August the group had changed their name to The Next In Line and won a talent contest at a festival in Barton, Alabama in which they were awarded a recording session at a small studio located in Fayettville, Tennessee. The studio was called Kim-Pat Recording and was in the basement of owner Bill Trigg’s home. Even a flood was no deterrent to the zeal of this eager, innovative group that recorded their project while standing in 2 inches of water that flooded the basement studio after a heavy rain. The Next In Line performed festivals all over the Southeast during 1977 and 1978, but in the spring of 1979, after losing Alan Watkins to the pursuit of a solo full-time musical career, the band dissolved.
After a four- year absence from his musical career, 1983 through 1985 found Robertson playing with a dear friend from Killen, Alabama by the name of Rual Yarbrough (banjo,) along with Julie York (guitar,) and Ray Hunt (bass.) This group of musicians enjoyed playing for audiences at bluegrass festivals as well as many church events.
In 1985 after only a few months away from the musical industry, Robertson joined the Flying South Band playing coffee shops, festivals, and political rallies with Scooter Muse and his wife, Nancy Muse from Florence, Alabama, and Bill Terry, a songwriter at Fame Recording Studios from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The group dissolved in 1988.
Robertson began playing with singer/songwriter Jake Landers in 1990. Their group was comprised of Scooter Muse (banjo,) Jake Landers (guitar,) Tony Lee (bass,) and Larry McWilliams (fiddle.) Besides touring all over the Southeast, this group recorded several projects. In 1997 Scooter Muse and Tony Lee left the group to pursue Celtic music and were replaced with Ricky Rogers (bass,) and Rod Carter (banjo.) Robertson has accompanied Jake Landers all over the Southeast playing in events that featured the greats in bluegrass music. Robertson is at home on the stage at the Station Inn in Nashville, TN, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, playing at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch along with Rhonda Vincent, on a stage with Jim and Jesse, Vassar Clements and many other legends of bluegrass. Robertson has written several songs recorded by The Jake Landers Band and by Iron Horse. The instrumentals written by Robertson are hard-driving bluegrass songs not written for the faint–of-heart. Robertson and Rogers left the Jake Landers Band in March 2003 to pursue their work with the band, Iron Horse, which had already recorded and released fifteen projects.
Vance Henry began his pursuit of a musical career at the ripe ole age of nine. Henry took guitar lessons long enough to learn the chords that were common in most simple songs. Henry recalls his first major influence as being none other than John Denver. After learning most of Denver’s songs that were on the charts at that time such as Country Roads, Henry remembers playing them at a family reunion. Over time Henry states that he just lost interest and stopped playing for several years.
Many performers have been inspired to greatness through the passions of love and so is the story of Vance Henry. In 1981 Henry started dating and fell in love with the woman that would become his wife. Many times when Henry went to visit his sweetheart her father would be sitting on their sofa playing the guitar or mandolin. Not only was her father an accomplished musician but a good singer as well. Before long Henry discovered that most of this family could play and sing very well and that they loved to sing acapella gospel songs. It didn’t take long for the young Henry to be reunited with his own musical interest and through the environment provided by this strong family he learned to sing the harmony parts. Henry, along with other members of this family, formed a gospel quartet called The Carolina Singers. Over a period of the next five years this quartet performed at many church singings, took part in the “Ninth Annual Sing-Song Till Midnight” at the Birmingham, Alabama Jefferson Civic Center, and recorded three gospel projects.
In 1982, after being greatly influenced by his father-in-law, Henry bought his first instrument, a Kentucky mandolin. In addition to the chords learned from his father-in-law Henry’s abilities gained latitude through the personal discipline displayed as he studied instructional books and pored over cds and tapes of his favorite musicians. Henry’s pride in his strong family ties can be sensed as he states, “ My father-in-law and I have played and sung together many times throughout the years at family reunions and various other events. With a culture like this what else could I do but be interested in music.”
Many influences have become part of the smooth style of guitar leads and breaks that Henry is thrilling audiences with in 2003. A tremendous leap in confidence and skill can been seen in the progression of Henry from the early days of shade tree jam sessions at fiddler conventions to a group called “Killen Time” that played for one year and split up, to sit-in performances playing mandolin and singing lead or tenor with many groups at bluegrass conventions, to moving up to a greater talent level in joining “the Jake Landers Band” in 1999. Landers needed someone to fill in occasionally for some of his regular band members and this allowed Henry to perform mandolin, bass, guitar and vocals on various occasions. Henry was included on three recorded projects of “The Jake Landers Band.” This association gave Henry an opportunity to meet several famous people of the Bluegrass community and he states that he is very grateful for the experiences. It is from the associations with Tony Robertson, Ricky Rogers and Rod Carter of The Jake Lander’s Band that Iron Horse was birthed.
Ricky Rogers plays bass for Iron Horse. At age twelve he learned to play three chords on the guitar from his sister who had learned those same chords from a friend. The first instrument that Rogers ever played was his brother’s Sears Silvertone guitar that only had four of its usual six strings. The very first song that Rogers recalls learning to play was “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” by Lobo. Rogers laughingly recalls virtually living with that guitar in his hands spending all his time picking up on as many songs as he possibly could.
Several months after learning his first chords Rogers was invited to a “Sunday-night-after-church music gathering.” The event posed a problem for this aspiring performer; a six-string guitar that had six strings instead of four. Rogers could not determine where the D,G and A chords were. He did eventually learn these as well as other chords and became adept at playing most of the popular songs at that time. Rogers fondly says that one of the highlights of his week was going with his mother to the grocery store and purchasing the latest issue of the “Hit Parade” magazine, complete with lyrics and chords.
Every performer remembers their first taste of audience appreciation and the accompanying applause of praise and recognition. At age thirteen Rogers received his first personal guitar, a sixty dollar Conrad model, as a Christmas present from his parents. Using this new guitar to perform a song called “Diary” by David Gates of the group Bread in his school’s coronation the following March, Rogers describes the applause as the most satisfying emotion he had ever felt and admits that he was hooked on performing from that moment on.
Rogers was involved with several garage bands playing for various school functions during his teenage years. In 1976 Rogers joined forces with Allen Watkins (banjo,) Tony Robertson (mandolin,) and Sammy Michael (bass) of the Home Made String Band who had just lost their guitar player. It was during this time that Rogers purchased a 1972 model C.F. Martin D-18 and by all standards, became a true bluegrass guitar player. The only project recorded by The Next In Line included such bluegrass standards as “In My Younger Days,” “The Tie That Binds,” and “I Still Miss Someone.”
At age twenty Rogers gave up his interest in music and his involvement in any organized group so that he could gain a college education. Rogers married Sonja Parker and they had two daughters, Laura and Lydia. Rogers married the sister of Vance Henry’s wife and was as inspired and encouraged by the strong family dynamics and musical roots of the Parker family as Henry was. Rogers became part of The Carolina Singers as well as Henry, and performed acapella gospel with this group over the next five years. He was also involved in the three projects recorded by this group. The love and interest in acoustic music was maintained as these two brother-in laws accompanied each other on guitar and mandolin.
Rogers received a call in 1997 to play bass for the legendary Jake Landers Band. Over the next five years Rogers played with The Jake Landers Band and was involved in four projects recorded by the band. Rogers credits his involvement with Jake as an opportunity to play such prestigious venues as “The Station Inn” in Nashville, TN and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. It is through this association as well that Rogers has had the privilege to meet such greats as Jim and Jesse McReynolds, Tony Rice, Sonny James, Doyle Lawson, Rhonda Vincent, Bobby Goldsboro, Charlie Waller, Peter Rowan and Bela Fleck. Rogers is also proud to have met and come to know Rual Yarbrough, Vassar Clements, Marty Raybon and Travis Wammack through his association with Jake Landers.
Rogers learned to play upright bass to prepare for the band competition at the Society for Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPGBMA) in Nashville,TN in February 2002 in which Iron Horse with band members Tony Robertson, Ricky Rogers, Vance Henry and Rod Carter placed tenth in a field of twenty-three bands in their first and only SPGBMA competition. Rogers states that he has found his place in music as bassist and background vocalist with Iron Horse while still contributing to the group’s musical efforts on guitar and in songwriting activities.
The fourth member of Iron Horse, Anthony Richardson, began playing banjo and guitar in 1976 at age eleven. The family tradition of playing music with his father and his father’s friends was as much a part of this young mans life as it was with all of the other members of Iron Horse. The musical roots grew and in 1981 Richardson began playing in the F.F.A. String at his high school. Each year they competed in the local and district String Band competition. In 1984 Richardson began playing with a group by the name of Belle Terry & Alabama Grass touring Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi, playing small bluegrass festivals and stage shows.
In 1987 Anthony along with his brother, Stacy Richardson, formed a band which also included Shannon Mays that had formerly played banjo with Jimmy Martin. This group played local shows for the next two years and then joined forces with Jimmy Bowen of Nashville, TN to form a group called Nite Flite. After this group disbanded, Richardson took a break form his musical career for a couple of years. In 1990 Richardson was asked to fill in on banjo at a local show with Belle Terry and while at that show Richardson met Stan Nelson of Hurricane Creek. Richardson was asked to audition for the banjo position with Hurricane Creek and toured with them over the next year. Richardson’s brother Stacy joined the group after about a year and they toured the Southeast and Midwest playing festivals and stage shows until 1993. Hurricane Creek disbanded in 1993 and Richardson took the next nine years off to raise a family.
In 2002 Richardson was approached with an invitation to audition for a vacant banjo position with the group Iron Horse. Members Tony Robertson, Ricky Rogers and Vance Henry found Richardson’s style to be complimentary to their progressive style and his interests to run parallel to their vision of acoustic and bluegrass interpretations. Thus the band was complete.