Starlett & Big John
It’s been only three years since guitarist Big John Talley and singer Starlett Boswell Austin happened to meet, but in that relatively short time, they have made a sizeable impact on the bluegrass community.
The duo’s first album, Till The End Of The Road, helped solidify their standing, reaping widespread praise for both its impressive array of original material and its well-chosen covers. Indeed, it seemed certain that Starlett and Big John were well on their way to establishing a profound presence in today’s fertile bluegrass environs.
Then again, both individuals arrive at this juncture with well-stocked credentials. Raised in a musical family, Starlett became acclimated to bluegrass early on, winning her first singing competition at age four and subsequently learning upright bass by the time she was eight. Her adolescent years were spent performing with her family’s band, prior to venturing out on her own and performing with other artists and outfits as an adult.
For his part, Big John can claim a musical resume that extends back over 41 years. He too became acclimated to the sounds of bluegrass at a remarkably early age. He first picked up guitar at nine years old, and remarkably, by the time he was 16, he was cited with heady honors, the VFMA Male Vocalist of the Year Award. Barely a year later, he and his band New Dominion Bluegrass were guesting with Bill Monroe’s at the Grand Ole Opry. He continued to perform with Bill Monroe and his Blue Grass Boys, as well as other notables as well, among them, Jody Rainwater (Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs’ bass player), Tater Tate (Bill Monroe’s bass player and fiddle player) Jackie Phelps (one of Bill Monroe’s guitar players and a star of the hit TV show “Hee Haw”), The Virginia Squires, Wyatt Rice, and plenty of others as well.
The two met by chance in January 2019 while they were filling in with a band in North Carolina. There was an immediate chemistry between them, which became apparent as they began working together with other ensembles. Things really began clicking both personally and professionally when Big John was performing at the Bluegrass First Class gathering in Asheville, North Carolina and Starlett, duly impressed, approached him about starting a band. After sharing a few tunes and getting better acquainted, it quickly became apparent that they had many similar musical interests that drew from the same set of influences. They included Bill Monroe, The Osborne Brothers, Jimmy Martin, Larry Sparks, Del McCoury, The Stanley Brothers, Johnson Mountain Boys, Tony Rice, Lester & Earl, Peter Rowan, among them.
“Starlett is absolutely the most talented person I have ever seen,” Talley said. “Her singing, playing and songwriting is only second to the size of her heart and her delivery of the music. She truly feels every note she sings, and plays every note she feels. When it comes to putting it all in there, she’s right there punching. A true Virginia Songbird.”
For her part, Starlett makes no secret of her own enthusiasm. “Making music with Big John has been a once-in-a-lifetime find,” she maintains. “When you meet that person you musically click with, everything seems to fall into place. The sky’s the limit.”
Starlett and Big John are not only some of my favorite singers and musicians, more importantly they are two of the finest folks you could ever hope to get acquainted with. And besides that, they write a great song! I’ve enjoyed every minute of working on their new Rebel Records release and being a small part of it. If you’re a fan of them, you already know what they bring to the table, but if you’re new to them, you’re in for a real treat, and you will be a fan!
It’s not often that you get the opportunity to listen to an awesome project like this one prior to its release, but I have been blessed to have had just that opportunity. Big John Talley (guitar) and Starlett Boswell (bass) have put together a great selection of songs and performances here that is just what fans of bluegrass music yearn for.
Big John has a voice that is made to sing bluegrass. His lead vocals on songs like “Back Away” and “Settin’ The Woods On Fire” are just terrific and his harmony with Starlett is spot-on throughout the whole album. He has a natural ability to blend on harmonies that you just can’t find very often. As for Starlett, she is one of those rare singers that you could hand a phone book, tell her to sing it, and it would be perfect. One of my favorites on the album is the song “Straight 58” (that Big John and Starlett co-wrote) and she just sings the fire out of. I think that a whole lot of people are going to sit up and take notice of her singing with the release of this project.
You can really tell that this album was fun to make just by hearing it. Both the playing and singing give you the sense that everyone involved was on the same page musically when it was recorded – and it comes across in a really powerful way. Starlett and Big John are two folks that truly love this music and have been able to get that to come across on this project – which sometimes is a very difficult task.
Put this project on repeat and enjoy – you won’t regret it!!!