Taking their name from the primary north-south thoroughfare into downtown Boston, Tony Watt & Southeast Expressway make hard-driving bluegrass music. And as anyone who's ever been on the Southeast Expressway at rush hour would expect... they can definitely jam! Southeast Expressway strives to make modern bluegrass music that is at once both beautiful yet powerful, hip yet traditional.
Although the band was formed nearly a decade ago, the current incarnation of Southeast Expressway has been together for just a few years, yet in that time we have been honored to play at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, open for the Seldom Scene and Blue Highway at the National Heritage Museum, and perform regularly at one of the most venerable folk clubs in the country: Club Passim located in Harvard Sq., in Cambridge, MA.
Southeast Expressway features some of the area's most-talented pickers and singers, who also happen to be some of my closest friends (bios below):
Fiddler and vocalist, Laura Orshaw, performs with Pennsylvania-based Lykens Valley Bluegrass Band and according to Bluegrass Unlimited, “has firmly established [herself] as a significant emerging artist in the arena of traditional American music”. Laura grew up in a musical family in Northeastern Pennsylvania; at age 10 she learned to play and sing from paternal grandmother and regional Old Time musician, Betty Orshaw. Throughout her teens Laura performed across the Northeast with her father in The Lonesome Road Ramblers, a four-piece vintage bluegrass band performing classic bluegrass from the 1950’s around one mic. She recorded two solo fiddle projects in her early teens, and recently finished an album with Lykens Valley Bluegrass Band entitled “Nails and Glue”. Laura teaches fiddle lessons and workshops, and has also conducted educational programs covering traditional American music at various colleges, public schools, libraries, and home-school events throughout the Northeast. Her passion for teaching is also evidenced in her professional education, as a master’s level school counselor.
Flynn Cohen is a talented multi-instrumentalist who performs primarily as an acoustic guitar accompanist for traditional fiddle music. He performs with the band Annalivia, Irish accordion legend John Whelan, progressive fiddle band Halali, and acclaimed dance band The Sevens, in addition to duo performances with fellow trad guitar player Matt Heaton and old-time fiddler Matt Brown. He has performed with numerous Celtic, bluegrass and other traditional musicians including Cathie Ryan, Aoife Clancy, Skip Healy, Adrienne Young & Little Sadie, the Revels, Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, Malibu Storm, Gail Davies, Boston City Limits, Matt Glaser, John McGann, Jake & Taylor Armerding, Mark Simos, and many more. He has a BA in Music from Dartington College of Arts in Devon, England and an MA in Music Composition from Mills College in California. Flynn was formerly a visiting lecturer in Music at Bridgewater State College and is presently on the Music faculty at Keene State College in New Hampshire.
In her hometown, Koitiata, New Zealand, Catherine (B.B.) began her musical studies with banjo tutor, Mark Warren. A few years later she received the Frank Winter memorial award at the Auckland Folk Festival to travel to the United State to study with world renowned banjo players Tony Trischka, Alan Munde and Bill Evans. She won the Uncle Dave Macon banjo competition in Murfreesboro, Tennessee at just 15 years old and came in runner up in the Rockygrass bluegrass banjo contest in Colorado. In 2007, she was invited to join the Colorado bluegrass band, Long Road Home, for their summer festival tour. B.B. has performed throughout New Zealand and Australia with the bluegrass band, Twisted Oak, in a banjo duet with tenor banjoist, Alex Borwick, and most recently with Cy Winstanley and Vanessa McGowan in their country/bluegrass trio, ‘Sandpaper Tango’. In 2010, she recorded her debut album, Village Green, which features original compositions and collaborations with some of the best acoustic musicians from all around New Zealand. B.B. travelled on a Massey University scholarship in 2011 to study at the Miles Davis program in Jazz studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. B.B. completed her BMus in Jazz performance at the New Zealand School of Music, having been the first person accepted on the banjo.
Beginning his mandolin career in the Carolinas and making his way up to New England via Washington D.C., Ben Pearce has played bluegrass mandolin all over the east coast. Currently playing with Rhode Island's Pegheads and various other New England bands, Ben is also a builder of violins, guitars and mandolins. Don't let his youthful appearance fool you! He knows a huge variety of tunes, songs and mandolin styles as a result of his careful study with many of the first generation mandolin giants. A woodworker since middle school, and also a designer, architect, and multi-instrumentalist, Ben Pearce had his first opportunity to focus his talents to the art of lutherie while attending graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design. Now operating his own shop, The Outlier Workshop is Ben's outlet for his passion for the ridiculous and the sublime. His aims are nothing short of making the best mandolins and guitars in the world.