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Laurie Lewis – Toy Heart: A Podcast About Bluegrass

Mar 12, 2024

Laurie Lewis – Toy Heart: A Podcast About Bluegrass

In the latest episode of Toy Heart, we explore the roots and evolution of bluegrass in the modern era by examining the story of legendary bluegrasser, singer-songwriter, and recording artist, Laurie Lewis.

From her tales of growing up in Berkeley during what Lewis jokingly calls the “folk scare” of the ’60s to finding the joy of music through her father’s classical background and eventually becoming a pioneer for women in the genre, her lifelong career in American roots music is a perfect example of how the innovation and tradition-bending tendencies of bluegrass’s first generation continue full force today. Lewis’s musical transformation over the course of her life shows the entrancing power of bluegrass to steer and alter the course of hers and so many others’ lives.


In our Toy Heart interview, Lewis chats with host Tom Power about the magnetic pulls of Chubby Wise’s fiddle tunes, of albums by the Greenbriar Boys, and of a formative live show by the Byrds. She talks about studying modern dance, “disappointing” her father by “rebelling” and choosing folk music forms over classical, and what eventually led to late-night jams, fiddle contests, and navigating the Bay Area’s bustling bluegrass, folk, and women’s music scenes.

Their conversation closes with a reflection on the ways bluegrass has affected Lewis the most, and, how it continues to shape the identities of its artists and listeners with an intractable, ineffable pull. Power and Lewis point out how current generations – from Molly Tuttle to Tatiana Hargreaves, both mentees and collaborators of Lewis – continue in these same traditions. Plus, Lewis shares what it was like to tour and sing with Dr. Ralph Stanley, himself.

This Toy Heart episode dives deep into the many layers of the genre, helping to demonstrate just some of the many ways bluegrass interweaves itself into musicians’ and fans’ personal and musical identities. Lewis shows there are countless joys in staying true to one’s artistic vision amidst an industry that is always in flux; her insights offer a soulful perspective on continuity and change within the genre, echoing the sentiments of a community that, much like a family, supports and evolves with its members – and that continues to rightly hold Lewis up as a trail-breaker and standard-bearer for the entire genre.

Photo Credit: Irene Young

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Laurie Lewis – Toy Heart: A Podcast About Bluegrass
Laurie Lewis – Toy Heart: A Podcast About Bluegrass