William Munoz

(Missoula Current) Music throughout history has been dominated by men. Bluegrass in particular until recently has not had many women headlining bands.

But familiar names like Alison Krauss, Sierra Hull and Sarah Jarosz have been joined by recent Grammy winner Molly Tuttle as major forces and bandleaders among women in bluegrass.

The members of Colorado based Big Richard are all accomplished musicians but were once part of bands led by men. When a local festival realized that its lineup was all male groups, they were asked to perform as an all-female group.

The name Big Richard came about when the promoter asked them to perform under the name McAwesome Women of Bluegrass. The four had other ideas, first thinking of Spirit Dicks of the Rocky Mountains before settling on Big Richard, which clearly poked fun at male bluegrass.

This was not a spur of the moment move, as bass/guitar player Emma Rose had thought of forming an all-female band years before. Rose found her dream group when she and Bonnie Sims on mandolin, Eve Panning on fiddle and Joy Adams on cello got together to 'help' out that local festival's gender diversify.

Their music is a wonderful blend of the typical energy of bluegrass while bringing a women's voice into the story telling of the genera rather than just being an object of a song. Each is an accomplished musician with harmonized vocals that bring the song alive with a freshness that bluegrass has needed.

They performed back in October at the Longstaff House, which accommodates up to 100 people, while the Thursday night Top Hat show sold out over 500. Big Richard is well on its way to drawing much larger crowds and with good reason.

Big Richard packs Top Hat with female bluegrass

William Munoz writes, "Their music is a wonderful blend of the typical energy of bluegrass while bringing a women's voice into the story telling of the genera rather than just being an object of the song."

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