Big Richard

Big Richard

  • Americana
  • Bluegrass

The world-class musicians in Big Richard initially convened in 2021 for a festival date. The quartet showed up to the one-off like it had been together for years, bursting with jaw-dropping virtuosity; playfully irreverent stage banter; stunning four-part harmony vocal interlace; imaginative arrangements; a refreshingly eclectic repertoire; and a healthy dose of lady rage.

Quickly things for the Colorado-based, neo-acoustic supergroup morphed into something way bigger than a one-and-done appearance. The sellout club shows, and the confirmed festival dates across America drastically changed its members’ lives and, in one case, livelihood—fiddler Eve Panning left the security of her middle school teaching job to go on the road. Now, Big Richard is poised to penetrate the Americana music world and beyond. To date, the quartet has issued 3 singles, the Live from Telluride album, and it has new music on the way.

“You know the satisfaction when you add the missing piece to a puzzle?,” asks cellist Joy Adams. “That’s the feeling we have—there was a hole for aggressive and empowered females in this scene. We are filling that with Big Richard.” She continues: “We take what we do seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously.” Bassist and guitarist Emma Rose adds: “This group is an opportunity to share our full selves—be honest with emotions, showcase our chops a bit, and break through the wall of what women are expected to be.”

Big Richard features four well-established career musicians who are artists in their own right outside the group, and remain in-demand side person musicians. The quartet includes platinum recording artist Bonnie Sims on mandolin (Bonnie & Taylor Sims, Everybody Loves an Outlaw, Bonnie and the Clydes), multi-genre musician Dr. Joy Adams on cello (Nathaniel Rateliff, Darol Anger, Half Pelican, Bruce Hornsby, Bobby McFerrin, Chick Corea, Ben Folds), Emma Rose on bass and guitar (Sound of Honey, Daniel Rodriguez, Whippoorwill, Courtney Hartman), and Eve Panning on fiddle (Lonesome Days, TEDx, Barrage, Hollywood Film Score Orchestra). The four musicians have previously played together in various configurations, but united to rage fiddle tunes and smash the patriarchy in Big Richard.

“There are terrible stereotypes about women. Humor is a powerful tool to address that because it’s disarming. It helps people accept something they may not fully understand, in terms of reaching beyond perceived gender lines,” Bonnie says. “Big Richard is about the full experience of masculine and feminine energy. We present a playground that goes beyond the binary understanding of gender—we have a lot of big dick energy.”

Big Richard also blurs the lines in genre divides. The musicians siphon from traditional bluegrass, oldtime, classical, modern bluegrass, country, and pop. The four-piece band masterfully mashes up genres, often using traditional fiddle tunes as instrumental flights of fancy between its storyteller original songs. The group also refreshingly reinvents beloved traditional tunes. Big Richard potently distills the gory murder ballad “The Wind and The Rain” down to a stark a cappella song with fiddle accompaniment. Its rendition of “The Blackest Crow” exudes a chamber music quality, but also features stately improvised passages.

Up next, Big Richard is gearing up to record a full-length album featuring contributions from all its members alongside its singular interpretation of Americana standards. Reflecting on the wild ride the ladies have been on, Emma says: “The most beautiful thing is seeing little kids watching us. I remember being a young girl seeing women play music and thinking they were like superheroes.” Bonnie concludes: “One older woman at a show gave me this long embrace. She was crying as she said ‘you make me feel free.’ I will never forget that moment.”

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