Here’s your chance to see an up-and-coming RI-based band before they hit it big.

Although their name might imply rock and roll, the Rock Hearts are all about classic bluegrass harmony, anchored by veteran musicians at the top of their game. The band is playing the Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland Saturday, March 12 at 8PM.

Their first release, Starry Southern Nights took the bluegrass world by storm right as the pandemic hit in 2020.

“We released the first album on July 4th, 2020, right after COVID hit, so touring was really zapped for pretty much a year,” explained Alex MacLeod, guitarist, vocalist, and frontman for the band. “We did one festival and then everything just shut down.”

Meanwhile, Starry Southern Nights was a genuine success. “We debuted on the national charts at #14, and at the time we were the only band on there that wasn’t signed to a record label. That was really validating,” said MacLeod.

It’s no surprise that the album did so well. The band is comprised of talented musicians, with a wealth of experience in the bluegrass genre. They went to Nashville to record that album with noted Producer Steve Mougin. MacLeod explained what led to the recording session.

“It all happened pretty organically,” said MacLeod. “Our banjo player Joe Deetz, who lives in Mendon, MA, had been going to this thing called the Banjothon. It’s a gathering of owners of original Gibson pre-WW2 banjos. He became friendly with Sirius XM DJ (and banjo extraordinaire), Ned Luberecki, who does the Bluegrass Junction show on SXM.”

“When we knew we wanted to record, Joe asked Ned ‘would you will be willing to produce our CD?’ He said ‘sure, but I think you should use this guy in Nashville, Steve Mougin, of Dark Shadow Studios.’ As it turns out, I knew Steve through songwriting … and our mandolin player, Billy Thibodeau, met Steve when he was an aspiring mandolin player at age 10,” MacLeod continued.

“Steve is from Western Massachusetts originally, he’s always been a bluegrass guy, he tours with the Sam Bush Band, and produces some of the heaviest hitters in bluegrass. Steve is Sam’s guitar player.”

“So we went down to Nashville, spent five days in the studio, and they sort of coached us as a band. I think they saw that we had some really great potential. We went all in, all at once we just kind of hit the scene really hard.” said an enthused MacLeod.

The band is reaping the benefits. They were covered in the leading publication Bluegrass Today and are currently working on a second album. Right now, the band is crowdfunding for the album which will include songs written by Grammy-nominated artists. To learn more about the crowdfunding campaign, click here.

Who’s in the band?

Joe Deetz has been playing banjo for over 40 years, as a New England Bluegrass Boy with Joe Val, as well as Back Eddy and many others. Guitarist/Vocalist Alex MacLeod grew up in bluegrass. He’s played with Northern Lights, Southern Rhode, Back Eddy, and the Iron Skillet Band. Billy “BT” Thibodeau is known for his high tenor and lead vocals, along with his rock solid mandolin and guitar work. He played with Uncle Bob in the Kennebec Valley Boys, and his own band, The Bill Thibodeau Band.

The new kid on the block is Connecticut Bluegrass Music Association leader, 26-year old Austin Scelzo, who brings high-intensity fiddle chops and lead singing to the group while Rick Brodsky fills out the low end on the upright bass.

Expect a great night of music Saturday, March 12 beginning at 8PM at the Blackstone River Theatre in Cumberland. For ticket information, click here.

For More on Rock Hearts Crowdfunding campaign, click here.

Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music and more for What'sUpNewp, Providence Monthly, SO RI, and The Bay. He DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse" Tuesday nights, 6-9 PM on WRIU 90.3 FM.