Category: Featured In

Blue Ridge National Heritage Area

Blue Ridge National Heritage Area

Jonah Riddle & Carolina Express are now featured in the Artist Directory for Blue Ridge National Heritage Area! You can view their profile here.

Jonah Riddle & Carolina Express features a trio of family members from Yancey County centered around the playing and singing of brothers Jonah and Grayson Riddle. The band also includes their father, Benjie Riddle, and Michael Grove, from Cosby, Tennessee. They occasionally perform with Mars Hill fiddler, Rhiannon Ramsey.

The Riddle brothers grew up around bluegrass and gospel music. “Bluegrass was around the house for as long as I can remember,” Jonah says. Their grandfather, Butch Ball, plays Dobro and guitar, and he would play in church and family events. When Jonah was around seven years old, his grandfather started teaching him to play Dobro, getting him started on stringed instruments. Jonah’s father, Benjie, was learning to play some banjo, and soon Jonah turned his attention to the five-string as well.

Around this time, Jonah sought out a banjo teacher and found Rhonda Gouge, a local multi- instrumentalist and instructor who has worked with many of the areas budding musicians. Jonah’s younger brother, Grayson, started taking guitar lessons from Gouge, and his father started learning to play bass.

Jonah first started performing several times a week in his church, blending his love for bluegrass and gospel music. With Grayson learning guitar and Benjie learning bass, Jonah decided to start the band, Jonah Riddle & Carolina Express. Grayson plays guitar and sings lead, Jonah plays banjo, and Benjie plays bass. The group is known for dressing in ties, jackets, and brimmed hats, like their idols Jimmy Martin and Earl Scruggs.

Since starting the band, the group has played on stages with Doyle Lawson, Darin and Brooke AldridgeBalsam Range, Ralph Stanley II, Ricky Skaggs, J.D. Crowe, and many others. They have performed at the Ryman Auditorium Courtyard, Dollywood, the North Carolina State Fair,  Bluegrass First Class in Asheville, the Carter Fold, Silver Dollar City, and the WDVX Blue Plate Special in Knoxville, Tennessee. The group and individual boys have won several awards and ribbons for their playing, and they were featured in the IBMA Kids on Bluegrass in Raleigh.

The band released their first CD, Traditions, in 2016 which includes an original song from Jonah, as well as bluegrass covers from Flatt and Scruggs, Jimmy Martin, and some gospel material. “We like to try and keep the older style of bluegrass going,” Jonah says. “If there aren’t people to carry it on, it will eventually die out.”

In 2017 the band released their second CD, House On The Corner, which is also the title of an original song written by Jonah.

The band’s third recording, an all-gospel project comes out in the summer of 2019.

WNC Magazine

WNC Magazine

Jonah and Grayson were recently featured in WNC Magazine! Below is an excerpt.

Focus isn’t normally synonymous with adolescence, but Jonah and Grayson Riddle have a laser focus on music. Jonah, 17, is a banjo picker and lead member of Jonah Riddle & Carolina Express. Grayson, 12, plays guitar and is the vocalist—at least on the numbers that aren’t instrumentals. The brothers typically play music for two to three hours per day.

If you haven’t heard of them yet, chances are you will soon. Carolina Express plays regularly on the festival circuit and in towns such as Marshall and Old Fort. They played Asheville’s Shindig on the Green in 2015 and even appear on the Shindig mural on the side of Pack’s Tavern. From Ryman Auditorium’s Courtyard in Nashville to the State Fair in Raleigh, the Riddles are no strangers to playing large crowds.

Read the rest of the article here.