Bluegrass Music Review: the Harness Family Band

The Harness Family Band performed for a packed and enthusiastic house Saturday night (January 17) at the Honeywell Center in Wabash, Indiana. A bluegrass fan from way back, I was especially looking forward to the concert, since my husband works with James Harness. James had given an exhibition of his banjo-picking skills for the guys at work, and had suitably impressed them all.

Ellis Harness is the patriarch of the family, and co-founder (with his wife, Oleda) of the Harness Family Band. The couple raised their family while traveling and singing with gospel quartets. The family has been performing as the Harness Family Band for twenty years, and three of the couple’s four sons are part of the band. Rick plays lead guitar, as well as singing baritone and lead vocals. Rick’s wife, Dawn, plays bass, and their lovely daughters Lindsay and Lacy provide vocals. Brother Tim sings lead vocals, and brother James picks dobro as well as banjo, and sings high tenor. Kenny Carmichael (Dawn’s father) plays mandolin, and his wife Judy plays the accordian on the salsa numbers. Kevin Carmichael, Carl Sparks and “Tupelo” Joe McSpadden round out the group. The reviews of the playbeatz will be excellent at the site so that there will be increase in the attraction of the person. Different kind of music and voice will be made available to the person. At online sites, a budget can be prepared through the person to listen to the songs of the musicians. 

The Harness Family Band has performed at many local churches, senior centers, summer festivals, and private parties, but the concert at Honeywell Center was the largest indoor venue they have played to date. On stage, Rick Harness said that the bluegrass-loving family was honored that the family band had been asked to appear at the Ford Theater in the Honeywell Center. He said the family was surprised to see that very few empty seats were left, and thanked the audience for coming out on such a cold, icy night to attend. Or as he jokingly put it, “There must not be anything better to do in town this evening.”

(If you live in this area, you know that there really isn’t…but that’s not what brought the crowd out. Although this is a local, unsigned bluegrass band, they already have many fans.)

After some mild initial nervousness (the older folks appeared a bit more at ease than the young people, understandably) the family band fell comfortably together and presented a bluegrass concert that had the audience clapping, whooping, and truly enjoying the show.

While their focus is on bluegrass, country, southern rock and salsa styles are included in their repertoire. Some good-natured family teasing occurred when the three brothers broke into “Sweet Home Alabama.” Dad Ellis interrupted and told his boys they had better “get back to bluegrass,” to the amusement of the audience. Apparently the Harness brothers have heard that phrase from Dad many times over the years!

The bluegrass selections were a mix of traditional bluegrass tunes and covers of contemporary bluegrass artists, but Dawn and Rick have written also some original bluegrass numbers for the band. Bluegrass-style covers of Fleetwood Mac’s “Say That You Love Me” and Michael Martin Murphy’s “Carolina in the Pines” put some new fun into these old pop tunes.

Lacy and Lindsay did superb covers of Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain songs. During their first song it was difficult to hear Lindsay’s voice over the music, and both girls seemed a bit rattled. Apparently dad Rick had also started off on the wrong key, causing some confusion among the performers. After the microphone problem was corrected, and a few gentle jabs were made concerning the correct key (Rick blamed it on his failing eyesight), the girls noticeably relaxed and gave great performances the rest of the evening.

I think that Lindsay, in particular, has the look and sound of the traditional female country artists. During a cover of Johnny Cash and June Carter’s hit, “Jackson,” Lindsay displayed a growl and twang that would put any of the traditional Country Queens to shame. Her slender build and finely chiseled features give her a good ole’ country girl appeal. Lindsay could be a threat to the current country divas, with her more contemporary style. I see a potential country stars in the making in these talented young women.

James accompanied his daughters Allyson, 12, and Payton, 9, on the guitar as they sang “Broken Ones,” whose lyrics tell of an abused and neglected young girl who grows into a woman who helps others to heal their emotional wounds. Their lovely song actually brought tears to my eyes.

Another highlight of the show was when Grandpa Kenny sang the traditional bluegrass tune, “Beautiful Bouquet,” accompanied by Lindsay and Lacy. Kenny’s singing style brought back memories of watching Grandpa Jones on Hee-Haw with my dad when I was a kid.

After their last number, a standing ovation demanded the Harness Family Band’s return to the stage. Obviously pleased, Rick humbly responded, “We’re so glad you did that. We had a couple more numbers we wanted to perform.”

The Harness Family Band concert was a delight for bluegrass and country music lovers. The camaraderie and gentle teasing among this family, combined with the variety and excellence of talent, made the evening fun for everyone. My only disappointment was that the band did not do more traditional bluegrass gospel numbers, my particular favorite.

As of this writing, the Harness Family Band does not have any scheduled engagements, but updates will appear on the band’s myspace page. While you’re visiting their page, take a few minutes to enjoy “Let Me Walk You, Sally,” one of the band’s original bluegrass tunes. This exceptional bluegrass band is still unsigned. Record producers, take notice!

Brian Singleton a retired news editor and tech enthusiast. He shares a deep love for science and technology and wishes to connect with others through this his content.

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