Local band signs with label, releases newest album

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The locally-rooted band Turning Ground is making ground as they released a new album on Friday.

Turning Ground released their newest album, “Old Country Store,” on Friday, June 15. The band, based in Salyersville with a style of bluegrass and bluegrass gospel, is comprised of Nathan Arnett with lead vocals and guitar, Ralph Adams with harmony and guitar, Kayla Amburgey with harmony and bass, Josh Cantrell with lead, harmony, and banjo, and Albon Clevenger on mandolin.

Arnett, who is primarily the songwriter in the group, told Mortimer Media Group he started writing songs at a young age, as early as 9 or 10 years old.

“Ever once and a while I may take a slam and maybe write two or three songs a day, but I enjoy writing,” Arnett said. “I’ve written things from a lot of poems to songwriting. I actually just wrote my first children’s book the other night and hopefully, something will come out of it. I just enjoy writing.”

After Arnett writes the songs, the band gets together and figures out the arrangement. 

“It really helps in the bluegrass business, whether it’s your song or somebody else’s if it’s original material it goes a lot further than some of the traditional stuff that everybody is playing on stage today,” Arnett said.

The group’s first album was titled “March 2, 2012,” a date that is well-known in Magoffin and surrounding counties.   

“I had written a song after the tornado had happened here in Eastern Kentucky, and when I write these songs I try to relate to these folks around here and folks around the country, and I think that song kind of…you know a lot of people around this part of the country got hit by that devastation and they related to that song,” Arnett said.

He notes that he enjoys when people come up to him and say they’re not really bluegrass fans, but like what they were doing with their music.

“I think lyrics have 90 percent to do with that,” Arnett said.

The band released their newest album on Friday, June 15, entitled “Old Country Store,” which Arnett said was relatable in this area, with many old country stores still in operation.

Adams said they have had airplay on all the major internet bluegrass stations, but the goal is to get on Sirius Radio.

“You want your music there because it’s a large audience,” Adams said. “And it’s common that they will not play music that’s not on a label, and I understand that.”

Arnett said they’ve had a lot of support from DJs at all levels and that they’ve been blessed by having their music played all over the world.

Adams noted that they had a big change in momentum when they met Melanie and Steve Wilson at a festival and became friends. Melanie is an agent in bluegrass with a company called Wilson Pickins. 

“We’ve been with Melanie probably three months and it’s probably one of the best things this band has done.”

Wilson has taken over the social media management for the band, leaving them time to concentrate on putting out quality music.

“It’s been a game-changer,” Adams said. 

Recently the band heard through the grapevine that a label may be interested in signing them, so Arnett dropped in to see the Wilsons, at which time Ethan Burkhardt, with Bonfire Recording, offered them a recording contract. 

“We’ve got a lot of stuff ahead of us,” Arnett said. “We’re very blessed to have this new CD. It’s got a lot of original material on it and a lot of covers on it that people wanted to hear. I think between Wilson Pickins and Bonfire, really great things are going to happen.”

“As far as the material that Nathan has written on this, I think it’s top-notch,” Cantrell said. “It’s some of his best stuff and I’ve heard a lot of his stuff. I can tell a lot of thought and a lot of effort was put into the song selection for this and really him writing the songs facilitates the harmony that he and Ralph have always had.”

Cantrell went on to explain, “You could be good singers or great singers, it doesn’t matter, if you don’t have that original sound, something that’s really going to establish separation from other bands because a lot of people are under the impression all bluegrass music is the same, but if you have something that’s going to distinguish you and separate you from the herd, I think that’s a key factor in what success we’ve been blessed enough to have.”

Adams said that everyone in the band can sing, allowing everyone to be involved in the album, equating it to a team. 

“A band to me is almost like a sports team,” Adams said. “Everyone has to do their part for that team to succeed. Not everyone handles the ball, but everyone has their own part in that.”

Amburgey said, “I feel like for a CD to be really good, it has to be a collaboration between everyone in the band.”

Arnett said, “It’s not an easy thing. There’s a lot of sacrifices in being in a band. There’s a lot of time where, most of us here’s got kids and wives and husbands, and there’s a lot of sacrificing and your family has to jump on board and back you because you’re gone a lot on the road, you’re in a lot of states, there’s practices and things like that, and taking off work. There’s a lot of sacrifices in a band. A lot of people think you just step on stage and then you go home, but I’m proud of this band and there’s been a lot of band members come and go and that’s part of life and that’s part of a band. I hope that the band that we’ve established now can say this 30 years from now.”

“Everybody’s got a role in the band, it’s ‘turning ground’ and everybody is behind the plow. You just have to keep plowing,” Arnett said. 

Adams joked that they’ve made “hundreds and hundreds of dimes doing this,” with Cantrell piping in, “and friends.” 

Arnett said, “When you go to these festivals, you can go to a festival or a show, not have a dime in your pocket and not a place to sleep at night and when they see you they’ll feed you, they’ll put you up. You have a place to stay. Bluegrass folks are one of the finest people there are.”

Turning Ground’s newest album, “Old Country Store” is available on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Music. For more about the band, including upcoming shows, go to www.turninggroundmusic.com.