For his entire life, mandolin player and tenor singer Don Rigsby has lived in Eastern Kentucky where Bluegrass music blankets the hills. Don was raised on the sounds of Ralph Stanley, his cousin Ricky Skaggs, and Keith Whitley and with a family full of Bluegrass and Old-Time musicians, it was only natural that he pursue a career in the music. Since his professional start with Charlie Sizemore’s band, Rigsby’s extensive resume includes several critically and industry acclaimed solo albums, as well as tenures with Bluegrass “supergroup” Longview, the Lonesome River Band during the band’s peak of the late ‘90s, the Bluegrass Cardinals, J.D. Crowe, Rock County, and production jobs with the likes of Larry Sparks and Dave Evans. Notably, in 2001, Don became the first full-time director of Morehead State University’s Kentucky Center for Traditional Music, an innovative program designed to preserve and promote traditional music in all forms.
Hillbilly Heartache, marks the first time Rigsby has recorded as a band leader. He has always been either a side man or an equal partner in a band but has never performed as a band leader. He says it’s a role he’s becoming quite comfortable with as his backing band, Midnight Call, is made up of experienced musicians who have put together a sound as first-class as any band on the current circuit. With Jesse Wells (who has a degree in Jazz performance from Morehead State) on fiddle and clawhammer banjo; Robert Maynard (a recording engineer for River Tracks Studio and former 5 For The Gospel member) on bass; Dale Vanderpool (formerly of Rock County, the Karl Shiflett & Big Country Show, & Melvin Goins’ Windy Mountain) on banjo; and journeyman Shayne Bartley (Lost & Found, Dave Evans, Karl Shiflett) on guitar, Don has assembled a band that is sure to turn heads as well as ears!
The new album brings us a first-rate collection of songs from the pens of top Bluegrass and Country music writers including Shawn Camp, Jim Lauderdale, Kim Williams, Larry Shell, and Dixie and Tom T. Hall. A few songs of note (though honestly the entire album is ‘of note’) include the story of “Big Jim”, the lesson teaching “Make God Laugh” and the title track “Hillbilly Heartache.” This landmark recording represents a turning point in Don’s professional career. As a student of the genre, the years have taught him to respect the traditional forms of Bluegrass but to also add his own flavor to the pot. As Hillbilly Heartache shows, Rigsby and his band did just that and the result is simply grand.