Sweetwater String Band is high sierra "soulgrass", founded in the Eastern Sierra of California in 2008. Beginning with a weekly gig at their local bar, the band quickly found themselves on the biggest stage in the area less than a year later at the Millpond Music Festival. "My hat goes off to Sweetwater String Band for finding a singular sound that seamlessly melds the sensibilities of traditional and progressive bluegrass (Shakedown News)." Their music often deals with serious issues such as mountaintop removal coal mining, workers rights, and finding middle ground in todays divided political arena. This seriousness is balanced by ghost stories, drinking songs, improvised jams, and tales from the long, lonesome road. No Depression describes their latest album River of Rhymes as: "a work of both intimacy and wide-scale, cinematic vistas…instantly likeable, a truly worthy listen. The songs are great, their playing immaculate, and their approach and subject matters fascinating.”
Mandolinist Scott Roberts and cellist David Huebner write the material, and together with Jeff Meadway on guitar, and Patrick Ferguson on bass, work out the arrangements. They have completed two full length albums, and have a third in the works. Recent festival appearances include the Strawberry Music Festival, Huck Finn Jubilee, Kate Wolf Festival, RapidGrass, YarmonyGrass, Durango Bluegrass Meltdown, Parkfield Bluegrass, Millpond Music Festival, and Lost Sierra Hoedown.
"The band have created a work of both intimacy and wide-scale, cinematic vistas. A work which juxtaposes serious insight and commentary with bright, often jaunty, almost athletic arrangements... The Sweetwater String Band are an incredibly together unit, and understand their music and each other. Their playing and their harmonies are intuitive, and they display a great deal of respect for what they are doing... River Of Rhymes is one of those records which are instantly likeable, a truly worthy listen. The songs are great, their playing immaculate, and their approach and subject matters fascinating. The band have an interesting sound, diverse and different."- Gideon Thomas, No Depression
“Doc’s Waltz” is filled with lovely mandolin passages and the sounds and smells that capture the essence of a special country place. “They Turned the Mountains Upside Down” is a powerful tribute to Larry Gibson, who resisted the mining companies in Virginia that took family lands and literally turned them upside down to get the coal. David’s “Flood” is another commentary on man’s manipulation of nature but the warming remains: “mountain’s gonna burn, river’s gonna rise.” “Workingman’s Blues” is an album highlight focusing on the “forgotten women, forgotten men” and the forces that control them. With a unique instrumental sound powered by cello and bass, the Sweetwater String Band can deliver songs with messages to be heard."
- Brenda Hough, Bluegrass Breakdown, California Bluegrass Association
"While I’m surprised no one else had gotten there sooner, my hat goes off to Sweetwater String Band for finding a singular sound that seamlessly melds the sensibilities of traditional and progressive bluegrass... I also want to applaud their songwriting, humor, and general stage presence. I really enjoyed how insightful yet approachable so many of their lyrics were, again melding sensibility and genre by tackling blue collar concerns and other themes that are standard fare in bluegrass. Cellist David Huebner was able to serve every lyric by playing in a way that brought out the emotional core of the songs, but added a musical and emotional dimension that made their sound one that’s genuinely innovative... By the end of the set, Sweetwater String Band had cemented their status as the great musical discovery of Huck Finn 2016."
- Jackson Traux, Shakedown News
"They were able to wriggle their way into a slot in the 2013 Durango Bluegrass Meltdown at the last minute and delivered a performance that is sure to bring them back... High-energy string-band music founded on a warming cello and ripping mandolin... Sweetwater String Band have a fresh take on bluegrass... that will keep the dance floor full and the bourbon flowing... Dave Huebner's cello playing brings a sincere and altered take on bluegrass, [delivering a] resounding warmth to the stringed quartet... Jeff Meadway has a fantastic delivery with flawless transition between rhythm and flatpicking that fills in the space between the mandolin chops and drawn out bowing of the cello."
- Tommy Frederico, Pow'r Pickin', Newsletter of the Colorado Bluegrass Association
"Truly a new twist to the old mountain sound we call bluegrass. More like Heartgrass. Or Soulgrass. Riveting."
- Bergamot Alley, Healdsburg, CA, 2015
"Sweetwater String Band seems to pluck the very soul of the Sierra when they hit the stage with their innovative take on string music...this string quartet gives new meaning to a string quartet. With 5 years of hardcore plucking under their belts, these guys are true professionals, blending the power of string music to enlighten and invigorate us with the kind of high energy that gets us all moving."
- Tahoe Mountain News, Sept. 2013
5 Stars!; Absolutely awesome and inspiring CD! Just like the other reviewers, I'm playing this CD so often I'm concerned I will wear it out. So much musical skill, so much heartfelt emotion, so much fantastic style and awesome, socially conscious and lyrics. These young guys are the real deal. And boy can they play!
And the production quality of the recording is outstanding. This CD is a gem. From the first song to the last it epitomizes the slogan "All killer, no filler!"
These guys feature the traditional bluegrass instrument line-up with the exception of substituting cello for fiddle. And what a great twist! And what a great cello player! Blow you away!
It was just a few weeks ago I first encountered Sweetwater String Band at the Parkfield Bluegrass Festival and they emerged as my favorite of the dozen or so great bands I experienced there. I bought the CD at the show and continue to be blown away by it. This is modern, progressive bluegrass, grounded in the tradition, but carrying it forward into the 21st Century in a respectful and powerful manner. This band without a doubt will draw more people into the bluegrass world but satisfy those who love to boogie. I've played this CD dozens of times and I'm still hearing new aspects that inspire me.
- David Ciaffardini