Randy Wood has been in the music business for nearly 50 years, so it's no surprise he's acquired a friend or two in the bluegrass realm - many of whom he's built mandolins or guitars for personally.
Grasstowne's Alan Bibey is one of those friends/customers, and he's coming to The Pickin' Parlor at Randy Wood Guitars on Oct. 18.
"Randy has been a friend of mine for many years, so it's always great to get to visit with him. I played one of Randy's mandolins for a long time and I, along with all of the mandolin world, consider him one of the very best, if not the best, mandolin luthier in the world, and he's a great guy!" Bibey said.
And Bibey knows a thing or two about good mandolins. He was awarded "Mandolin Performer of the Year" for 2007, 2009 and 2010, and in 2004, he received a huge honor: the Gibson Company produced a line of mandolins called "The Alan Bibey Signature Series."
He's always made sure to put Wood's Pickin' Parlor on the Grasstowne schedule at least once or twice a year.
"We always look forward to playing at Randy's. It's such an intimate venue," Bibey said.
Bibey and his bandmates also have a history, partially because Adam Haynes (fiddler and vocals), Justin Jenkins (banjo) and Blake Johnson (guitar and vocals) started playing gigs as teenagers and crossed paths with veteran Bibey along the way.
"Then about five years ago, we held auditions for a bass player and Kameron (Keller) was the first guy to come in and just blew us away," Bibey said.
Despite the age difference between Bibey and his bandmates - or maybe because of it - Grasstowne has received plenty of accolades, including album of the year in 2008 and 2011's "Kickin' Up Dust" debuting in the top five.
Bibey credits Grasstowne's success to its versatility.
"We primarily play traditional bluegrass, but we can play any style and occasionally play a tune here and there that's different to make it more exciting. Also, all the guys in the band are multi-instrumentalists, so we can switch instruments and have been known to on occasion," Bibey said.
Currently in the works is a fourth album aptly titled "Grasstowne 4," which Bibey feels will be their best yet.
"We've had a couple personnel changes at the guitar/lead singer position, and that's always somewhat of an obstacle, but our new singer, Blake Johnson, is incredible and we just have to play enough to let everyone hear how great he is," Bibey said.
For inspiration on this fourth album, the guys look to real-life obstacles, but Bibey said his greatest inspiration comes from "the guys in the band, because they're truly great musicians!"
If you go, Bibey promises, "Everyone can expect to have a lot of fun, first off. We play hard-driving bluegrass with some gospel and maybe even a little swing from full band to duo and trio combinations during the show.
"It's always a little different, but these guys are at the very top of their field on their respective instruments, so they're very exciting, I think."