Vinnie Padalino and Lauren Withers
Vinnie Padalino on washboard has Lauren Withers dancing at the Wharf in Edgartown. Photos by Danielle Zerbonne

A lot of Ballyhoo

By Julian Wise - February 1, 2007

Martha's Vineyard may be hundreds of miles from native bluegrass soil, but local band Ballyhoo is doing its darnedest to channel its essence from the hollows and hills of Appalachia. The sextet (Tauras Biskis on standup bass, Ken Dyer on harmonica, Josh Campbell on mandolin, Vinnie Padalino on washboard, Matthew Lozier on banjo, and Brad Tucker on guitar, drums and vocals) comes together in a spirit of genuine bonhomie to stir up a hollerin' good time.

Josh Campbell and Brad Tucker
Ballyhoo brings bluegrass to an appreciative Vineyard crowd. Josh Campbell (left) on mandolin and Brad Tucker on drums played last weekend at the Wharf.

The band formed in August 2006 and has honed its sound to create a foot-stomping, finger-picking groove. A recent performance at Offshore Ale displayed their unique sound. In their live set mandolins flutter, banjo notes pluck and peal, the bass thumps a low rhythm, and the washboard scrapes a raspy beat. At the center of the action is Brad Tucker, who does double-duty by strumming an acoustic guitar, kicking a bass drum and high-hat cymbal, singing, and occasionally buzzing into a kazoo.

Tucker is an affable front man who clearly is having a grand time with the music, and his enthusiasm spreads throughout the band and into the audience. Several times during the show the audience was moved to hoot, holler, claps their hands and stomp their feet.

Ballyhoo doesn't come across as overly polished, and their rough edges add to their charm. The band members grin through the occasional missed lyric or dropped note, charging ahead until they have the audience clapping and stomping along. The musicians are clearly there to have fun, and this spirit is shared generously with the audience. The band's finest success lies in capturing the essence of the bluegrass sprit, one of coming together after a hard day's work, kicking your feet up, enjoying your beverage of choice, and letting the cares and worries of the day melt away under a shower of twangy musical notes.

Julian Wise is a frequent contributor to The Times, specializing in music, film, and the performing arts.