Still from the "California Sober" video showing Billy Strings playing guitar.

New Billy Strings: California Sober (ft. Willie Nelson)

Video: Billy Strings – “California Sober” (ft. Willie Nelson)

Directed by Ryen McPhersen. Single out now on Reprise/WMG.

I had never heard of Billy Strings before I saw the video of him playing “Dust in a Baggie” in somebody’s shitty basement apartment. It was January 2020 and Joe Pernice tweeted: “This @bstrings1 recording is nuts. Do yourself a favor and check him out.” I did myself that favor and I’m glad I did.

My pals and I joked about the dancing dude in the video. DP said, “Green Shirt is at every party I have ever been to since 1991. He’s been alive forever.” I replied, “Dude has sold all the weed in America since 1972. He really adds to the timelessness of this recording!” Our homie Tom disagreed: “Shocking you guys still can’t spot a narc. Too earnest, too clean, too muscular.”

Eventually we found out that Strings grew up one county east of us in Ionia, Michigan, which meant the time-travelling Green Guy really might have been at every party we’d ever been to…as long as he wasn’t bound by the space-time continuum.

It was a quite a shock to discover that in the years since that basement video was shot, the traditional looking bluegrass picker in the checkered shirt and leather vest had become a longhaired, tatted-up, tie-dye-wearing hippie! But he could still play, that’s for sure. It’s been wild to follow his meteoric rise from playing afternoon stages at jam band fests just a few years ago to headlining arenas and winning a Grammy. All without radio exposure or a major label deal.

So what’s going to happen now that he’s turned 30 and signed with Reprise Records? Well for starters it looks like he’s going to release a single with Willie Nelson. So that’s pretty cool. Where he goes from here is anybody’s guess.

And yes, you’re hearing Willie’s longtime harmonica player Mickey Raphael on there, too, as well as legendary Doug Jernigan on pedal steel. So good.

Billy Strings: web, bandcamp, amazon, apple, spotify, wiki.

Video: Billy Strings – “Dust in a Baggie” (live in 2012)

“In a quiet room at a loud party.”

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