published Friday, October 19th, 2012

Special Consensus brings 37 years of bluegrass experience to Barking Legs


* What: Special Consensus with special guests Barefoot Nellie.

* When: 7:30 p.m. today.

* Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.

* Admission: $12 in advance, $15 at the door.

* Phone: 624-5347.

* Venue website:

* Related links at


1990-98 "Hey, Y'All," "Green Rolling Hills," "Stroough To Bend," "Our Little Town."

2002-2010 "Route 10," "Everything's Alright," "The Trail of Aching Hearts," "Signs," "35."

2012 "Scratch Gravel Road."


The origin of Greg Cahill's love of bluegrass is about as textbook as it gets for banjo players.

As a college student in Chicago during the '60s folk revival, Cahill was introduced to the instrument through the songbooks of artists such as Peter, Paul and Mary and Pete Seeger.

Then, a friend put on a copy of Flatt & Scruggs' 1961 release, "Foggy Mountain Banjo," and the world shifted under Cahill's feet.

"That's a common story for a lot of banjo players, that Scruggs was the guy who turned your head or caught your ear," he said. "That was definitely the case for me."

By the mid-'70s, Cahill was playing with several groups in Chicago and one in Kansas City. In 1974, he and several friends formed the core of what would become Special Consensus, which would become one of bluegrass's most long-running acts.

Now in its 37th year, Special Consensus has released 16 albums and toured all over the world. Tonight, the band will take the stage at Barking Legs Theater after performing at the Rockahock Family Fall Bluegrass Festival in Lanexa, Va.

Special Consensus was founded about the same time as New Grass Revival and other progressive artists were pushing bluegrass in new directions. Perhaps due to his appreciation for bluegrass stalwarts such as Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs, Cahill and an ever-changing lineup of bandmates in the decades since have leaned toward the traditional end of the spectrum, with three- and four-part vocal harmonies a particular focus. Nevertheless, he said, they always try to keep themselves open to introducing new styles such as swing and gospel into their sets.

"We just try to mix it up," Cahill said. "What we try to do is have everyone in the audience, no matter what type of music they like, especially what type of bluegrass they like, walk away saying, 'I really liked that song.' "

Lately, Special Consensus sets have prominently featured the band's 16th recording, "Scratch Gravel Road," its second release on Compass Records, but fans will hear plenty of tracks from the back catalog.

Cahill is the member of Special Consensus to remain with the band since its foundation. He will be joined tonight by mandolinist Rick Faris, bassist David Thomas and guitarist Dustin Benson, the 41st musician to join the band.

"I love playing with these guys because they're great singers and ... great players," he said. "When you all have that ... and have the freedom to play something different or whatever comes to mind knowing that everyone is locked in rock solid, it's just really fun."

Contact Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @Phillips CTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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