The Lakes Bluegrass Festival will host Flatt Lonesome, a rising star in the bluegrass music genre, when the event occurs Aug. 21-25 at the fairgrounds in Pine River.
Flatt Lonesome is a six-person bluegrass ensemble made of Kelsi Robertson Harrigill on the mandolin alongside her brother, Buddy Robertson, on guitar and his twin sister, Charli Robertson, on fiddle as well as bassist Dominic Illingworth, Michael Stockton on Resophonic guitar, and Kelsi’s husband, Paul Harrigill, on banjo. The Robertson siblings all share the role of vocals in the band.
Kelsi, Buddy and Charli sing solos, duets and as trios with the band. They’ve been performing together since starting a family band called Sandy Creek Revival with their father, Pastor Dolton Robertson, and their mother, Lisa.
Flatt Lonesome formed after the siblings' father decided his parishioners needed him to stay in one place. Kelsi, band leader, says their sibling harmony is one of their most acclaimed strengths. Perhaps this harmony is responsible for their very early success.
Flatt Lonesome made its big debut not by traveling together across the country playing venue after venue until the group was discovered. Instead, the band played its very first venue at the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music Association International Band Championship in Nashville, Tenn., in February 2011. Though the band was in its infancy and at its very first stage appearance, the band took third place. The group returned in 2012 to take first place.
“It was kind of like a test for ourselves. We wanted to enter the competition to see how we would do and see where we were at competing against other groups,” Kelsi said.
With the January release of its self-titled debut album, the group achieved acclaim for its recorded music as well. Favorites of the band and fans include “I’m Blue” written by Paul Harrigil and his sister, and the gospel song “Just Any Moment” written by Kelsi. The band has already received six nominations at this year’s International Bluegrass Music Awards. They were to find out if they won by Aug. 14.
“We’re still kind of on a high with that one right now. We’ve been really excited with how well it’s done. So we’re crossing our fingers until Wednesday night to find out how that goes,” Kelsi said. “We’ve made it through two rounds of voting, so hopefully we can make it through one more.”
The band’s music was inspired by various artists. The album features not only original music, but also covers of songs by other successful artists. Among the songs that fans might recognize are "Jackson," by Johnny Cash and June. It is undecided whether the band intends to play any new musical scores during the bluegrass festival.
“We’ve put our own spin on Merle Haggard’s 'Ramblin' Fever' so I’m sure we’ll throw that one out there,” Kelsi said. “We’ve got some new original tunes we’re still going back and forth on. We don’t know if we want to still keep it a secret or put ourself out on a limb.”
Kelsi suggests that audience members listen for the group's original music, whether old or new, as it is what the band is most known for.
For most of the band members, the Lakes Bluegrass Festival will mark the first visit to the state of Minnesota.
“We don’t have any family there,” Kelsi said. “We don’t know anyone there to have said, ‘Hey, have these people come sing for you.’ So it’s great to have people like you guys who have kind of heard us and loved what we do, so it’s been great.”
Flatt Lonesome is scheduled to perform twice Thursday, Aug. 22, (7:30 and 10 p.m.) and twice Friday, Aug. 23 (1:40 and 6 p.m.). The group will be one of more than 40 professional bluegrass bands at the festival.
To learn more or to listen to music samples, visit lakesbluegrassfestival.com/ or flattlonesome.com.