Nobody will fault you for gawking when the Kody Norris Show takes the Sterling Pavilion stage Thursday night at the 84th Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival. Go ahead, pull out your phone and get a few snapshots. Who could blame you for wanting to share a few photos of what might just be bluegrass music’s sharpest dressed quartet.
We don’t know which of his 13 hand-sewn rhinestone embroidered suits Norris will be wearing, but we know it will boast bright colors and it will be dazzling. It might even be his newest creation (Kody designs them, a tailor in California does the sewing), one that contains around 2,500 hand-sewn rhinestones. And we know that the rest of the band —fiddler-mandolinist-wife-and muse Mary Rachel Nalley-Norris, banjo picker Josiah Tyree, and Cousin Charlie Lowman on bass — will be decked out in similar, complimentary attire.
It will be, especially for those seeing TKNS for the first time, a curious spectacle. If your first reaction is puzzlement, you are forgiven, Been there, done that. First time we saw TKNS, back in 2019 at NEPA Bluegrass Festival, it was on a tip from a picker whose taste we respected. If Que said we’d like them, we should give them a chance, we figured. But we couldn’t help but wonder if we were about to watch some caricature type act.
The photographer in us knew we were going to enjoy the images, but the music enthusiast worried that might skew our views. So we did what we are about to suggest you do Thursday night, around TKNS’s third or fourth song: Close your eyes. Concentrate on the music for a song or two, see if the sound doesn’t make just as big an impression as the sites.
Or you can just trust your instincts, keep em open the whole time and enjoy the show. Kody doesn’t mind. Matter of fact, its part of the method to his madness. The first time he wore a fancy shirt to perform, he got a lot of laughs, especially from fellow musicians. He also got a lot of attention from the crowd, who took special notice of the guy looking to stand out in a crowd.
But it was never at the sacrifice of the music, an authentic, style honed through several band incarnations and a few self-released albums before 2019’s acclaimed Rebel Records debut All Suited Up. The Kody Norris Show was named SPBGMA 2022 Entertainer of the Year. Their second Rebel release, due out June 2, is called “Rhinestone Revival.”
Just two singles have been released thus far, Mountain Rosalie and I call Her Sunshine, which features Tyree on lead vocals. Norris assures us we will hear a lot more of the new album during the band’s two Gettysburg sets (5 p.m., 9p.m.) Thursday.
“I’m certain we will play a good bit of material off of the new record. We had a lot of fun recording it,” Norris said, in a phone interview from his North Tennessee home. “A lot of the material I’d been wanting to record for a long time, some original stuff of mine that we had laid back and hadn’t had the opportunity to record.”
The new album, which includes four songs written by Norris, offers what Norris likes to refer to as “a musical road trip.”
We asked Norris for his own description of what fans should expect from The Kody Norris Show. The answer came easy: “A lot of good, upbeat bouncy music. Everybody knows I like happy, happy music,“ Norris said. “A lot of in your face, hard driving bluegrass music.”
It’s Norris’s first appearance at the fabled Gettysburg event. He has wanted to play this festival for many years but schedules never worked out quite right. “Rich (promoter Winkelmann) would call but we’d be headed the opposite direction,” Norris said.
That changed when the band switched booking agents. The new agent, Joey Crawford at Upper Management Talent, also reps Rhonda Vincent, who has played at all but one or two of the 80+ Gettysburg festivals. Norris said when they talked, he told Crawford he wanted to play Gettysburg.
Thursday night he gets that chance and he aims to make a good first impression.
“That’s what we like to create with the Kody Norris Show. When we leave, I want to make a memory,” said Norris. “When they leave I want a smile on their face.”
The Kody Norris Show headlines a day with a day one lineup that also includes Blue Octane, Caroline Owens, and Circa Blue. You can find the rest of the schedule, which includes Vincent, Seldom Scene, Appalachian Road Show, Little Roy and Lizzy, and more here.