Since forming in northeast Minneapolis in 2006, The High 48s have been making music that combines the soulful sound of classic bluegrass with a modern attitude.
They’re a band with one foot in tradition and the other in the world of music today, and one of the few who can find an overlooked bluegrass classic in a song by M. Ward or the Clash then throw down hard on a standard by Bill Monroe.
The High 48s are also a band of songwriters. Here, too, they take a modern approach, heeding the well-worn advice to writers: write what you know. Their songs ring true to their everyday lives as northern city-folk rather than an imagined “sweet, sunny south” of coal mines and dark hollers.
In addition to keeping up a busy performing schedule, the High 48s are passionate music educators, teaching one-on-one, online, and in workshops and jam camps around the country, including their now twice-yearly bluegrass jam camp for kids, Grass Seeds Academy.
In 2017, the band released their eighth studio album, Daddy Was a Bank Robber. This recording is their most personal release yet, with original music and a handful of covers that represent a musical snapshot of the band’s very eclectic record collections, including songs by alt-country great Robbie Fulks (“Goodbye Virginia”), bluegrass maverick John Hartford (“Long Hot Summer Days”), blues singer/guitarist Little Milton (“Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson”) and the Clash (“Bankrobber”).
In 2018, the 48s welcomed guitar phenom Clint Birtzer into the band. Though only 25 years old, Clint is already a bluegrass veteran, with three Minnesota State Flatpicking Championship wins under his belt as well as hundreds of shows and a long back catalog of album releases with newgrassers Sawtooth Brothers.
The High 48s take their name from railroad slang for the boxcars used to transport troops on the front lines in WWI. Originally called a “40 and 8” because it could hold forty men or eight horses, the boxcar was later used in the US on fast-moving “hot shot” freight trains by train-hoppers looking for work during the Great Depression.
Photo Credit: JoJo Spencer
PRAISE FOR THE HIGH 48s
“I consider you guys the real deal in bluegrass. Don’t often see or hear your level – even in the pros. Across the board you guys had more fun on stage than any other band Bluegrass Tuesdays has hosted…the magic was there.”
Jim Johnson, booker/promoter of Bluegrass Tuesdays, Indianola, IA
“The High 48s are a professional group of musicians who play well, sing well, and put on a very entertaining show. The audience loved them!”
Linda Sandersen, President of the Milwaukee Area Bluegrass Music Association
“I saw you perform this past weekend and was thoroughly entertained. Yours was the first concert in a long long time where I was really engaged and involved. To use an oft times overused cliché, it was a magical night.
“I really enjoyed the music selection, the banter and the “presentation” overall. You folks are one tight and together band. I really appreciate the musicianship you bring to the genre and look forward to other CD releases and future concert dates.”
John, a fan, RockyGrass Bluegrass Festival, Lyons, CO
“High 48s were FANTASTIC!!! Stayed late to help the students, gave 100% of their time/talents, and they did a first for me – they incorporated the jam camp into their Saturday night headline set. The best ambassadors I’ve ever had for the jam camp.”
Martha Galep, Minnesota Bluegrass and Old-Time Music Association Jam Camp Coordinator
“Just wanted to tell you how nice it was to see you guys at the Norsk Hostfest in Minot. I love your playing. I loved how seamless and unobtrusive Anthony played banjo. Right on the money and within the mix of the other instruments.”
Joe Bonsall, The Oak Ridge Boys
“Many people told me that the music was the best ever for any Fiddles, Vittles and Vino. I know your band had a lot to do with that. Have a great rest of the year!”
Mark Gardner, booker/promoter of Fiddles, Vittles and Vino in Colorado Springs, CO