Compton & Newberry

The Performance

Mike Compton and Joe Newberry mine one of the more neglected segments of country music history, that period during the '30s and '40s when brother duet music was transforming into bluegrass. Both masters of the bedrock instruments of old-time music, they collaborate with a vision that is both modern and ageless. As virtuosos of old-time mandolin, banjo & guitar, they dig deep into early country music and blues – a limitless library of brother duets, traditional instrumentals, mother ballads and award-reaping originals. Their combined pedigree spreads over the 4+-million regular listeners of Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion to the millions of devoted fans of the Grammy-winning Oh Brother, Where Art Thou and Down from the Mountain soundtracks.

Mike Compton is a Grammy-winning, IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year nominee, mandolinist for the Nashville Bluegrass Band and was longtime steady sideman for the late John Hartford. He’s entertained from Carnegie Hall to the White House -- and lots of good folks’ houses in between. The NY Times calls him “a new bluegrass instrumental hero.“ He has made music with such diverse notables as the iconic Dr. Ralph Stanley, British rock legend Elvis Costello, guitar virtuoso David Grier and producer T-Bone Burnett. He has performed on 100+ CDs in a variety of genres with some of the most beloved artists of our day. At heart, Mike Compton is a preservationist, continuing the music that Bill Monroe innovated on the mandolin and which set the standard for two generations of bluegrass mandolin players.

As CyberGrass.com commented, “There are powerful people in every walk of life. Mike Compton is the General George Patton of the mandolin.”

Joe Newberry is a prizewinning guitarist, songwriter and vocalist known far and wide for his powerful banjo playing. He won the songwriting prize for ‘Gospel Recorded Performance’ at the 2012 IBMA Awards for his song Singing As We Rise, and was co-writer, with Eric Gibson, of the 2013 IBMA ‘Song of the Year’ They Called It Music. “His lyrics read like a cross between Longfellow and Johnny Cash,” writes the INDY. “The muse is sometimes gentle and other times rough. But she never strays too far from Joe Newberry's side.”

"There are a couple of kinds of songs that you can write," Newberry explains. "One is where you say, 'I'm going to write a song today,' and basically sit down and write it. The other is where she comes and visits you and says, 'Here's your song. Don't blow this.' Sometimes it's from you but it doesn't belong to you, you know?” To that, A Prairie Home Companion’s Garrison Keillor adds, “A musician like Joe embodies the true South. You can’t have too many of these people.”

In a Word…

“In mid-July, I attended this year's Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival —an annual tradition for me since 2002... Of all the acts I saw and heard—the most essential music came from the duet of mandolinist Mike Compton and banjoist Joe Newberry. They played old-time songs like "Lazy John" and "Red Rocking Chair," the latter a doleful tune in F that reminds me of Greil Marcus's musings on "the old, weird America." These two pros brought to the music a depth of knowledge that transformed what could have been an hour of potboilers into a too-short set of emotional transcendence. The slightest nuance—one player reaching unexpectedly for a subdominant chord, the other shifting his emphasis from ahead of the beat to behind it—was fraught with meaning. As I listened from my seat in the shade, I was moved to the verge of tears by two pickers and singers performing a dozen or so songs, most so old that everyone who performs them today knows them a little bit differently.”
- Art Dudley, Stereophile Magazine

“It's not about the number of notes with Compton and Newberry. It's about telling the truth and paying homage to the song. There is no pretense here, no slick arrangements and no after-the-fact overdubs. Just honest, real music performed by artists with a deep appreciation for the folk traditions that came before them… They pull off what's almost impossible these days: honest, genuine music that will get your soul dancing.” - Bluegrass Today

“Two musicians, two instruments and two voices capture the essence of how great music can be.” - Mandolin Café

“Mike Compton is a player with a worldwide reputation as one of the modern masters of bluegrass mandolin... one of the most recognizable and respected mandolin voices anywhere.” - Mandolin Magazine

“Joe Newberry follows his inspiration to a brave, though not new, world… Up on the mountain, a sister is preaching, giving her blessing to a devoted brother, as he rises…” - Jim Jenkins, (Raleigh) News & Observer

A Presenter's Point of View

“Compton & Newberry don’t slavishly recreate brother duets, but evoke that era within their decidedly contemporary approach. They’ve been part of great bands, but their duo has all the electricity and entertainment of a larger group. They’re wonderful players and singers, but never let their dazzling technique obscure the power and heart of the song. And … they’re Big Fun!”
- Peter Thompson, Artistic Director, Redwood Bluegrass Associates

Live Performance Preview

Righteous Pathway


Tennessee Breakdown (Prairie Home Companion)