About Little Black Train


What do you get when you mash up a virtuosic bluegrass mandolinist, a traditional Irish fiddler, and an old-timey songster? Kenny Blackwell (mandolin and guitar), John Weed (fiddle), and Stuart Mason (guitar, banjo, and mandola) are the bluegrass-roots trio Little Black Train. From Depression-era gospel and blues to Appalachian and Celtic dance tunes, they dig up the roots of bluegrass that traveled to America from Ireland and Scotland in the 19th century. Avid practitioners of the time-honored folk process, they combine new words and melodies with traditional songs from sources such as the Carter Family, Dock Boggs, and Charlie Poole. On the instrumental side, they mine fiddle tunes from archival sources in West Virginia, Ireland, and Scotland.

“Each of these three is amazingly accomplished, but something magical happens when they play together, their instruments swirling around one another like curls of smoke from a smoldering fire. This is old-time music at its most riveting!” –Glen Starkey, New Times SLO

The members of Little Black Train have appeared in various groups all over the world. Kenny Blackwell worked closely with renowned fiddler Richard Green and performed on stage with Vern Williams. With Molly's revenge, Stuart Mason and John Weed have appeared on festival stages from Glasgow, Scotland to Shanghai, China. They also present workshops and classes, including The Roots of Bluegrass, and Regional Fiddle Styles from Ireland to Appalachia.

Members of the Train


Mandolinist Kenny Blackwell, who studied with the legendary Jethro Burns, has been a fixture in the West Coast bluegrass scene since the late ’80s. He is known for his extensive studio work on various projects, as well as his collaborations with progressive fiddler Richard Greene and his membership in the Laurel Canyon Ramblers, a legendary California bluegrass outfit. Nowdays, when he's not riding the Train, he performs with Dorian Michael, The Mystery Trees, The Demos, and Plan A.

An accomplished fiddler across genres, John Weed has lived in Ireland and immersed himself in the traditional styles of Clare and Donegal. The result is an old-time Irish fiddling style that compliments his forays into bluegrass, swing, and other American music. A classically trained violinist, John leverages his understanding of the instrument to coax emotion from every tune. John also performs regularly with well-known Celtic group Molly's Revenge and the Cajun combo Sons of Fortune. Film credits include fiddle tracks for NBC adaptation of Anita Shreve's novel The Pilot's Wife.

Guitarist Stuart Mason is known for his authentic vocals, melodic mandola, and inability to hold his whiskey. When he picks up the banjo, he plays in the older clawhammer and two-finger styles. A native of West Virginia, Stuart has won awards for traditional singing (Goleta Old-Time Fiddler’s Convention), mandola (Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest), and songwriting (West Coast Songwriter’s Association). In 2009 a song from his solo release Appalachian Bride was selected from among 286 entries to appear on the first New Times Music Awards Compilation CD. Stuart tours extensively with Molly's Revenge and holds down a weekly residency in San Luis Obispo with the Old-Time Fiddle and Banjo Show.