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Foursome finds harmony in bluegrass
bluegrass pic
North Country Blue, made up of Megan January, Ida Winfree, Tessa Schwartz and Daisy Kerr, will be playing Saturday at the Barking Dog Grill in Modesto. - photo by Photo Contributed

Most teen girls dreaming of music stardom are likely to be inspired by the styles of the latest pop or country sensation and not the fast-paced tempos and distinct drawls of renowned bluegrass performers, but then the foursome that makes up North Country Blue are not most teen girls.

This quartet has been reared at jamborees and campouts, listening to their elders strum and fiddle the signature sounds of bluegrass music. So, when the idea was born to launch their own band, it just seemed a natural next step for the foursome.

Making up North Country Blue is Ida Winfree, 13, of Turlock; Megan January, 14, of Roseville; Tessa Schwartz, 14, of Berkeley; and Daisy Kerr, 12, of Placerville.

Ida is the band’s mandolin player, an instrument she began playing at 10 years old. She also plays guitar and adds to the vocals. Bluegrass music has been a staple in Ida’s home, as her father, Jason Winfree, is a member of Red Dog Ash. Ida has played gigs with her dad at local coffee shops, restaurants and farmer’s markets, the Westside Theater in Newman, and the Modesto Unplugged Music Festival.

Megan began her foray into bluegrass at the age of 9 with the fiddle. By the time she reached middle school she had found her passion with the bass. She has been recognized at numerous Jazz competitions for her skillful bass playing. She also still plays the fiddle and adds to vocals.

Tessa is the fiddle player for NCB, having played the instrument since she was 5 years old and a member of her family’s bluegrass band. She’s already been featured on three full-length CDs and has performed several times at the California Bluegrass Association’s Father’s Day Festival. Tessa also adds to the bands vocal harmonies.

Daisy is the guitarist and vocalist for NCB. Her musical journey started at the age of six when she sang and picked her first songs and tunes with her parents and sister as the El Dorado Family Band. She then joined the Rambling Minors, a popular youth bluegrass band, where she had the opportunity to play live on a couple of radio stations. She also recorded an EP-length CD and has performed at the California Bluegrass Association’s Father's Day Festival  and has represented the California Bluegrass Association Youth Program at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass three times.  

“It was clear that Ida wanted her own band since summer 2016,” said Ida’s mother Meg Good. “She started noticing some other kid bands at festivals and she discovered the thrill of playing with other jammers at festivals. She approached the other girls this summer at the Father’s Day Festival about forming an all-girl band. All three of them were already in other configurations at the time, which subsequently fizzled out, and allowed the formation of NCB. Their energy was instantaneous. No drama. With them, it's all about the music, and it shows when they play.”

With just a month under their belt of being a band, the girls performed together on stage for the first time in July.

“It sounded pretty good and we had so much fun playing together,” Ida said.

Since that first show, NCB has been performing and rehearsing on a regular basis, travelling to a couple of shows each month.

Locals have a chance to check out North Country Blue Saturday at the Barking Dog Grill in Modesto. The show will begin at 7 p.m., but attendees are encouraged to start arriving at 6 p.m. Admission to the show is free. Barking Dog Grill is located at 940 11th Street in Modesto.