Ramblin' Rhodes: Dehlia Low continues on ladder of success

I t is 8 a.m. Tuesday of last week, and Anya Hinkle is riding to her job as a biologist in Highlands, N.C., on a field campus of the University of North Carolina.


Her day job is totally different from her weekend gigs as fiddle player, songwriter and lead vocalist with the Asheville-based bluegrass band Dehlia Low.

The band will make its first appearance at the Aiken Bluegrass Festival this week, performing at the preview barbecue concert Friday night and as part of the festival lineup Saturday.

Two years ago, local bluegrass fans got to hear the five-piece band for the first time at Still Water Tap Room on Broad Street.

Hinkle's bandmates are Stacy Claude from Atlanta on guitar; Aaron Ballance from Winston-Salem, N.C., on dobro; Bryan Clendenin from Hurricane, W.Va., on mandolin; and Greg Stiglets from Jackson, Miss., on upright bass.

The band came together in late 2007 when each of them migrated to Asheville about the same time.

"I love duet singing, especially those early brothers duos," Hinkle said, "and the Stanley brothers (Ralph and Carter) were my favorites. Stacy and I met just after I moved to Asheville from Blacksburg, Va., and began doing a lot of duet singing. She knew Aaron, and he started playing with us."

It wasn't long before Clendenin and Stiglets also became part of their regular performances.

"Our intention originally was just to make good music," Hinkle said. "Stacy had just been with a band; I don't think she was interested in becoming part of another at that time."

The group began playing at the Grey Eagle Tavern & Music Hall in Asheville and came up with the name Dehlia Low. "Dehlia" was borrowed from a Blind Willie McTell blues song of the same name, and "Low" came from a line in the Carter Family song Lonesome Sea talking about the "lonesome low."

Within six months of their formation, the band released an eight-song, self-titled CD of raw recordings made at the Grey Eagle. It was mainly intended for show promoters of festivals and clubs.

The next year found the band recording its first studio CD, Tellico , and expanding its performances westward as far as Oregon and Colorado.

Last year, the band achieved a new level of status by performing at the major Merlefest bluegrass and country music festival in Wilkesboro, N.C., and at the Gettysburg (Pa.) Bluegrass Festival.

Immediately after the Gettysburg appearance, Hinkle posted in a blog, "It was simply hard to believe that 24 hours before we were backstage with Allison Krauss (and) playing on exactly the same stage as they were (Krauss' Union Station band); the memory of it like some kind of dream."

The band's third CD, titled Live, came out in November containing live performances recorded at several venues.

With the increasing success of Dehlia Low, the members are about to take one of the biggest risks of their lives: quitting their day jobs and trying to make music full time.

Besides Hinkle being a biologist, Balance works with horses at Biltmore Estate; Stiglets and his wife have a crafts business; Clendenin teaches middle school students; and Claude has a publicity and promotion business.

"We're all married or in long-term relationships, and we're all worried about taking care of our kids and having insurance and being able to hold on to our houses," Hinkle said.

"But last year we reached the point of thinking, 'If we could get a management team together with bookings and publicity and a good record company, we should give this a shot.'"

With that team in place, they are eager but apprehensive about taking this leap of faith. They are encouraged, though, that their fourth CD, Ravens and Crows , is due out Aug. 2 on the prestigious Rebel Records label, the oldest national bluegrass music recording company.

Ravens and Crows , being recorded in Asheville, is being produced by Travis Book of the Grammy-nominated group The Infamous Stringdusters.

"Between our music and the business side of things, we've put together a musical project with our band that seems to be getting some traction both regionally and nationally," Hinkle said. "And in the process, it has been creating so much change in our own personal lives."

Festival has more than music in store
aiken bluegrass festival

WHERE: The Highfields at Richland Avenue (U.S. Highway 78) and Beaufort Street

PRE-FESTIVAL: Barbecue dinner and concert begins 6 p.m. Friday; $50 advance, $60 at gate, $15 for 12 and younger; featuring bands Town Mountain, Dehlia Low and Larry Keel and Natural Bridge

FULL FESTIVAL: Begins 11:30 a.m. Saturday; $15 advance, $20 at gate, free 12 and younger with adult; same above plus Doug and the Henrys, Taylor Creek, Kenny George Band, Big Daddy's Bluegrass Band, Hackensaw Boys and Mountain Standard Time

TICKETS: Aiken Brewing Co., New Moon Café, Red Pepper Cafe, Hotel Aiken and Rock Bottom Music in Aiken; Mellow Mushroom in Augusta; Boots Bridles and Britches in Aiken and Grovetown, Ga.

MORE: (803) 642-8966, aikenbluegrassfestival.org