Denim Grass
by Jack Roberts

Richard Angell
, James Roberts, Kathryn Roberts, Linda Roberts, Bart Smith, Justin Roberts

Richard Angell, Banjo & VocalsRichard Angell - Banjo & Vocals Richard has experimented with many different instruments...guitar, fiddle, drums...but when he bought a cheap banjo (complete with instruction book) at a garage sale in 1979, he was home!  Within a couple of days, he was playing several of the old standard banjo numbers like "Cripple Creek" and "Banjo in the Hollow."

Richard received some vocal training in youth choirs while growing up, but his instrumental ability is the result of intensive self instruction.  As his talents developed, he explored several different genre including old time country and folk.

But, he remembered his grandfather playing bluegrass tunes on the fiddle and the harmonica.  These recollections brought Richard back to his roots and he settled into bluegrass for good. As he upgraded the quality of his instrument, he searched out jam sessions and began attending bluegrass festivals where he took advantage of music seminars offered by the likes of Alan Munde and other famous bluegrass banjo players.  His favorite banjo player is the great Earl Scruggs whom he tries to emulate in both style and consistency.

Richard has made a name for himself, not only as a performer, but as an instructor in the rigors and arts of the five string banjo.  He also builds and repairs dulcimers and banjos.  He and his wife, Joyce, currently make their home in Texarkana, Arkansas.

James Roberts, Guitar & VocalsJames Roberts - Guitar & Vocals James is, of course, the proud father of Kathryn and Justin Roberts, and the husband of Linda Sykes Roberts.  James started playing the guitar when he was in junior high school. Starting, as so many musicians do with an old cheap guitar, James progressed to better instruments as his ability increased.

While in high school, James spent hours listening to his favorite guitarist, Tony Rice.  He practiced his developing musical craft at jam sessions and community gatherings.

When he was in college in Paris, Texas, he met some local bluegrass musicians and began to jam regularly with them.  This eventually led to a spot as the lead guitarist with the bluegrass gospel band "Simply Gospel."  This group played festivals in southern Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas.  They produced several tapes that gave James valuable studio performance experience that he has brought to Denim Grass.

While at East Texas State University (now Texas A&M - Commerce), James met Linda Sykes.  Their meeting was a direct result of jamming and other activities associated with the bluegrass music community in the area.  They both graduated and were married in December of 1989.

Kathryn Roberts, VocalsKathryn Roberts - Mandolin & Vocals Kathryn is the youngest member of Denim Grass and handles the lead on several vocal numbers.  She has been attending bluegrass festivals and jam sessions ever since she was just a couple of months old.  She comes from a long line of musically inclined ancestors and takes to the stage naturally and unafraid.  Experienced musicians remark about her ability to deliver her vocals with clarity and precision.  She has performed with Denim Grass for almost two years, including apperances at Six Flags Over Texas as well as several other venues in the northeast Texas area.

Kathryn has recently begun to try her hand at the mandolin, and with a little instruction, assistance, and encouragement from the entire family, she is doing quite well, indeed!    

Kathryn was just starting third grade about the time Denim Grass released their first CD in 2004 on which she is featured in several numbers.  At the present, if she is not busy with school activities or perfecting licks on the mandolin, she can be found taking care of her bunnies, cats, dogs, and ducks.

Linda Roberts, Fiddle & VocalsLinda Roberts - Fiddle & Vocals Linda, Justin's and Kathryn's mom as well as James' wife, grew up in Arkansas.  She was active in choir and other musical activities in junior high and high school.  At her father's urging, she began to take fiddle lessons at the age of 12.  She has been consistently ranked among the best in both local and state fiddle competition in Texas and Arkansas.

When her folks moved to Commerce, Texas in 1984, one of the first things they did as a family was find out where bluegrass jam sessions were held. Linda's father, Leo, and her sister, Nancy, are both accomplished musicians. Their home was filled with fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and piano music at almost all hours of the day.

Linda's whole family attended bluegrass festivals where they listened, learned, and jammed with some of the most famous bluegrass musicians of our time. Stuart Duncan and Byron Berline were Linda's favorites.

Linda enrolled in the music education program at East Texas State University in 1984. After graduation in 1989, Linda was asked to join the Simply Gospel band that James was in. She is featured on one of their tapes. After several moves, Linda, James, Justin, and Kathryn now call Wills Point, Texas, home. Linda teaches music for the Wills Point School District and James works in Dallas.

Bart Smith, Bass & VocalsBart Smith - Bass & Vocals As with other members of Denim Grass, Bart is from a multi-talented family.  His father, uncle, and cousins all play various instruments.  His mother plays piano and organ in their church.  His brother and his eldest son play guitar and perform regularly at family gatherings.

Career and family activities took up so much of Bart’s time that he did not actively pursue his musical talents until he was in his late 20s.  He acquired an old guitar and was soon playing along at family gatherings.  One day, he reluctantly took the lead on a vocal number.  Bart was truly surprised at the reaction to his vocal debut.  Everyone was speechless for a moment.  Then, applause broke out.  His vocal talents had finally been uncovered!

Bart has been involved with several bands over the years, but he always came back to old-style country and country gospel music.  His recent transition into bluegrass seems to be a natural progression that fits his talents well.

During a performance, Bart stands back from the front of the stage and quietly smiles while playing the bass with precision and concentration.  But when he steps forward to take the microphone, his soft baritone is smooth and unwavering.  His voice blends so well with other members of this group that music critics often remark that their harmony is of a quality usually heard only in closely knit musically inclined families.  

At the present, Bart and his extended family live and work in
Forney, Texas.

Justin Roberts, Banjo & BassJustin Roberts - Banjo & Bass Up until he was about 12, Justin seemed content to watch from the sidelines as his Mom and Dad and little sister Kathryn performed.  But, one day early in 2004, when no one was looking, Justin picked up a banjo.  That’s all it took!  He found that he had the same musical gift that resides in the rest of the family.  After just a couple of lessons, Justin was playing the old banjo standards like “Cripple Creek” and  "Old Joe Clark” 

But, before long, Justin surprised everyone by picking out some rather complicated Scruggs and Stanley numbers like “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” and “Clinch Mountain Backstep.”  Justin’s style is his own, but his fret action, note clarity, and timing are professional quality.  Like so many other banjo players, he just stands there and delivers!

Justin has also been learning to play the bass.  He now fills in when the regular bass player is absent. 

Justin loves to read and play basketball.  He also plays a pretty mean trombone in the school band.  A truly versatile musician!

But, with his heritage of musical ability, how could it be otherwise?

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