An "introverted master of an extroverted instrument", the enigmatic Joseph C. "Butch" Robins, has established himself as an instrumental innovator and explorer. Specifically, he is a 5-string banjoist. His banjo playing techniques have enabled him to share the sound of that instrument, and enhance the music of an extremely diverse range of musical stylists and definers of genre. He is an individualist, a self-styled philosopher and a life-long student of music and art. He is exceptional at his craft. He is an innovator, a stylist, a virtuoso instrumentalist, a songwriter and a producer. He has toured nationally and internationally. As far as banjo players are concerned, few are as innovative or stylistically diverse. Butch's command of the banjo allows him to play music in several different styles with total ease. He can coax from the instrument its plaintive, haunting strength, and in the same breath its melodic, lilting, ethereal wistfulness. Butch's sound is as recognizable as it is individualistic. "Elegant" is the oft-heard praise that has come to describe his banjo playing. He has a very expressive technique and one delights in the melodic lines that sparkle in their simplicity. One has only to listen to his numerous recordings as proof.
Butch is a critically acclaimed musician, recording artist, instructor and lecturer. Described as a musical renegade non-conformist, his career has covered many diverse bases, each attacked with a remarkable intensity that has yielded not only great music but many acute observations about music. He is an intense, serious person with philosopher's sensibilities about many subjects. His commitment to his work involves the outlook of a probing analyst, an exacting craftsman and, above all a passion for reaching for the highest values in life. Butch is a complicated man - an artist, a musician, a thinker and a storyteller. Butch has always lived his life by his own self-imposed rules: admitting his weaknesses as well as his strengths. He has at times been misunderstood, taken for granted, and labeled as arrogant and "difficult". So it is with extraordinarily gifted people. They just don't fit anyone else's mold. Even so, fellow musician, Marty Stuart, admits that "Butch Robins’ musical soul is as pure as mountain waters. He’s one of my favorite visionaries."
As a self-produced, solo recording artist with interest in and attention to ensemble sound, Butch contracted with Rounder Records in the 1970s and released three landmark albums - "Forty Years Late", "Fragments of My Imagicnation" and "The Fifth Child". In the early 1990's Butch helped start the Hay Holler Record label with two recordings sold through means of telemarketing. In 1995 he produced a masterpiece banjo-oriented recording, "Grounded-Centered-Focused". His autobiography and memoirs, "What I Know 'Bout What I Know - The Musical Life of An Itinerant Banjo Player", earned strong reviews and for Butch himself, a nomination for the 2004 IBMA's Print Media Personality of the Year. He is considered one of the "Masters Of The Five-String Banjo" in the book of the same name, written by Tony Trischka & Peter Wernick. He has traveled to and performed in Japan, Australia and Europe. As a result of these travels, he assembled some of the world's finest musicians into the World International Blue Grass Band in 2007 as "a musical statement of international cooperation and goodwill". The band toured in Virginia before performing at the IBMA Convention in Nashville, TN and taping a live TV performance for PBS' "Song of the Mountains". For the past decade, Butch has been in search of the quintessential banjo tune and has several new projects in the planning and development stages. In 2016, Butch was inducted into the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame in Bean Blossom, Indiana.
To quote his friend and fellow musician, Leon Russell, "There is only one pair of banjo hands like these.....only one banjo spirit that spends an equal period of time in the bluegrass and in the gentle Zen Buddhist mountains; only one banjo personality that is submerged in such a humble expression of absolutely beautiful banjo aggression. He has cornbread and soul, but most of all a beautiful spirit."
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