Burnett Sisters Band
Written by Annette Grady on March 12, 2023
The Original ‘Burnett Sisters Band’ very definitely relied on the talents of Kathleen Burnett, now Kathleen Ray, as the Lead singer and rhythm guitar player, for about the last eight years. Along with her three sisters, Anissa, Sophia, and Anneli, the band typically played Bluegrass, Bluegrass Gospel, and ‘Old Time Roots’ music. Around four years ago, as the band played increasingly larger venues, they played more Bluegrass and needed a banjo player.
Colin Ray started as a banjo player with the sisters, for about two years. Then, they hired Brady Wallen who played for about a year and a half. At that point, Colin and Kathleen were married, and ‘The Burnett Sisters Band with Colin Ray’, was the resulting band, with more of a family flair, including Colin’s wonderful vocals. Then, Justin Alexander was hired to play the banjo, and they even added Austin Perry, on saxophone.
One very notable achievement, for the full band, was being selected to play in the Annual Band Competition at MerleFest 2022. Not only were The Burnett Sisters with Colin Ray invited to compete, they won the Band Competition!
As we move farther into 2023, the entire band has only a couple remaining tour dates. After that time, ‘The Burnett Sisters Band’ will be comprised of Anissa Burnett, fiddle guitar, and banjo, Sophia Burnett, bass & fiddle, and Anneli Burnett, mandolin & fiddle. The Trio of Sisters will be joined by Justin Alexander, playing guitar primarily, or banjo.
Their style will still include Traditional Bluegrass, Bluegrass Gospel, and Swing; which truly represents their roots, and how they first learned to play. However, they will add Appalachian Old-Time Music, and Traditional Roots Music, featuring Appalachian Flatfooting & Clogging, Classic-Old Time, and Twin Fiddle Tunes. All these additional styles reflect the Burnett Sisters passion for keeping Old-Time Music alive and well! They have learned a great deal from their experience with ETSU, and it has had a profound impact on their lives. They participate in the East Tennessee State University ‘Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Roots Music Studies’ program. Sophia and Anneli are currently dual-enrollment students in the program. Anissa is the PR/Marketing Coordinator for the University’s Department.
Recently, the new Burnett Sisters Band traveled all the way to Monaghan, Ireland to participate in the ‘Your Roots Are Showing’ Folk Conference. The event was held at the Four Seasons Hotel, in Monaghan, and included 60 artists from around the globe. Every evening, different artists were given the opportunity to play short sets of 30 minutes, to include as many different artists as possible. This was particularly enjoyable and enriching for the Burnett Sisters, who garnered many new ideas regarding their music.
In addition to performing and listening to performers, there was an activity similar to a ‘Gig Fair’, where bands were given 4 minutes (2 times) to present themselves to 15 different Festival/Show Promoters. This gave the artists the opportunity to sell themselves for future opportunities.
After the Conference, the Sisters spent a few days relaxing, taking a break from playing, by sightseeing, and shopping in a small Irish village. Finally, there was a stop in Dublin, where the Sisters spent most of their free time in Coffee Shops, as opposed to Pubs, where they could again listen to more of the local music. They had a wonderful time!
Personally, I absolutely loved the music of the original Burnett Sisters Band, and was always impressed by Kathleen. Now, the role of Lead singer will be split between Anissa and Anneli. In my opinion, all the Burnett Sisters are some of the most talented, bright, and personable people I have met in the Bluegrass business. I am looking forward, with great anticipation, to see and hear what the new look of this great band has to offer in 2023…