The Loose Strings Band (LSB) is an all-girls band from Galax, Virginia. The band has been together for 11 years, playing at bluegrass conventions, weddings, benefits, churches, reunions, festivals, and more. They are known in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and beyond for their tight vocal harmonies and sweet rhythms. They have traveled throughout Southwest Virginia and beyond playing for many different types of events. Some of their most recent events include performances at IBMA Momentum Awards, IBMA Bluegrass Ramble, Dollywood’s BBQ & Bluegrass, Bristol Rhythm & Roots, Merlefest, SPBGMA, and The Song of the Mountains PBS show. There is a fine balance in their music career, with college studies, weddings, family, and extracurricular activities. Somehow through their love of music, determination, and very busy lives, they have continued to perform and have just completed a new CD, As We Travel. This CD is a unique blend of old and new selections with a bluegrass twist. This CD has a different flavor compared to their last CD, Journey with No End, which consisted of original songs mostly written by the band members. The Loose Strings Band members are Ashley Nale (banjo, lead & harmony vocals); Channing Russell Combs (guitar, vocals); Grace Davis (bass, lead & tenor vocals); Lindsey Nale (mandolin, lead & harmony vocals); Mary-Claire Hooper (fiddle, vocals).
Ashley Nale has been involved in music all of her life! Her first musical experiences were Kindermusik and piano lessons with her mother. She continued to grow in her musical experiences through church, school, band, and musicals. She has always been an active member of her church, Hillcrest Baptist, where she has been one of the music leaders for Bible school and the praise band. She received her first banjo from her “Papaw Nale”and began taking lessons from Stevie Barr. She has been playing the bluegrass banjo since she was 11 years old. She has had a rich tradition in bluegrass music, in her family, and those around her. She and her sister Lindsey’s great great grandfather Walter Mooney (grandfather of their grandmother Frances Nale) sang with The Stoneman family Dixie Mountaineers in 1926. He also led a gospel singing group in many churches throughout the Galax area (1876-1965). Ashley has been a part of the band since its beginning. She brings her sweet smile and smooth banjo drive to the stage. She sings lead and harmony vocals with a strong alto blend. Ashley has had wonderful opportunities throughout the years. She was selected to do a banjo apprenticeship through Virginia Folk Life with the famous banjoist Sammy Shelor of the Lonesome River Band. Ashley was also selected to be in the video “Pretty Little Girl from Galax” with Russell Moore and III Tyme Out. Ashley has just completed her BSN degree from ETSU, where she also participated in the bluegrass program. She has just begun her medical career as a labor and delivery nurse, while she continues to be a part of The Loose Strings Band. The most exciting news is that she has recently accepted an engagement to Gary Hultman (dobro player for The Boxcars) with plans of a September wedding.
Channing Russell Combs started taking guitar lessons about 10 years ago. She became part of the Loose Strings Band at Barr’s Fiddle shop downtown Galax, where the the group first began. In between basketball and softball games, two of her first true loves, Channing’s new interest in music began to develop and grow. Her grandfather Guy Russell influenced her as a musician. He was the lead singer of two quartets in Galax: The Dixie Four in 1956, during his high school years; and in 1968, he sang with the Songmasters. Channing loves playing music at her church and singing with her “Pa” whenever possible. Channing’s church is Locust Grove Church of Christ in Galax, Virginia. Channing brings a sweet spirit to the stage where she sings and plays the guitar. Channing was just married last year to Jarrett Combs, a local police officer and her true love. She has completed her four year degree in business and works at her family’s business in Galax. Her most exciting news is that she just found out that we will be having a “Baby Loose Strings” coming in June!
Grace Davis has been around bluegrass music since she was born. Her dad, Terry Wilson plays the mandolin, guitar, and bass, and he has strongly influenced her love of bluegrass music. She began clogging at the age of five and her feet haven’t stopped moving since! Grace took lessons from Scott Freeman and began playing the fiddle around the age of seven, but soon the bass became her true love. She also enjoys playing the guitar and clawhammer banjo in her spare time. The first band Grace was a member of was called The Galax Little Leaves, which was a youth band well known in the area. She was in this band with Houston Caldwell, who many knew as a fine banjoist. Houstonfest is a hometown festival that honors his memory and love of bluegrass.The Loose Strings band girls loved Houston very much and have performed at this festival every year, and they always enjoy helping at the youth stage. Grace has been a strong advocate for the bluegrass youth and has been apart of IBMA Kids on Bluegrass for many years. And her mother, Sandra, is the head of the Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program in the Galax area. The Loose Strings BAnd continues to support JAM programs and youth bluegrass musicians whenever they can! About 10 years ago Grace began playing with the Loose Strings Band, whose members also happened to be her best friends. Grace sings lead and high tenor vocals to add to the band’s harmony blend. She also plays the bass for the group, which is bigger than she is, but don’t let her size fool you, this girl has a lot of spunk and keeps the band on their toes with that grounded bass beat. Grace recently graduated with a degree in finance from ETSU. She also was very involved in the bluegrass program there and has a minor in bluegrass. Grace also just got married last year and has a new job in finance. She and her new husband, Jason Davis (banjo player for Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice) are beginning their new life together in Galax.
Lindsey Nale is attending ETSU in Johnson City, Tennessee. She has been a part of the bluegrass program there, but she plans to major in psychology and later to pursue a Masters in speech pathology. She enjoys songwriting, and she also loves to sing and participate in theater productions. She has been an active member of Hillcrest Baptist Church all her life, and she has enjoyed developing her singing voice and love of God through the years in church musicals, and helping lead the bible school and praise music. Music has always been a big part of Lindsey’s life, beginning with Kindermusik and later piano lessons with her mother. Lindsey and her sister Ashley both showed an interest in bluegrass instruments when they found a banjo and fiddle at their grandparents’ home. This musical journey has been a blessing of memories that they can share for the rest of their lives. Lindsey received her first “tiny” fiddle from her “papaw” Bill Nale when she was seven years old. She played fiddle for the band for nine years, but she currently plays the mandolin, which is a new venture for her. Her love of singing is evident as she sings lead and harmony vocals in the group. She has participated in other bluegrass projects where she was asked to sing lead/harmony vocals. The CD project was called: Close Kin, Our Roots Run Deep, where she was honored to sing with many talented youth bluegrass musicians. Lindsey has been known to bring loads of energy and laughter to the band and those around her.
Mary-Claire Hooper may be the newest and youngest member of the band, but she is no stranger to the bluegrass family and has competed in many competitions and events both in North Carolina and Virginia since the age of 9. Her father is a luthier/owner of Hooper Guitars, where she gets hands-on insight into instrument making and has made a ukulele with her father. She is very honored to have been the recipient of several scholarships such as The Wayne Henderson scholarship, The Houston Caldwell Memorial scholarship, and a scholarship to attend the Swannanoa Gathering at Warren Wilson College. Mary-Claire is a member of Poplar Springs Baptist Church, where she helps with the children’s programs and is active with her youth group. When she is not playing her fiddle or at church, she can also be found on the range with Elkin High School Shooting Team or swimming with the school swim team. Mary-Claire is a an energetic and sweet girl who loves to laugh and put smiles on other people’s faces. She is excited and looking forward to many adventures to come as part of The Loose Strings Band!