IRON STATION – A family ensemble that has made a name for itself while touring the country will bring its bluegrass gospel sound to Faith Baptist Church.
The Punches, a family band from the heart of the Ozark Mountains in Fredericktown, Mo., consists of Bruce and his wife, Bobette, as well as their daughters, Brooke and Emily, who are fraternal twins. The Punches also have two sons, Graham and Owen, who toured with the family before recently enrolling in college.
“I’m the dad and I play the mandolin,” Bruce Punches said. “I’m kind of the snare drum of the band in that I keep the rhythm and the timing going even though the mandolin is also a lead instrument and I do play plenty of lead. Brooke is the dobro player and she takes most of the lead. She can really hold her own on the dobro, but she also plays a little bit of banjo. Her twin sister Emily plays rhythm guitar, and both girls sing lead and harmony. My wife plays the bass and also does some of the lead and harmony singing with the girls.”
Bruce and Bobette shared a love for music when they met, with Bobette growing up in a family band herself. After their marriage in 1995, the two had four children who all displayed a musical knack at a young age. The girls each picked up the fiddle a decade ago at the age of seven, and the family band has now been touring the country for the past nine years.
“People still ask me how I got my kids going on all these instruments,” Bruce said. “I tell them, ‘It’s real simple. We just put the instruments out in the front room and said ‘Don’t touch these.’ Reverse psychology works every time. But really they took up instruments one at a time at around the age of seven, and Brooke and Emily started by playing twin fiddles. Then, when they got to be about 10, Emily took up guitar and Brooke took up the dobro. I can play guitar and a little bit of dobro, so I got them going that way, but they surpassed my skill level pretty quickly.”
The Punches have crisscrossed the country over the past nine years, playing at festivals and other special events, although the majority of their shows are at churches. The band doubles as a ministry, and faith has been the backbone of its musical endeavors from the beginning.
“I believe that the talent that we have was given to us by God, and he wants us to use it for a purpose,” Bruce said. “That purpose is to encourage people and hopefully lead some to salvation while preaching the gospel through song.
“We travel all over and our songs are all based in scripture. A lot of folks find encouragement through our music, and occasionally we do see some folks get saved at the altar. We just believe that that’s our ministry and this is our calling as a family.”
The Punches have composed a handful of original songs, but they play mostly covers. A few examples of what one might hear from The Punches include “Chainbreaker” by Zach Williams, “Flawless” by Mercy Me and “Sky Spills Over” by Michael W. Smith. The band also covers more traditional bluegrass numbers like “Prayer Bells in Heaven.”
“We also do some old hymnal numbers,” Bruce added. “The girls have also brought in a number of contemporary Christian songs, and we do them in a bluegrass style that folks seem to really enjoy.”