LINCOLNTON – The Lincoln County Concert Association (LCCA) has been staging shows for 37 years, bringing talented entertainers from across the country to local venues. The next installment of the group’s 2018-19 concert season features a band of four sisters from Boone and a banjo virtuoso native to Lincoln County.
The Burnett Sisters Band consists of the four Burnetts – Kathleen, Anissa, Sophia and Anneli – as well as Colin Ray, a Lincolnton native who recently graced the stage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.
The Burnett sisters were introduced to music at a young age by their father, an aspiring rock musician who fell in love with bluegrass music upon moving to the North Carolina mountains. In addition to singing in their church choir, each of the Burnett sisters had been taught to play the fiddle by the age of 5.
The sisters range in age from 12 to 22 and the two oldest, Kathleen and Anissa, gained experience with numerous other bands before Sophia and Anneli were old enough to take the stage by their side. That day finally came about three years ago, when the Burnett Sisters Band formed and began performing primarily as a gospel quartet.
“We actually had our parents playing with us for a while,” Anissa Burnett said. “Dad played guitar and our mom played bass, while Kathleen and I played fiddle and the two younger ones just sang. Eventually, Kathleen started playing guitar and we stuck Sophia on bass, so we realized that we didn’t really need our parents anymore. Originally, we performed a lot locally at different churches, and it wasn’t until about this time last year that we started playing professionally after picking up a banjo player and expanding our repertoire beyond just gospel.”
Kathleen and Anissa met Ray at East Tennessee State University, and his banjo accompaniment has helped the band create a unique blend of music in the folk, old-time and bluegrass traditions.
“We’ve played with other banjo players before, but Colin fits in so well with us because the style of banjo he plays is very traditional,” Anissa Burnett said.
In addition to Ray on the banjo, Kathleen plays guitar, Anissa plays the fiddle, Sophia is on bass and the youngest, Anneli, plays mandolin. All five members of the band also sing.
“Annile, who is 12, we stuck her on mandolin last year and she has been doing so well,” Anissa Burnett said. “She has one of the best ears of anyone I know, and she can pick up any instrument so quickly. She’s a really good old-time fiddler, as well, so she plays fiddle.”
While disagreements are inevitable, Anissa Burnett says that she and her sisters are like best friends, which has been a key to the growing success of the group.
“First of all, we’re all four best friends,” she said. “I know sometimes you have siblings that don’t get along very well, but luckily our parents made us do everything together and we learned to love each other. The girls kind of look to me as the band leader, which is good because I definitely dominate them unfortunately, but they’re amazing and they listen so well. We all kind of work together to figure out arrangements, but they’ll listen when I tell them what parts to do, which is really helpful.”
In advertising the event, the LCCA has billed The Burnett Sisters Band as a “highly entertaining, engaging and delightful group of musicians with haunting sibling harmony vocals.”
“Anyone who comes out will definitely hear lots of harmonies,” Anissa Burnett said. “We’re really based in vocals as we always do three-part harmonies and switch off the leads. Our music is very traditionally based with an old-time sound, but you’ll also hear a lot of bluegrass influences.”