The late '90s saw the emergence of a bluegrass/acoustic rock movement in the United States as such artists as Bela Fleck and Cast Iron Filter built a name for themselves. Formed during September 1998 and hailing from Charlotte, North Carolina, Cast Iron Filter first started out as a trio, including members Dustin Edge (guitar, vocals, harmonica), Randy Culbertson (guitar, vocals), and Mike Orlando (mandolin, banjo, guitar), before expanding into a quartet with the addition of Tim Helfrich (drums). The group soon built up a regional following (especially at nearby Davidson College), and issued their debut album, Paradise in Palestine, in 1999. A sophomore effort followed a year later, Further Down the Line, before This Ugly Town was issued in 2002. For the latter release, engineer/producer Mark Williams (Hootie and the Blowfish, Joe Cocker, Southern Culture on the Skids) worked with the quartet, as he helped give the group a slightly more rock-oriented sound. Accolades soon came the group's way, as ESP Magazine has compared the group to such renowned artists as John Mellencamp, The Band, Jerry Garcia, Bill Monroe, and Lynryd Skynryd. But it's a live setting that Cast Iron Filter truly shines in, as they've opened up for such acts as ex-Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger, Pat Green, David Allen Coe, Sam Bush, Edwin McCain, The Recipe, and Railroad Earth, among others. Since their inception, other local Charlotte-based musicians have augmented the group for a show or two, including members from Acoustic Syndicate, Blue Dogs, and the Emma Gibbs Band.
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