Second Story Garage: Billy Strings & Don Julin

Billy Strings and Don Julin perform “Little Maggie” at Second Story Garage in Boulder, Colo.

We at Second Story Garage hadn’t heard of Billy Strings and Don Julin a month before they arrived at the studio. A local source gave us a tip that this bluegrass duo from Traverse City, Mich., would be in town and that we should check them out, if we know what’s good for us. We’re glad we took the advice.

Strings is 21 years old, but he comes fully formed. He can flat-pick guitar with the best anywhere, and he sings as if he has lived every word. Julin wrote the book on mandolin playing — literally. He’s the author of the best-selling “Mandolin For Dummies.” Together, Strings and Julin put together a sound that’s textbook awesome.

One of the songs the duo played for us, “Little Maggie,” is a bluegrass standard. Listen to how the two musicians mine the old material for pockets of emotion (especially through the closing chorus). They also played two of their own — “Dust in a Baggie,” about a friend who went to jail for meth, and “Fiddle Tune X,” an instrumental exhibition of their chops. And their interview with Quentin, was entertaining, as well.

We have a hunch Billy Strings and Don Julin soon will become familiar to many more music fans outside their home state of Michigan. Check out these videos and you’ll understand why.

What they brought us: A signed lighter, and a caricature Billy Strings drew of himself while in the Garage.

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