Taking on the World of Blue
By: Shelby C. Berry
With three years of touring and more than a decade of playing music, The Burnett Sisters Band brings its four-part harmony sound to festivals and events across the United States. Anissa, Kathleen, Anneli and Sophia front a band of fiddles, rhythm guitars, mandolins, big bass fiddle, and sibling harmonies. The North Carolina-based group presents a unique blend of traditionally rooted music, influenced by bluegrass and classic country greats alike.
“Doc Watson is a huge influence on our sound. He’s actually from right up the road from us,” said Kathleen. “So, we grew up listening to a lot of his music. We are also influenced by great country musicians and duets like Patsy Cline, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, The Judds, Keith Whitley, the Dixie Chicks and, of course, Rhonda Vincent.”
Combine the musical stylings of Doc Watson, The Judds, and Patsy Cline, and you have none other than The Burnett Sisters Band, a highly entertaining, engaging and enthralling group of musicians driven by a haunting sibling harmony.
“Our biggest asset as a band is our live show,” Kathleen added, “We love to connect with our audience, and we feel it’s important that everyone feels included.”
Innovation and inclusivity across multiple genres have led the sisters to channel the musical connection of traditional old sounds with new tunes and current vocals. The Burnett Sisters Band strives to take their music back to its roots while keeping it alive and relevant for today.
The Burnett Sisters Band only began playing and touring together professionally three years ago when the youngest of the Burnett sisters, Sophie and Anneli, became old enough to perform with their siblings. However, the girls spent much of their childhood playing music, specifically bluegrass gospel.
“Our dad played the guitar, and he dreamed of having his children play music,” said Kathleen. “He was always one of our biggest inspirations, and he bought me a tiny little fiddle when I was only four years old.”
Influenced at an early age by local instructors and musicians in the area, Kathleen and Anissa developed their style of music through the Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) program in Boone, North Carolina.
All the Burnett Sisters eventually made their way into the JAM program, forming their own bands and learning new instruments. Drawn to the big bass fiddle at the age of ten, Sophie is now known for the solid and steady rhythm she brings to The Burnett Sisters Band.
Anneli, the youngest of the sisters, is a multi-instrumentalist that focuses on the mandolin as her primary instrument, but she can also play a mean old-time fiddle tune.
While all the Burnett Sisters began their musical journey with the fiddle, it is Anissa who is known for the unique qualities of traditional, yet contemporary, style she brings to The Burnett Sisters Band.
In 2019 alone, she won blue ribbons at the Appalachian Fiddlers Convention, Yadkin Valley Fiddlers Convention, and ETSU Bluegrass Competition as well as winning second place at multiple competitions.
With The Burnett Sisters Band as their primary focus, Kathleen and Anissa have become who they are as musicians with outside influences on their career, such as the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass, Old-time and Country Music program where they are seniors and their secondary band with young bluegrass musician Cody Bauer, High Country Strings.
Today, after a lifetime of playing together and years of performing professionally, The Burnett Sisters Band have come into their own as artists – showing this to the world with their debut album Long Way from Home.
“We created this album to show an example of who we are,” said Anissa.
Debuting on February 9 of this year, the sisters’ first album hit number one within weeks of its release, and their music video for their first single My Kind of Woman/My Kind of Man hit the top ten on Airplay Direct the same week.
“It’s taken us years of hard work and dreams to get here, where we have a number one album, and it is so very special to us,” said Kathleen.
Leading up to the album, The Burnett Sisters Band was asked to join former bandmate Willow Dillion for an episode of David Holt’s State of Music on PBS in November, and they will be returning for another PBS special on March 7 to sing some of their favorite songs from Long Way from Home.
The Burnett sisters are tasting success and owe Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars for much of the exposure that got them to the table.
“Back in 2015, John Colburn was all over the Facebook community showing his support for young artists, and he inspired us to join,” said Anissa. “Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars gave us some awesome opportunities to play festivals and showcases that we wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance to do. We are super thankful to everyone who is a part of that organization.”
While the Burnett sisters are grateful for the opportunities over the last three years and the success of their debut album, they are most thankful for doing all this as a family.
“All four of us have the same goal. We all want to do this so badly, and we are there to give support and encourage one another. It’s very special to be doing what we are doing right now,” said Kathleen.
The Burnett Sisters Band is kicking off a busy year of touring this March with multiple shows including Folk in the Park in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina and WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour.