Liam Purcell’s Cane Mill Road wins IBMA Momentum Award

Wernick Method founder Pete Wernick couldn’t be more proud of Liam Purcell, whose Cane Mill Road band won the 2019 IBMA Momentum Award.

Cane Mill Road’s leader, front man, mandolin and fiddle player, main songwriter is 17 year-old Liam, himself a Momentum Instrumentalist nominee this year. Certified as a Wernick Method instructor at age 15, Liam is the busiest teenager in bluegrass. Along with friend and band mate Tray Wellington, Liam has been mentored by since he was a youngster. Pete reports:

Liam on fiddle preparing to perform at Merlefest, 2014

I first met Liam and Tray as applicants for scholarships for my pre-Merlefest jam camp. Liam was 10, having started with the local JAM program at age 6. A few years later, 15 year-old Tray applied, showing a lot of promise despite playing less than a year. In time they formed Cane Mill Road with two other kids attending the camp. 

What started as a teenagers’ band “for fun” soon led to exposure at Merlefest and local paying gigs. Along the way, both boys returned to the camp every year (on scholarships and excused from school) and we teachers had the fun of mentoring them, both individually and in sessions with their budding band.

Cane Mill Road at Pete’s Boomer Camp, 2016

Tray and Liam have stayed very focused, creating original material and producing albums, as the results show more and more, and they maintain Cane Mill Road through band changes. Tray is on Dean’s List in his third year at E. Tennessee State U. in their bluegrass program.

Considering his musical and people skills, I tried Liam as a coach at the camp at age 15, working well with the younger kids, and adults too. He’s on Gilbert Nelson’s teaching team at Bristol, and was certified and taught a one-day class last year. A year ago he worked with me on the material for the JAM Songbook, and now teaches with the book in JAM classes — that gave him his start in music at age 6.


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