Interview: Golden Shoals Bring Bluegrass with Modern Sensibility

CAMBRIDGE – Golden Shoals plays Argyle Brewing on April 26th at 8 pm with a special guest: local Carolyn Shapiro. The acclaimed folk duo known for their harmonies and captivating performances will be performing for the first time in Nippertown as part of the Arrival Concert Series curated by David Van Pelt.

Mark Kilianski and Amy Alvey have worked together since forging a friendship in college at Berklee Conservatory. Kilianski answered some questions for us to help prep us for what to expect on Wednesday night. Calling from “sunny Baltimore,” Kilianski was warned that Nippertown’s weather this time of year might be a bit cloudy and cool.

Photo by Andy Wickstrom

“No worries, I’ll bring some sunshine with us,” he joked. Kilianski spoke with a slow drawl that instantly reflected ease and peacefulness, and his tone hinted at humor throughout our interview. He invites Nippertown readers to come ready to hear traditional bluegrass “with a modern sensibility.” He noted, “If you like Billy Strings, come listen and get a great experience at a much more affordable value.”

Kilianski admitted he started off with an interest in heavy metal, and “while I still shred,” he is now deeply enmeshed with bluegrass history and sound. “We found this music through our peers in college and bonded over the fact that we were newbies to it,” he recalled. Kilianski shared that his colleague Alvey came up from classical violin training, which translated to both of them learning about bluegrass fresh while at conservatory.

I asked Kilianski what his younger self, who loved metal, would think of this modern incantation of self. “Oh, I think he’d be stoked that I’m traveling and earning a living making music.”

Photo by Kyle Wolff

Kilianski and Avery have spent a lot of time together over the years growing their sound. Described as old tyme, they also seem to lean heavily into jazz and some rock in their musical endeavors, pushing the bluegrass genre beyond its old edges.

“We traveled together on tour from 2017 – 2019, and while we were based in Ashville, we really traveled mostly in Amy’s van,” he owned. And what were they listening to? “Podcasts,” he surprised me. “Right now we are listening to season one of Serial.” They also have been listening deeply to their friend Bella White’s new album.

Spending hours together has translated to quite a friendship for them over the years. Kilianski describes how that communicates to their music, often influencing shifts in set lists and responses to situations that are intuitive rather than spoken between them.

“And we write a lot of songs in response to our conversations. We used to write about heartbreak and all that stuff, but now it is more about politics and family,” Kilianski shared. He referenced their two new singles released in November, “Aint No New Orleans” and “Treading Water.” The first is a response to their feelings and thoughts on climate change; the second was inspired by the events of January 6th in our nation’s capital.

Their music streams on many platforms and viewers are encouraged to give a listen if interested in hearing some fresh bluegrass sounds. While holding onto the old tyme vibe, they also clearly have new voices to add to the genre.

Carolyn Shapiro’s opening sounds seem like a great fit with this duo, especially their desire to share authentic lyrics with a lush combination of fiddle, guitar and banjo.

Tickets are still on sale online at or at the door on the day of the event.

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