"It was a brand new album...it wasn't worn at all like my older records. So I stuck the needle on, and J. D. kicks off Blue Ridge Cabin Home. That record really inspired me to play, and, of course, that was the first time I ever heard Tony Rice, also. His solo on that song just blew my mind, and I had to learn how to do that too."
(Coincidentally, an authorized biography of Rice co-authored by Stafford is due to be released any day now.)
"You know, I was just a kid then, too, so it was more like ‘My Generation' of the music, rather than the ‘First Generation'. It was something I could relate to more as far as it being a bunch of young guys playing bluegrass."
Burleson eventually became not only a top-flight banjo picker, but as those who have seen Blue Highway on stage can attest, an excellent guitarist and mandolin player as well. The multi-instrumental talents he and Lane bring to the band give them an added dimension.
"Me and Shawn are kind of the only two guys that switch around. Shawn can play guitar and fiddle just equally well as mandolin. It gives us leeway on songs that don't necessarily ‘talk' to the banjo, and Shawn can switch to fiddle or guitar, and I can switch to mandolin."
In the end, the Blue Highway sound often strikes the listener's ear as being almost ‘organic', and Burleson seems to agree with that.
"People ask us how we arrange our material, and the weird part is, we usually don't...It seems like the song will dictate which instrument takes the next solo...it's something we don't talk about, we just let it happen. If you don't get in the way of the music, it will dictate what it needs, if you just listen to it."
And the good news is, the "Some Day" when Blue Highway calls it quits should still be a long way off. "I don't see us slowing down. We keep the music fresh by doing new stuff all the time, and one thing that keeps it fresh for us is doing original material instead of doing something that's already been done. I don't see any reason that we couldn't go on another 15 or 20 years at all."