The wistful, poignant sound of Nashville's Blue Merle was born when singer/songwriter/guitarist Luke Reynolds met standup bassist Jason Oettel. The two had been together for only four months when they were offered their first production/publishing deal from the president of Sony Publishing, who was eavesdropping on a recording session. Reynolds and Oettel were blown away by the offer but wanted to work on forming a band, something that would put them up front in the music business rather than in the background. Mandolinist Beau Stapleton joined first, followed by drummer William Ellis, and -- borrowing a line from Led Zeppelin's "Bron-Y-Aur Stomp" -- the band chose the name Blue Merle. Opening for the likes of Badly Drawn Boy, J.J. Cale, and Jem, along with appearances at Farm Aid and Bonnaroo, built the band's fan base and had reviewers comparing their sound to everyone from Toad the Wet Sprocket to the Counting Crows. With the help of producer Stephen Harris (U2, the Dave Matthews Band), the band released its debut, Burning in the Sun, on the Island label in early 2005. ~ David Jeffries
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