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Sweet Potato Pie's New Album – Brand New Day

(By Al Shusterman, KCBL Radio, Cable FM 88.7, Backroads Bluegrass)

After their last project “A Journey Called Life”, I wondered how this band could top that superb performance. Well, they raised the bar even higher this time and the result is 13 tracks featuring bluegrass, country, popular, and original songs fused together into one high octane 39 minute package. The project starts off with Bill Monroe’s “Sweet Blue Eyed Darling”, and as you are enjoying the lead and harmony vocals throughout the project, it suddenly stops. You’re left wondering where all the time has gone. The hallmark of this band is their “angelic voices” and you don’t want the music to end. Once you hear them, I guarantee that you will be hitting the replay button again and again. Listening to these ladies sing is “ happy habit”. They put a smile on your face the entire time this project is playing. This is a must for your music library!! I know my listeners will “eat this project up”. I’m still playing request from their last project. Sweet Potato Pie keeps getting better and better!

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Journey Called Life

(By Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine, August 2010)

On their Website the “Pies” say this about their music: “The Pie has created a new style called ‘sweetgrass’, which includes elements of country, classical, blues and bluegrass.” It’s an apt description of the rich vocals and clean picking that these women bring to their music. Opening with an a cappella version of “My Lord What A Morning,” the second track is another gem, and the original “Lift Me Up” from Sonya Stead (their guitar player who wrote six of the numbers on this project). Missy Pyne contributed two numbers, and banjo picker Crystal Richardson contributed one. They draw some material from sources as diverse as A.P. Carter and Curtis Mayfield. The full vocals prevail throughout and tasteful instrumental work showcases the singing. There is definitely a smooth contemporary edge to their music. The music here is spiritual with a theme that is Christian, without being overly didactic. Their songs tell stories with morals. Whether they are singing their hearts out or picking in support of each other, the Pies give it their heartfelt best. This is a fine release that should spread the good word about these ladies and their fine music.

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Sweet Potato Pie Serves Up Bluegrass Gospel – Journey Called Life

(By Diane Amov, June 2011)

Sweet Potato Pie has been flying under the radar for a decade, but their latest bluegrass gospel CD is a great way to get to know them.
You know me: I like my bluegrass traditional and hardcore except for, oh, The Country Gentlemen, The Seldom Scene, and the list goes on. Funny enough, these women remind me of the Gents with their mix of currently popular musical styles and traditional material. And the harmonies -- oh, the harmonies! If you're the least bit interested in a band that puts the emphasis on the vocals and boasts an angelic yet confident sound (none of that breathy, tentative nonsense that's so ubiquitous these days), read my review of Sweet Potato Pie's "Journey Called Life". Oh, and I put together to give you a taste -- sorry, the puns just keep on coming.

Bluegrass Gospel By Sweet Potato Pie -

Courtesy Mountain Fever Records

The Sweet Potato Pie band mixes new bluegrass gospel songs with country and spirituals for their CD, Journey Called Life. Summer is festival season, and festivals offer the perfect opportunity to check out worthwhile bands that have been flying under the radar. One such band is North Carolina's Sweet Potato Pie, and their most recent CD from Mountain Fever Records is the perfect introduction. A bluegrass gospel project entitled "Journey Called Life," this 15-song collection brings together songs from across the musical spectrum, harmonies that are both sweet and rich, and a contemporary bluegrass sensibility.

Contemporary Bluegrass Gospel

The CD kicks off with an angelic a capella reading of "My Lord What a Morning," a spiritual that was recorded during the folk boom by folk superstars from the Weavers and Harry Belafonte to Joan Baez and The Kingston Trio.
"People Get Ready," Curtis Mayfield's modern-day spiritual, is given a gentle folk arrangement that's enhanced by resonant vocals for one of the most heartfelt tracks here. It's evenly matched by "Wait On the Lord," an a capella stunner delivered in a contemporary black gospel style. Fiddle, guitar, and banjo swap leads over a subtle piano backup on a moving country instrumental arrangement of the classic hymn, "How Great Thou Art." Another traditional hymn, "I Stand All Amazed" gives the crucifixion story a simple, contemporary folk feel. The intriguing minor key twists and turns of "Lift Me Up" echo the modality of Bill Monroe's bluegrass within a contemporary country framework. It's the perfect setting for the story of the woman accused of adultery and pardoned by Jesus. Award-winning Sweet Potato Pie banjoist, Crystal Richardson, proves an equally effective songwriter with "Walking and Praying," which offers bluegrass gospel encouragement and practical advice for tough times. "This Too Shall Pass" has a similar theme, with comforting lyrics delicately underscored by the fiddling.
"Shout Hallelujah," written by Sweet Potato Pie guitarist (and only original band member), Sonya Stead, is yet more straight up bluegrass gospel in the mold of Doyle Lawson, and a highlight of Sweet Potato Pie's live shows.
The trials of living a Christian life on a daily basis are brought into sharp relief with a tune from the Martina McBride songbook, "Reluctant Daughter," which focuses just as sharply in the assurance of Jesus' grace when we fail. "50 Years" is a spiritually confident commentary on how the heart is purified within the crucible of a marriage that's centered in Christ.

Sweet Potato Pie's Journey Called Life

With an eclectic mix of bluegrass, country, gospel, and folk material; unexpected song choices; inspired songwriting; and buttery harmonies, the Sweet Potato Pie band offers something for everyone this festival season and beyond.

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Nothing's The Same

(By Kevin Kerfoot, Bluegrass Music Profiles, July/August 2009)

Formed in 2000, Sweet Potato Pie is Sonya Stead, guitar/vocals; Missy Pyne, mandolin vocals; Crystal Richardson, banjo/vocals' Ashley Davis, fiddle. From the orange artwork and CD that resembles a sweet potato pie to the song writing, voices, harmonies and instrumentation, everything here is sweet!
Favorites include Bluegrass Girl, an original anthem; the up-tempo ad cute Sweet Potato Jingle -since the girls are sponsored by the North Carolina Sweet Potato Growers; Now That You're Gone, featuring guest Andy Ball and Skip Cherryholmes; the up-tempo Runaway Train, featuring guest Rick Keen (Dobro), Steve Dilling (mandolin) and Kevin Richardson (guitar); the gentle love ballad Carolina Kisses; and the banjo-driven 500 Miles-the story of Sonya's confederate great, great, great grandfather. These girls play, sing and write great bluegrass!

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Nothing's The Same

(By Les McIntyre, Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine, August 2009)

Sweet Potato Pie is a relatively new band on the bluegrass scene featuring Sonya Stead (guitar, vocals), Missy Pyne (mandolin and vocals), Ashley Davis (fiddle) and Kevin Richardson (bass). The band has the potential to evolve into a significant voice in bluegrass music. The most promising aspect of their style is the precise vocal harmonies throughout the entire production. Eight of the thirteen selections are band member originals including “Bluegrass Girls”, “Runaway Train”, “Carolina Kisses”, and “Help My Unbelief”. Also featured are fine arrangements of “The Sweetest Gift”, “Daddy’s Hands”, and Jim & Jesse’s “Pardon Me”. Sweet Potato Pie has created an impressive array of music that should enhance their reputation.

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Patches Of Blue 


Calling their music "sweetgrass," the four women and one man in Sweet Potato Pie approach the bluegrass genre with a relaxed, refreshing, folksy twang. While their instrumental foundation has a traditional string cornerstone, their repertoire and vocals also incorporate elements of country, classical, blues and original music. The sweet potato seeds were first planted in early 2000 when the trio of Sonya Stead (guitar), Penny Oman (banjo) and Angela Murphy (bass) decided to start picking together. Sonya had grown up on classic country music, loved to sing with her guitar-playing father, played piano and directed music at her church. Penny got involved with music later in life at her church. She's been playing banjo for less than a decade and is having more fun than most people can imagine. On this CD, a reworked and personalized version of Sonny Osborne's "Me and My Old Banjo" becomes "Penny's Banjo," a tribute to her new found love. Angela holds two degrees in music, and spent over 20 years as a teacher and social worker with the Sisters of St. Joseph religious order in Illinois before embarking on a career change and moving to Raleigh, NC to work in sales and customer service. In 2002, "The Pie" added a forth member, Dobro-player Kevin Hopkins. While he'd been out of music for 15 years, he was ready for another band project after having formerly played with Flat Rock, New Dixie Grass, Nothin' Doin' Band, Run of the Mill Band, New Vintage and Carolina Junction.
Later that same year, Missy Pyne joined the group. A pianist and singer for years, she added mandolin and bass to her instrumental achievements since joining Sweet Potato Pie. Sonya, Missy and Kevin ably handle the band's vocals. Like a mountain bluebird, Missy sings through Sonya's original compositions and closes the album with a rousing rendition of Patsy Montana's yodeling classic, "Cowboy Sweetheart." Sonya sings lead on "Arizona" and "Penny's Banjo" and harmony vocals on the remainder. "Patches of Blue" contains seven original tunes and features guest fiddler Randolyn Emerson, whose classical training brings a new dimension to the music. Other guests are Steve Dilling, who recorded the group and spiced things up with a few banjo, mandolin and guitar licks. Paul Emerson (viola) and Phil Warren (cello) played on the faith-filled tune "Keep A Watch." Besides a pound of the vegetable, the recipe for North Carolina Sweet Potato Pie also calls for softened butter, white sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. In a similar way, this band fills the pie crust with an appealing and eclectic mixture of bluegrass (Arizona, Penny's Banjo), Texas-style fiddling (Beaumont Rag), Gypsy fiddling (Katelyn Grey), folk pop (Cowboy Man), and classic country (Crazy, Tennessee Waltz, Cowboy's Sweetheart). Of course, this band also believes in God, and they present both traditional and original spiritually-tinged gospel music (Stars in my Crown, Knock, Keep A Watch). Sweet Potato Pie's music comes across as both unpretentious and affable on this appealing debut project. I think they would be particularly entertaining live at regional fairs and festivals where we can appreciate their singularly impressive talents that have now been channeled into a tastefully sweet bluegrass mélange. The group is sponsored by the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, and that organization's mascot (Spencer Sweet Potato) will be at many of their gigs along with some mouth watering pies! Besides being wives, moms, teachers and business women, members of Sweet Potato Pie can also proudly declare that they are solid bluegrass musicians. (Joe Ross)

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Sweet Potato Pie's New Album – Journey Called Life

(By Al Shusterman, KCBL Radio, Backroads Bluegrass, Sacramento, CA)

Its been quite some time since I heard from this dynamic band. This project starts off very quickly with My Lord What a Morning sung acappella. This gives the listener a hint of what is in store for the next 45 minutes. Sweet Potato Pie definitely gives their all in creating a "one of a kind" project. This band attacks each & every song & takes you into their "special place". As listeners we may be lucky enough to go along for a ride with them. Their harmony's are to die for!! Pulling off a successful gospel project is difficult, but this band does it with ease. I found that as I played each song, I was eagerly looking forward to the next one on the project. My listeners loved everything about this project. I played the entire cd & each & every song was requested to be played again. I hope I don't wear this cd out.

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Sweet Potato Pie's New Album – Brand New Day

(By Mark Hodges, Mountain Fever Records)

Brand New Day is the fifth release from the group and while their music is presented with the typical instruments found in a 4-piece bluegrass ensemble, Sweet Potato Pie has elected to include a few more country-tinged songs for this project. "Quite honestly, we are all fans of the older country music," explained Sonya Stead. "We started realizing that our kids had never heard of some of the music that we grew up listening to such as Tanya Tucker, Randy Travis and even Ernest Tubb, so we thought it was about time we introduce them to the great songs that we've loved for so long and maybe put our own 'sweet-grass' style to it." As a result, Brand New Day offers several songs that were first made popular by artists such as Tanya Tucker ("Delta Dawn"), The Judds ("Rockin' With The Rhythm Of The Rain") and Ernest Tubb ("Walking The Floor"). Even so, no Sweet Potato Pie record would be complete without a generous helping of new music and this project offers six original songs; three from the pen of Sonya Stead, one from Crystal Richardson and two written by former Pie band member, Missy Pyne. Mountain Fever Records executive Mark Hodges could not be more pleased with the project. "When the ladies arrived at our studios to start recording this project, they were motivated, prepared, and just shined when the red light came on. We are thrilled to present Brand New Day to bluegrass and traditional country music fans alike."