AJ Lee and Blue Summit made their first appearance in Santa Cruz in 2015. Led by singer, songwriter, and mandolinist, AJ Lee, the bluegrass band has performed all over the world, but finds home in California’s Bay Area. In 2019, they released their debut album, Like I Used To. Their second full length project, I’ll Come Back, came out August 2021 – with national touring in support of the record ongoing.
Unlike their first record, which featured experimentation with session musicians and electric instruments, the new project is a pure reflection of the live sound of the group, hearkening back to their acoustic roots. Each band member performs at their peak, and the variety of songs on the record caters to their broad fan base. Certain tracks (“Put Your Head Down,” and “Faithful,”) fall more in the classic bluegrass realm of songwriting, while others (“Lemons and Tangerines,” and “I’ll Come Back,”) fall into that hard-to-define realm of acoustic Americana that blends mesmerizing lyricism and acoustic mastery.
Although falling loosely under the bluegrass label, AJLBS generally plays sans banjo, with Sullivan Tuttle and Scott Gates on steel stringed acoustic guitars, AJ on mandolin, Jan Purat on fiddle, and Chad Bowen on upright bass – a configuration effectively used to create unique space and texture in the arrangements not as commonly found in the music of their peers. Drawing from influences such as country, soul, swing, rock, and jam music, the band uses the lens of bluegrass as a vessel through which to express and explore the thread that binds and unifies all great music.
AJ Lee, lead vocals, mandolin
Scott Gates, guitar
Sullivan Tuttle, guitar
Chad Bowen, bass
Jan Purat, fiddle
Awards & Honors:
NCBS Best Female Vocalist (2020, Nine-Time Winner)
Winfield National Flatpicking Contest, 2nd Place (2019)
Freshgrass Band Contest Winner (2019)
NCBS Best Bluegrass Band (2020)
NCBS Best Mandolin Player (2020)
NCBS Best Guitar Player (2020)
IBMA Momentum Vocalist of the Year (2019)
“AJ Lee & Blue Summit return home and look to new horizons on ‘I’ll Come Back’”. San Francisco Chronicle, 18 Nov. 2021, https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/music/aj-lee-blue-summit-return-home-and-look-to-new-horizons-on-ill-come-back
“Track Premiere: When You Change Your Mind from AJ Lee”, Bluegrass Today, 5 Aug., https://bluegrasstoday.com/track-premiere-when-you-change-your-mind-from-aj-lee/
“LISTEN: AJ LEE & BLUE SUMMIT, “MONONGAH MINE”, Bluegrass Situation, https://thebluegrasssituation.com/read/listen-aj-lee-blue-summit-monongah-mine/
“Could This Kid Be the Next Allison Krauss?” Mother Jones magazine asked about AJ Lee — and for good reason. She has won the Northern California Bluegrass Society’s (NCBS) Best Female Vocalist award nine times by age 21! Popular Webzine Californiality called AJ “California’s Hottest Singer” because of her jaw-droppingly beautiful voice. AJ began singing and performing on stage at the astonishing age of five. By twelve, she began writing her own songs and showcasing them nation-wide. She has traveled with many bands, including “The Tuttles with AJ Lee,” which was featured at numerous festivals across the U.S. and beyond. She is a fantastic mandolinist and songwriter with a gorgeous voice. Ms. Lee is excited to share Blue Summit’s latest album consisting of all original material.