SPRING LAKE — When Russell Moore launched his band IIIrd Tyme Out in 1991, it was for no other purpose than to create the best bluegrass music he could.
He hoped, but never seriously considered, that the band would achieve the kind of robust success it continues to enjoy 17 years later.
For Moore, that in itself is an affirmation that his musical instincts were right.
"If you're playing the music you love to make, people will know it and appreciate it," Moore said this week from his home in Cumming, Ga. "Good music is good music. That's all we've ever tried to do."
Indeed, the quintet, which headlines Saturday at the Sertoma Youth Ranch's Spring Bluegrass Festival, has earned its share of accolades from fans and peers alike. With its hallmark vocal sound as its centerpiece, the band has earned a reputation for blending traditional and contemporary elements into a seamless style that appeals to a broad base of bluegrass fans.
Moore, the guitarist and lead vocalist for the band, says it's like having your cake and eating it, too.
"We've established ourselves as a band that can be lots of things to lots of people," he said. "If you take a look at our audiences, you'll find hard-core bluegrass fans as well as younger ones, too. That's something that's pretty rare in our music."
Moore credits former band boss Doyle Lawson with helping to shape his concept of what a top-notch band should sound like. Lawson, who during the 1980s single-handedly transformed bluegrass harmony into a vocal showcase, was a taskmaster dedicated to perfection, a trait that stuck with Moore.
"His attention to every detail in his music impressed me," Moore said. "I learned a lot about the business from him."
The original IIIrd Tyme Out lineup, which included Moore and two other members of Lawson's band, had an auspicious beginning. The band's debut effort for Rebel Records served notice that it wasn't all hype. A single from the album Erase the Miles topped the bluegrass charts, and Miles itself garnered an Album of the Year nomination from the International Bluegrass Music Association.
Since then, the band has earned dozens of industry accolades, including seven straight Vocal Group of the Year awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association. Though the band's soaring harmonies have become its hallmark, Moore says that finding the right instrumental talent is equally important.
"That's particularly true if you want your sound to grow and evolve," Moore said. "I want the musicians in the band to be a big part of that, to be comfortable to know that they aren't going to be pigeonholed."
Moore says the current IIrd Tyme Out lineup, which includes longtime banjo player Steve Dilling, Justen Haynes (fiddle), Wayne Benson (mandolin) and Edgar Loudermilk (bass), has coalesced into a musically adventurous unit. He expects the band to head into the studio this fall to record its first album in four years.
After a fairly quiet winter, Moore says he's looking forward to an active bluegrass festival season this summer, with visits to several areas the band hasn't played in for a while.
"Florida is one of them," he said. "We got a lot of fans down there we haven't seen in a long time. It'll be good to get back there again."
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.