When English folk song collector Cecil Sharp came hunting for ballads in the early 1900s, he struck gold in Madison County. That corner of Western North Carolina has remained a motherlode for traditional singers, storytellers and pickers, and Josh Goforth is living proof. The young multi-instrumentalist is, in the words of producer Hugh Sturgill, “a super star in waiting. He shows the same promise I saw in Ricky Skaggs, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas and Vince Gill in the 70s.”
Josh seems to have been born musical, playing piano in church at the age of four, but a performance at his middle school by David Holt and Sheila Kay Adams got him thinking about his Madison County musical heritage. Over the next few years he learned to play ten instruments by ear, absorbing tunes and styles from local traditional music masters. He got his formal musical education at East Tennesse State University, where he was part school’s renowned Bluegrass and Country Music Program. His talents were quickly recognized, and in 2000 he appeared as a fiddler in the movie Songcatcher. He’s a three time winner at the Fiddler’s Grove festival, becoming the youngest ever to earn that distinction as well as the title “Master Fiddler”. He’s gone on to concertize in the U.S., Europe and Asia. In addition to his solo work, Goforth is also a member of David Holt and the Lightning Bolts and bluegrass band Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road.
Although his fiddling brought him early acclaim, Josh Goforth’s guitar work is equally impressive in both flat picking and fingerpicking mode, and he’s apt to pick up and perform with authority on just about anything with strings. He’s said that one of the main goals of his career is to get young people interested in traditional music. “In all the years I’ve been playing traditional and old-time music, I’ve always said that if people could really see and hear it live they’d fall in love with it.” When it’s played by Josh Goforth, that’s practically guaranteed.