The Freight Hoppers’ music is built on the energetic interplay of fiddle and banjo. For over 25 years, audiences throughout the band’s home state of North Carolina, coast to coast of the US, and throughout Europe have been tapping their feet to the emotional, raw excitement of The Freight Hoppers’ archaic-yet-avant-guarde tunes. The band released two albums on Rounder Records, Waiting on the Gravy Train (1998) and Where’d You Come From, Where’d You Go (1996), followed by Mile Marker on BakeTone records (2010).
Frank Lee (clawhammer banjo, vocals) and David Bass (fiddle) are founding members with unreplicable musical chemistry. Happy Traum, founder of Homespun Publishing, writes that “Frank Lee, of the sensational old time band The Freight Hoppers, has one of the strongest banjo sounds around. His clawhammer frailing style locks in tight with David Bass's fiddle, sometimes doubling the melody and other times providing an exciting counterpoint to it.” Allie Lee (guitar, vocals) and Amanda Kowalski (upright bass) keep up the beat.
The Freight Hoppers started sharing their music four times a day, seven days a week at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad shortly after forming in 1992. Their repertoire includes music that was first recorded in the late 1920's and early 1930's and spans geographically from Mississippi to West Virginia. The Freight Hoppers draw from a deep source of rural Southern music for their inspiration, and they believe that this music is still meaningful today.
Pickathon writes, “The Freight Hoppers are true-blue old time revivalists. No other group has amassed as much recognition, or stood the true test of ‘old’ time. While many others over the past 20 years have come and gone, The Freight Hoppers have managed to keep the spark alive (with some breaks here and there). Frank Lee and David Bass are treasures of knowledge with the old time banjo and fiddle that will be certain to bring down the barn in a mass of flames."
David Bass is one of those rare musicians who can play the fiddle and do flatfoot dancing at the same time, and do both well. As a founding member of The Freight Hoppers, and as a legend in his own right among today’s young old time fiddlers, Bass has had a lot to do with old time music’s steadily ascending popularity with young music listeners around the country.
Bass won first place in old time fiddle at the Mt. Airy Fiddlers’ Convention in 1997 and again in 2006.
banjo + vocals
Frank Lee grew up in rural Georgia hearing fiddle and banjo music, both his grandfathers were banjo players. After playing bluegrass as a teenager, he moved to western North Carolina and started playing old time frailing styles. Since 1991 his rhythmic, percussive style has been a driving force behind the Freight Hoppers. Frank also performs with wife Allie as a duo.
guitar + vocals
Allie (Burbrink) Lee is a guitar and banjo player, bluegrass and old time musician, and former 7th grade English teacher. As a founding member of the Indiana-based band The Whipstitch Sallies for several years, she sang lead and harmony, wrote songs, and played guitar, clawhammer banjo, and harmonica. Allie now performs with husband Frank in a duo. She also teaches and does promotional work for the Wernick Method. Allie is the contact person for booking Frank & Allie as well as The Freight Hoppers.
A native of West Virginia, Amanda Kowalski has schlepped her bass in old time and bluegrass bands Della Mae, Uncle Earl, and more. In 2005 Amanda retired from the music business and moved to Portland, Maine, to be a freelance photographer. Her work has appeared in numerous popular media outlets.
Amanda enjoys collaborating with scientists and fellow documentarians to produce film and multimedia pieces. She comes out of retirement to schlep her bass with New England bands and The Freight Hoppers.