bluegrass and traditional countryWinchester, Virginia
With a powerhouse voice and remarkable range, Linda Lay is, hands down, one of the best singers in grassroots bluegrass and country music. She leads an exceptional ensemble of award-winning musicians in Springfield Exit. The core trio of Linda, her husband David Lay, and multi-instrumentalist David McLaughlin formed nearly two decades ago, joining their varied experiences and creating a feel of their very own, combining elements of bluegrass and country with sounds stemming from their Appalachian roots.
Linda Clayman Lay hails from Clayman Valley, a tiny community named after her family outside of Bristol, Tennessee. She grew up surrounded by music in a family that treasured songs, from old-time and bluegrass to gospel and traditional country. Her father, mandolinist Jack Clayman, formed a family band that he took to informal community gatherings to jam and perform with local musicians. Linda spent many a Saturday at the Carter Family Fold, a barn-like performing space at the Carter home place at Hiltons in Scott County, just west of Clayman Valley. Here she got to know Jeanette and Joe Carter, son and daughter of A.P. and Sara Carter of the original Carter Family. Linda enjoyed going to the Fold to flatfoot dance, but her father soon had her performing on guitar, and she later learned bass from the local fiddling barber, Gene Boyd.
Linda later founded and led Appalachian Trail, an innovative bluegrass band that performed for more than 20 years. In Appalachian Trail, she found her voice, becoming not just the band’s lead singer but one of the most beloved singers in bluegrass. During her years with Appalachian Trail, she met the gifted guitar player and singer—and her future husband—David Lay.
A preacher’s son, David Lay grew up in the coalfields of Virginia, and in the small towns of northeastern Tennessee. Along with working as everything from a plumber to an electrician and keeping up his own vegetable garden in Tennessee’s Goshen Valley, David has also always been a musician. He began singing in church at an extremely young age and soon developed a keen ear for the traditional music of the region. Before meeting Linda, David played bass for a gospel group. It was only after the two met that David picked up a guitar for the first time and quickly became an accomplished player. He rounds out the group’s sound with his rock-solid rhythm guitar, and spends most of his other time farming.
After putting their stamp on several of Cracker Barrel’s Heritage Series CDs in the early 2000s—a series curated by the National Council for the Traditional Arts—Linda and David began performing frequently with the brilliant mandolinist David McLaughlin, creating the core of what became Springfield Exit. Best known for his signature mandolin playing and harmony singing with the Johnson Mountain Boys—a 2020 inductee into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame—McLaughlin appeared on eight of their albums, two of which were Grammy finalists. Numerous session credits include his work with Appalachian singer and National Heritage Fellow Hazel Dickens and his duo recording as Crowe & McLaughlin.
Springfield Exit’s current line-up is completed by Darren Beachley on Dobro and Troy Engle on banjo. Darren sang tenor vocals with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver from 2005-2009, when the group was busy winning IBMA Vocal Group of the Year seven consecutive years. Troy has played everywhere from the Grand Ole Opry to festivals all across North America, with artists including Patty Loveless, Larry Sparks, The Isaacs, and Buddy Jewell.