Benton Brothers perform at Shakespeare Event

Published 6:18 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Several years ago, the Benton Brothers, Alex and Lee of the Banks community, began picking and singing for their ailing grandmother. Then, they performed“in front of” the residents at Troy Health and Rehabilitation Center.

In time, their brand of bluegrass and gospel music began to be noticed all round the county and they were invited to sing at different gatherings – churches, reunions and small festivals.

As the featured band at the We Piddle Around Theater in Brundidge, the brothers have picked up quite a following.

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And, in April while they were doing a little promotional picking for the theater at the Alabama Book Festival at Old Alabama Town in Montgomery, they caught the ear of Meg Lewis, director of marketing at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery.

Lewis said she was impressed with the talented young men and thought their style of music would be a good fit for the upcoming Southern Writers Project, an event that gives modern-day storytellers a chance to develop their stories by working with actors, directors, dramaturges and an audience.

The Benton Brothers said they were honored to get a call from Lewis inviting them to play for the reception for the cast of “Twenty Seven” after its performance last Friday.

“Twenty Seven” was based on William Faulkner’s novella, “Old Man.” The play tells the story of an inmate who is entrusted to pilot a small raft to search for victims during a massive Mississippi River Flood.

“We play bluegrass and gospel music and that’s the kind of music that fit with what they called the ‘Big Muddy,’” Alex said. “Our bass player, Tim Ellis, played with us. There were several producers there and that was the first time that we were videoed by professionals.”

The brothers said performing at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival venue was “a whole new experience” for them.

“It was different from anywhere else that we have played,” Lee said. “It was big and fancy. We were kind of nervous at first but, after we started to play, we settled down. We really appreciate them asking us to play. It was a lot of fun and we had good time. Hopefully, it opened doors for us to do more things like that.”

The Southern Writers Project May 13-15 was titled “Stories of the Soil” and offered three compelling plays, “Twenty Seven,” “Double Time” by John Walch and “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol” written by John Longenbaugh.