Rich Howells

Beloved Scranton bluegrass band Coal Town Rounders has broken up

Beloved Scranton bluegrass band Coal Town Rounders has broken up
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Enjoying the sound of one band or another may depend on taste, but anyone who saw the Coal Town Rounders perform over the last few years seemed to universally love the bluegrass quartet from Scranton, bringing audiences young and old back to a simpler time as they harmonized around one old fashioned radio microphone with a wooden post bearing their very local name.

Playing both traditional and original songs written and performed in the classic Appalachian style, they won over bluegrass, country, and blues audiences across Northeastern Pennsylvania and made many new listeners instant fans of a genre they may have never given a chance otherwise, so it hit local music fans hard when the band announced on Wednesday that they would be breaking up.

In a message posted on their website and Facebook page on Nov. 2, the Coal Town Rounders thanked everyone for their support while remaining vague on exactly why they were calling it quits:

It is with a heavy heart that we deliver this news – we will no longer be performing together as Coal Town Rounders. We would like to express our sincerest thanks to everyone who has supported us over the years. To anyone who has said a kind word, taken a chance on us, invested in us, sang or jammed with us, offered a firm handshake or a warm hug – thank you. We have played some great gigs, both small and large, and met tons of kind, strange, and wonderful people along the way. Thank you for giving us this experience.

Around 150 Facebook commenters so far have posted their sad reactions and happy memories of seeing the group’s undeniably engaging live shows at festivals, bars, theaters, outdoor events like Arts on the Square, and countless other events. It seemed that they were always playing out somewhere, but they found the time to record two albums – an EP of traditional bluegrass songs, “Numero Uno,” in 2013 and their debut full-length record, “How It Used to Be,” in 2015, which features eight original tracks and two traditionals recorded live at home. Full of personality and beautiful storytelling, their tunes modernized Americana while staying true to its blue collar roots.

The band played both the Susquehanna Breakdown and Peach Music Festival at The Pavilion at Montage Mountain in Scranton and performed at countless music festivals across the Northeast and Midwest, even opening for national acts like Emmylou Harris, The Lumineers, Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Grascals, and The Roys. Many of their sets from over the years can be streamed or downloaded for free from, the most recent being the 2016 Susquehanna Breakdown:

With each member being versatile and talented, the Coal Town Rounders – Christopher Kearney, Matthew Hiller, Ian O’Hara, and Jason Zarnowski – will likely be making music in other forms, so we’ll keep an ear out for these good ol’ boys in the future.

For now, listen to our funny and in-depth interview with them in Episode 27 of NEPA Scene Podcast, recorded last year just after “How It Used to Be” was released. Covering everything from booking weird festivals to the history of bluegrass and its universal appeal to purchasing a five-foot-long cat painting, it captures their personalities well and reminds us of “how it used to be:”

Photo by Cristin Powers Photography