Taking The High Road

High Road IIIIf there is anyone in this country that hasn’t heard High Road III I suggest you run, not walk to your nearest digital media and play some of their music. A combination of Bluegrass, Country, Gospel and Appalachian mountain music, this female trio will speak to your heart and squeeze every drop of passion from your soul. The live instrumentation and honed vocals of Sarah Davison, Anna Grace Kimbrough and Kiley Phillips have allowed them to share the stage with The Martins and Jason Crabb, taken them to the main stage at the 2013 National Quartet Convention and brought them to the notice of Ben Isaacs who produced their latest album. Look for High Road III and their latest release, Angel At The Crossroads to start hitting charts and award nomination lists this year.

Sarah, Kiley and Anna Grace are all graduates of Belmont University’s School of Music and reside in Nashville, Kentucky. They sing everything from Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” to Kari Jobe’s “Revelation Song” with ease, taking the melody from low and thoughtful to high and crying accompanied by violin, piano, guitar, drums and even stand-up bass.

High Road. Angel CD CoverHigh Road III has been gaining fans in the industry as well as in their listening audience. Jonathan Edwards of SGN Scoops Radio says, “They are sweethearts and very talented. In fact, they have the most musical talent I have seen in any group in a long time.” Lottie Squires of WCKB 780 shares, “I’ve seen them on a couple of showcases at NQC, and met them briefly…they’re amazing musicians and singers!”

Over the past year, the trio has sung with another well-known trio, The Martins. Jonathan Martin says he and sisters Judy and Joyce thoroughly enjoy singing with these ladies. “The Martins love High Road III! We have shared the stage with these girls and their talent and musicianship is outstanding! Add that to their sweet spirits and love for Jesus and you can’t help but love them.”

The heart of High Road III is in sharing the gospel through their music, as Anna Grace explains. “My love is to be able to relate to the audience when I sing or speak; not for my sake, but for the sake of Christ. There were and are still so many times in my life when I need someone to encourage me and lift my spirits. God has brought and continues to bring those people into my life, and through them He shows and reminds me just how precious I am to Him. My goal is to show His love and compassion to those who I come across just as I have been shown love and compassion.”

“Angel At The Crossroads,” the title song of High Road III’s latest album is all about how God intervenes in our lives in different ways through His love and compassion. “It is a beautifully written song that captures the thoughts of someone who is at a crossroads in their life and God provides someone to steer them in the right direction,” says Sarah. “I think we have all had angels at the crossroads at some point in our lives.”

One of the people God brought to the lives of this trio was Ben Isaacs, producer of Angel. “Working with Ben Isaacs for the first time was a dream come true,” says Sarah. “All of us have listened to the Isaacs sound and absolutely love them. To have Bill (Gaither) sing on our project was a huge honor for us; what a wonderful and genuine man he is! This project is honestly exactly what we sound like. We played all of our own instruments and sang just like we do in a concert, and I love that aspect of this project. It just sounds real.”

“Ben Isaacs and Mark Capps worked very hard on our latest project, and I feel above all else, we gained two new, great friends,” says Kiley. “They are so humble and down-to-earth; not to mention absolutely hilarious. We had a blast working with them. I think we all would like to work with the Gaither crew in the future. Bill Gaither was sweet enough to sing a bass part on a track called “When God Dips His Pen of Love” on our new album. What an amazing honor! We hope to work more with them in the future.”

Anna Grace has enjoyed working with a lot of artists during the past year. “I got the pleasure of being able to play fiddle behind Karen Peck and New River last year at a Bluegrass Showcase during the NQC week, and just loved every moment with the players, including Ben Isaacs, Sonya Isaacs and Ben Rochester, among others. All of those folks were really sweet, and I loved Karen as well. Ben Isaacs has been so great to work with on our last project, and I was so blown away by how much he cared about our sound and about us doing the very best that we could. I felt like I was a better player and singer having been under his direction as a producer.” As she looks into the future, Anna Grace adds, “This is a huge dream, but I would love to work with someone like Dolly Parton or Alison Krauss. I know that they both demand a lot of themselves musically, and I know that I could learn so much from them about how to be a better musician.”

High Road III is already full of talented musicians. Kiley Phillips plays the acoustic guitar and sings the high harmony, though she says they all share the lead vocals from time to time. “My favorite song to sing live is ‘Redeemer’ because it’s such a powerful song and has an unfailing message; that our Redeemer lives.  I love singing this song because it gets such an amazing response from people all over the States. People are familiar with the song and can really worship along with it.”

High Road.Barn editSarah Davison is the trio’s pianist and sings both lead and harmony. “I love singing ‘Walk Beside Me’ the most for our live concerts because it has such a powerful message and musically it just speaks to me!”

Alto singer Anna Grace Kimbrough says, “The instrument I have been playing for 22 years is the fiddle. My favorite song to sing right now is “My Savior’s Love”. The words of that hymn are so powerful and remind me that my works don’t get me closer to Christ. I have the ability, through faith in Jesus Christ, to draw closer to Him because of what He did on the Cross for me.”

High Road III has been traveling more and more as their fan base grows, and they each have their own favorite place to sing. “My favorite place to sing would probably be at my home church, Scott Avenue Christian Church in Newton, IL,” says Kiley. “I grew up singing as much as I could in that church, and the people there are truly amazing. High Road has played there a couple times within the last few years, and I can truly say that the Holy Spirit showed up each time we played there. Along with an incredibly moving worship service, I have personally never felt so supported and loved as I do in that church.  My parents and much of my family are very involved in the church, and I can whole-heartedly say that the members of SACC support me like family.” Kiley adds, “My ultimate venue would probably have to be the Grand Ole Opry. There’s just something so special about that place, to have the honor of standing on that stage where so many greats have stood – that’s something special.”

Sarah shares, “My favorite place to sing would be in the park in my hometown of Braddyville, Iowa. I grew up singing there on Saturday nights with my dad. My ultimate dream is to perform on the Opry stage though!”

“I would say my favorite place to play is the living room of my parents house in South-West Mississippi,” says Anna Grace. “It might sound crazy, but some of my favorite musical moments happened there. My earliest memories of sharing music with family and friends started in that living room. My most frustrating practice days on the violin happened in that living room as well. There is something pretty special and sacred about that space that I can’t describe, but I feel alive musically every time I step into that room.”

Each of the ladies has a special memory of sharing music with family and friends. Sarah says, “I was four when I started singing and playing one-finger melodies on the piano by ear with my dad. Long story short, I wanted to make music my career and after graduating from Belmont University I had a couple of different jobs in the country music world. My first job was working in artist management for George Strait and Lee Ann Womack. It was awesome getting that experience and soon I worked at a publishing company on Music Row. Still, there was something that made me want to pursue Gospel music more and more and I now realize that it was God calling me to do it! Anna Grace and I met and became friends and started playing music at our home churches. Kiley came and joined the group two years ago and the rest is history!”

“I have been playing piano for as long as I can remember,” says Anna Grace, “and started the violin when I was five. I’m sure I’ve been singing just about as long. My love for hymns sparked the desire to sing and play Christian music. It has always been a love of mine from an early age. I have grown up playing lots of different genres of music and they all were for the same reason. Any time I played for a group of people, whether it was Christian or secular, I imagined that I was singing or playing to Jesus. So, whether I play and sing gospel, country, bluegrass, or folk, my goal is always to do it for the glory of God.”

Kiley shares, “My grandma swears that I started singing at the same time that I started speaking.  She says that I would be with her shopping as a very little girl and she wouldn’t even notice there was music playing in the store until I started singing along with every word.  My dad used to just put music on in our living room and my sister and I would dance and sing around the house for hours.  That’s cheap entertainment, right there!”

From the past to the present, family has always been an integral part of High Road III.

Kiley agrees, “My family is a major part of my life. My parents are some of the best you’ll ever find.  They are so helpful and so supportive in everything I do.  They will drive or fly all over the country for my sister and I.  My mom and dad have come on the road with us to help out with anything and everything a few times, and we have an absolute blast!  They are our biggest fans!”

Sarah says, “For me, growing up playing music with my dad was a huge blessing. His family and my mom’s family are all musically inclined and really encouraged me to pursue whatever it was that God was calling me to do and I am really grateful that they are behind High Road III all the way!”

Anna Grace is the only married lady in the trio. She says, “Family is super important. My parents and siblings played a massive part in encouraging me to do music as a career. They were there when High Road first got its start and have continued to be my cheerleaders. Nathan, my husband, now plays a massive role in our ministry. He keeps me sane, all the while remaining an incredibly supportive and Godly influence in my life. He continually points me to Christ. I am super grateful and incredibly blessed to be his wife.”

This trio is almost like family themselves, as they love the time they spend together on the road. “We have all become so close, with way too many inside jokes, and sometimes way too much coffee or Mountain Dew,” says Kiley. “We laugh our heads off and love every minute of it! We most often travel with the three of us girls; Stephen Wilder, our bass player, and then with either Betsy Cothron, a sweet high school student from Sarah’s church who helps us mostly with merchandise sales, Amanda Combs, our friend and intern from Belmont University who helps us so much, or Nathan, Anna Grace’s husband, who is such a huge help.”

“We definitely love to have fun on the road,” says Sarah. “We usually have throwback nights if we are driving late; it keeps everyone awake and laughing. We play songs from way back when and just have a good time singing along.”

The group has stayed in a lot of different places. “Personally, my favorite place we’ve stayed was on the beach in Florida,” says Kiley. “Fresh seafood on the beach?  I mean, what’s better than that?!” She adds, “We usually have no problem deciding where to eat, no fights about that. Mexican is definitely a frequent decision.”

“Oh man, I love, love, love it when we go to the beach!” says Anna Grace. “We’ve been able to play several times down by the Gulf Shores in Alabama, and in Florida. The beach never gets old, and I love being able to soak up the sun and ride around on the water. We stayed one time in a condo right on the beach, and that was the best! I loved being able to walk out on the patio and just listen to the water, and smell the ocean.” She adds, “My favorite place to eat out on the road would have to be in Lancaster County, PA. I ate the best Philly Cheese Steak sandwich I had ever put in my mouth at Stoltzfus Meats. I would not have any problems going back for another one. When it comes to food, we can all pretty much agree on what we like to eat. When it comes to food, we all seem to dig the same kind of grub, which is pretty wonderful.”

High Road.Sitting editOther than food and the beach, the ladies’ love of family is another unifying trait. “My parents would have to be my greatest inspiration,” says Kiley. “They have sacrificed and worked so hard for both my sister and I. Their love is so strong and unconditional. I’m learning that parenting never ends, and for that, I’m so thankful.”

Sarah adds, “My inspiration is my family for sure. Also, my musical inspirations include Patty Loveless and Pig Robbins.”

“I have a number of people who have inspired me to play music, and one of the most important people who did that was my Mother,” says Anna Grace. “She was the one who helped nurture and grow my love for all kinds of music and even helped me realize that I could write music. She always gave me the impression that there were no musical boundaries, and that I could play or write anything if I set my mind and dedication to it.”

First and foremost, it seems that the main tie that binds the hearts of these ladies is their love for Jesus and their desire to see Him lifted high. Sarah says that is the main message they hope to leave their audience. “I think our group as a whole strives to make sure everyone who attends one of our concerts leaves with the message that Christ loves them so much that He gave His all.” Kiley agrees, “I’d say my main goal would be for people in the audience to know that they are loved, no matter who they are, no matter where they are in life, no matter what they’ve done or will do in the future. They are loved by a God who loves unconditionally and they are loved by the three of us.”

“I want the audience to remember Jesus,” says Anna Grace. “They don’t even have to remember our names or our faces, but as long as they had an encounter with the Creator of the Universe, my job is done.”

The ladies of High Road III have a bright future ahead as they write, sing and play some of the loveliest music this side of Heaven. Look for this trio as they come to a stage near you and expect to have an ‘encounter with the Creator of the Universe’.

For more information on High Road III visit http://www.highroadmusic.com/

First published May 2014 in SGN Scoops digital magazine. For the current magazine, click on to http://www.sgnscoops.com/2014/06/14/june-2014-sgnscoops-magazine/

Written by Lorraine Walker