The World Famous Grassholes on stage. Photo by Gail Pfeifle

“What we’re trying to do is exist in this genre and find something new in it,” said Sam Pfeifle, one of the guitarists and singers of New Gloucester-based bluegrass act The World Famous Grassholes.

With the band’s new album, “Gently Used” (released April 13), Pfeifle and company have done just that with the nine tracks that feature originals, traditional tunes and a Harry Styles cover.

The rest of the band is Heather Kahill on fiddle, Merrill Marsh on guitar, Flann O’Brien on the stand-up bass, and Field Rider on banjo and harmonica. All of them pitch in with vocals.

“Gently Used,” the band’s fifth studio album, kicks off with the original tune “Colorado.” Pfeifle sings lead and his bandmates harmonize throughout the breezy track about picking up and leaving for other parts of the country. Kahill’s fiddle dances, and you can hear the smile that Rider surely had on his face playing the banjo. There’s an old-timey sentiment to the track, but it’s fresh rather than cliche.

“Gently Used” album cover by The World Famous Grassholes. Design by Mike Fink

Rider’s banjo acumen continues with the instrumental traditional tune “Salt Creek.” Pfeifle said that there are hundreds of versions of the song, and he became familiar via the Doc Watson one. “Everybody has a different little take on the melody, but they’re all playing the same song, so you feel like you’re in this sort of continuation of history and I feel a connection to all those musicians.”

Merrill takes lead on “Wolf’s a Knockin'” a toe tappin’ knee-slapper of a song. I can hear this one pouring out onto the street from a roadhouse, when folks have had a bit too much bourbon and sloppy punches are being thrown while a lone couple cuts the rug on a peanut shell-covered floor and the band is ducking for cover, lest a stray bottle nick them. What a fun, catchy song!


It’s Pfeifle again on “Walk Right Out,” a live wire of a song about a fella’s longing for a woman with a gingham dress that has his heart.

“There is a Time” has a retro western TV show theme song vibe to it, like the one for “Rawhide” and others of that ilk. O’Brien’s vocals have a smoky density to them that lends themselves to old country.

And then there’s the cover of the Harry Styles hit “Watermelon Sugar.” What the what? A Harry Styles cover on a bluegrass album? Not unlike Pfeifle’s bandmates, I was unfamiliar with the song, but after listening to the original, I’ll admit it: It’s a banger, and it was all I could do not to stand up and do some kind of interpretive dance, but since I was at my workplace, I thought better of that idea (though honestly, no one in the newsroom would have been surprised).

With a raised eyebrow, I hit play on The World Famous Grassholes’ version of it. It took 20 seconds for me to get on board. Pfeifle almost howls his way through the song as a small cyclone of instruments swirls about. There’s a long musical interlude that’s an absolute blast to listen to. Two thumbs up!

I asked Pfeifle, who is a huge fan of pop music, to spill the tea on how the band wound up recording it. He jokingly said he bullied them into it, then unpacked the rest of the story. Pfeifle first heard it when Styles performed during the 2021 COVID-era Grammys.

“It’s a full band treatment with horns and three backup singers, and I just fell in love with that song,” he said.


When he dove into learning it, Pfeifle realized something: “It’s such a bluegrass song, just four chords over and over again.”

Once they started playing it live, the band came to understand how well loved it is. “They just didn’t get it, that’s one of my favorite things about it,” quipped Pfeifle. At a recent show at One Longfellow Square, Pfeifle said some female fans in the front row screamed their heads off when they started playing “Watermelon Sugar.”

“Gently Used” was produced by Jonathan Wyman at Halo Studio in Westbrook. Chris “C$” Burns handled the mastering, and both played key roles.

“We just want it to sound like you’re in the room with us, and Jon is really good at doing that.” Pfeifle added that, if you listen to the album with good headphones, you’ll pick up another element that Wyman had a hand in. “There’s a geography to it, you can tell where we’re standing, which is really special for us.”

Pfeifle gave Burns some old songs from Chet Atkins and the Country Gentleman in the hopes of “Gently Used” sounding similar. “He really took that and added this sort of vintage sound to it that I really like.”

Pfeifle’s entryway into bluegrass was by way of Jerry Garcia. A huge deadhead in college, Pfeifle has a 1975 album called “Old & In The Way” featuring Garcia, with bluegrass greats David Grisman and Vassar Clements. His love for the genre followed. “I just love the authenticity of it, you can always hear every instrument, and there’s no studio trickery or anything.”

The next gig for The World Famous Grassholes is during the Sandy River Music Festival on Memorial Day weekend at the Narrow Gauge Amphitheater in Farmington. To purchase the album, go to

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