Jane Bernier, guitar
Jane began singing at a very young age french songs and jigs and reels with her family. She was often singled out as a soloist for banquets and church functions. Her parents purchased her first Yamaha guitar when she was in 7th grade to her delight. She took pride in singing in church choirs, folk groups and choral in school. She joined a contemporary rock band in 1978 as lead singer. Jane spent many subsequent years playing in colleges, nightclubs and private functions with Odyssey, Illusion, Montana, and Jump Start. She was influenced primarily by the sweet voice of Emmy Lou Harris, strong vocals of Linda Ronstadt and haunting ballads of Karla Bonoff along with the rockers like Bonnie Raiit, Fleetwood Mac and The Pretenders.
Throughout her tenure as a rock and country musician, she maintained her love for folk and unplugged music. In 2000, she attended her first bluegrass festival and had the privilege of picking and singing with a headliner band from Kentucky. It was then that the bluegrass bug hit her. The similarities to jigs and reels of old and the harmonies really captured her attention, leading her down the path to listening intently and learning from the greats. She went on to join The Nitpickers as singer and instrumentalist and now moves forward in Back Woods Road.
Shawna Bell, bass
Shawna has always been enamored with music and at a very young age began singing and playing, teaching herself to play guitar. She came from bluegrass/country roots where her taste in music was greatly influenced by her grandmother. It was very common to hear Patsy Cline on the radio and she’d try to pick it out and learn to play and perfect it on guitar. With a strong driving voice that can melt your heart in a beautiful ballad or can rock you with some grit, Shawna was taught to play bass and introduced into the band life joining her first bluegrass band Breakin Strings, and subsequently Phat Grass. Success was theirs and she knew from that point that playing music was and is her passion. She moved on from there to a whole new style playing Rockabilly and derived great pleasure from that also. This project with Back Woods Road will bring out her musical talents in any genre.
Mike Conant, banjo
Mike learned to play guitar from his mother at a young age. In the sixth grade he performed ‘Tom Dooley’ with a couple of violinist classmates. Intrigued by the violin, he joined the school orchestra, and played in several different school ensembles over the next half dozen years. He played and sang in churches. In 1999, while attending his first Bluegrass Festival at Hebron Pines, he was blown away by the Jerks of Grass. Fast forward to July 4, 2002, where at a backyard barbecue, Ben DeTroy encouraged him to learn to play the banjo. Using his mother’s old 1890 Bay State open back, he took some lessons from Carter Logan. He used the money that should have gone to pay for a dental crown to buy a decent banjo (that tooth would be known as his ‘banjo tooth‘). After struggling with the banjo for a few years, he was given his wife’s grandfather’s fiddle, which had survived 50 years in the attic waiting for someone to play it. Grandpa Olsen smoked a cigar while playing classical music, and the fiddle was charred from the cigar and full of tobacco. Mike took lessons from Melissa Bragdon for a couple of years, and attended jams at 317 Main Street with Jason Phelps. He’s played every chance he can get, and is excited to be a part of Back Woods Road.
Rich Bernier, dobro
Rich started playing guitar at the age of 11. Learning on his own he played folk music in the early years and rock and blues for the majority of his career in music. He had many influences in the early years from Cream, Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix and John Mayal and the Bluesbreakers to name a few. Bands he played in were Lotus, Freebird, Odyssey, Illusion, Montana, Care and Jumstart just to name a few. There were other bands that never really got started for one reason or another. Richard retired from the rock scene in 1994 to focus on his new position as outside sales for an industrial company he was working for. In 2001, he went to his first Bluegrass Festival and got hooked into this great music. In 2004, Richard bought his first dobro (of 4 he would own). Again teaching himself, he spent many hours trying to learn this instrument that looked easier than it was. Influenced by the great playing of Bobby Coombs, Richard started learning the tricks of the trade thanks to many people he met along the way. In 2007, Richard, his wife, and brother Don put The Nitpickers together with Rick Dale and Woody Woods. They played all over the State and competed in the band contest at the Podunk Bluegrass Festival. The band was very successful but came to an end in 2011. That’s when Back Woods Road was formed – a 3-piece high energy acoustic bluegrass band that played a lot in a two year span. With the loss of bass player Woody Woods, Richard thought the band was done, however, a decision was made to hire two people, bass player, Shawna Bell, as well as Mike Conant on fiddle and banjo and the new band is better than ever. Please take a trip down Back Woods Road…you will not regret it!