introducing crossing the Caney

"Four great singers, four great pickers,
four great friends whose love for music
and sharing their fun with an audience 

provides a heartwarming, joy inducing, memorable evening of songs! "


Kris Ballinger: Guitar, Tenor Bouzouki, Vocals
Dale Ballinger: Upright Bass, Vocals
Mark Howard: Guitar, Banjo, Mandolin, Vocals
Linda McRae: Guitar, Banjo, Accordion,Vocals


When we were new to Nashville in the mid-90’s, we revelled in the smorgasbord of live music and soon found the club that felt like home to us, the Station Inn. There we discovered a band having so much fun you couldn’t help but have a great time along with them. They were accomplished pickers, had chill-bump inducing harmonies, and a newgrassy-bluegrassy style. Even their name was fun! The Cluster Pluckers. The core of the band consisted of Margaret Archer, Mark Howard and Kris & Dale Ballinger. They played

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Tour Dates

  • March  8, 2019  Cookeville, TN      Dry Levee Salvage, 6:00 pm,
  • March 10, 2019  Cleveland, TN      (Private Performance) 4:00 pm
  • April 6, 2019    Smithville, TN       Annual Celebration of Craft, 2:00 - 4:00 pm 
    Appalachian Center for Craft, 1560 Craft Center Dr
  •  May 16, 2019  Chattanooga, TN   SERFA (South-east Regional Folk Alliance) Official Showcase 7:00 pm

  • May 17, 2019 Chattanooga, TN     SERFA (11:00 PM) Hillbilly Haiku, Bass Room

  • May 18, 2019 Chattanooga, TN     SERFA (11:00 PM) Hillbilly Haiku, Bass Room

  • May 19, 2019 Chattanooga, TN     SERFA (11:00 PM) Taylor Pie


Kris and Dale Ballinger have been playing music for most of their lives. They played with national fiddlin’ champion Frazier Moss and performed with fiddler Junior Daugherty at Carnegie Hall in NYC.  As founding members of “The Cluster Pluckers” they recorded five albums and toured both nationally and internationally. TV appearances include Austin City Limits with Chet Atkins, Ken Burns’ Songs of the Civil War with Hoyt Axton, The Statler Brothers Show, Nashville Now, American Music Shop and Reno’s Old Time Music Festival. 

They were invited to Washington DC to represent Tennessee music at the Tennessee/Arkansas Celebration during President Clinton’s Inaugural festivities and performed again at a special event in Nashville for Clinton and Gore. They have played shows with Chet Atkins, John Hartford, Vassar Clements, and many other great artists. In 2009, Kris and Dale recorded a CD with with their son Ethan (Lee Ann Womack ) entitled “The Ballinger Family Band” and another in 2017 entitled “It’s About Time”. The Ballinger Family Band did a 9-day tour of Japan in 2011, playing several performances ranging from a bluegrass festival at the foot of Mt Fuji to a club called Rocky Top in the heart of downtown Tokyo as well as a 3-week tour in Scotland and England in 2012 and another in 2017. Plans for a return tour with this new group are in the works for the fall of 2019. 

Mark Howard: In Nashville since 1980, Mark Howard worked on the road with The Dillards and Earl Scruggs before transitioning to playing sessions in 1984. Mark worked with John Hartford on Gum Tree Canoe, Annual Waltz, Down On The River, and most of Johns later recordings. John Hartford introduced Mark to Jack Clement and Mark became Jack’s “Personal guitar player”, working on most of Jack’s productions in the 80’s and 90’s including Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt, Charlie Pride, Louis Armstrong and The Carter Family.  

Other session credits include, Nancy Griffith, John Prine, Tom Paxton, Iris Dement, The Riders In The Sky, SHe DAISY, Jewel, Grandpa Jones, The Cluster Pluckers, Kathy Mattea, Madeline Kahn, Leon Redbone, 50 or more instrumental CD’s for Cumberland Records and countless custom Artists Projects. Mark continues to produce and record at his studio in Nashville.  

Linda McRae is a British Columbia Entertainment Hall of Fame Pioneer Inductee and won 1st place in the 2017 Boston Family Folk Chorale Songwriting Competition. A genuine storyteller with an international touring career spanning over three decades, McRae ‘s pure voice and authentic lyrics have been likened to artists Hank Williams, Patsy Cline and Leonard Cohen.  

McRae first achieved commercial success as a member of Spirit of The West, Canada’s legendary folk and Celtic band.  Since embarking on a solo career in the late 90’s, McRae has released six critically-acclaimed recordings imbued with Americana and Bluegrass, Blues, Folk and Gospel influences.  Now based in Nashville, she has recorded with Bruce Cockburn, Blue Rodeo, The Tragically Hip, performed with Neko Case, Ray Wylie Hubbard, the Vancouver Symphony and the “in house blues band” at New Folsom Prison, where she facilitates writing workshops for their inmates. These experiences lead to the creation of Express Yourself Writing Workshops for at risk youth and inmates currently being presented across North America.