The Blockade Runners are a group of old friends who play bluegrass and acoustic roots music. The band was started in 2004 by guitarist and lead vocalist Bruce Lambert, along with Chris Neville on piano and vocals. Bruce and Chris have been playing music together on and off since 1986, when they first met at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. When both moved back to Chicago, Bruce to join the faculty at UIC and Chris to establish himself in the Chicago music scene, they maintained their friendship and occasional musical collaboration, often playing with mutual friend, fellow U of I alum, and one-time Blockade Runner Curt Morrison.
Though raising kids and working full time, Bruce still had the itch to perform, and in 2004, he released a CD of bluegrass/roots standards (The Other Side) and some original material, produced and engineered by Chris and featuring Bruce on guitar and vocals, Don Stiernberg on mandolin, Curt Morrison on lead guitar, Greg Cahill on banjo, and Chris on piano, vocals, and bass. Since that time, Bruce, Chris and a somewhat steady group of friends have been playing at a variety of venues around Chicago. On most nights, the Blockade Runners will consist of Bruce Lambert on guitar and vocals, Chris Neville on piano and vocals, Don Stiernberg on mandolin, Jon Paul on bass, John Rice on guitar and dobro, and Ingrid Graudins on background vocals, though at times the band has also included Curt Morrison or Andon Davis on lead guitar, John Hurtubise on bass, and Jeff Midkiff on mandolin. Along with original songs, their repertoire draws from the core sources of acoustic roots music (e.g., Doc Watson, Norman Blake, Tony Rice, David Grisman) and from the great pantheon of American songwriters (e.g., John Hiatt, Guy Clark, Gillian Welch, John Hartford, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle). The music is a high-energy blend of great singing, great songs, virtuoso improvisation, and a healthy sense of humor. They call themselves the Blockade Runners for several reasons: because Bruce’s ancestors on his mother’s side ran Union naval blockades for the Confederacy during the Civil War; because the guys in the band are rebels at heart, and because they love contraband.