Luke Price Is a Five-Time National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest Grand Champion

“But the reason you go to the contest is to stay up all night playing music and jamming. It’s just a hang.”

Luke Price, fiddler ROSIN UP THE BOW: Luke Price competes in the National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest in Weiser, Idaho. Credit: Weiser Signal American

On June 24, in the Idaho high desert town of Weiser, Luke Price was named America’s best oldtime fiddle player. It was the fifth time in the past 10 years that he took home to Portland the trophy as Grand Champion. Along with the hardware, the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest gave Price a belt buckle and a jean jacket—like a green Masters jacket by way of the Grand Ole Opry. “Do I have to put this on?” he asked sheepishly.

Winning isn’t everything to Price, 37. It’s not really a thing at all—he attends the competition as a pretext for the afterparty, an all-night jam session held in a campground on a dusty patch of land called Stickerville for all the burrs.

“Yeah, you compete in the contest and maybe you make some gas money to pay your way back,” he says. “But the reason you go to the contest is to stay up all night playing music and jamming. It’s just a hang. You stay up till about 4:30 every night playing, and then you get up and play in the contest the next day.”

He’s been playing “Dusty Miller” and “Billy in the Low Ground” since the age of 6. He won his first contest at 12. His childhood was in Boise, his education at Berklee College of Music. In 2010, Price moved to Portland, settling in the Roseway neighborhood with his wife, Rachael; when he’s not on the road, he teaches music at Lewis & Clark College.

To be technical about it, his genre is called Texas-style oldtime music, although most listeners associate the tunes with Ken Burns documentaries and think of it simply as hoedown music. Which means, in a way, that Price is a virtuoso at partying.

“My main thing is trying to get into a solid groove,” he says. “That’s what’s most fun. And I tend to go out on the edge a little bit as far as improvisation.”

So where can you hear him? Luke and Rachael Price have a soul band called Love, Dean; they have a Sept. 21 gig at Polaris Hall. His side project, LP and The Old Fashioneds, features his fiddling, and can be found every third Friday of the month at the Alberta Street Pub. What a hoot it is getting old.

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