Ken Chapple is an accomplished flatpicking guitarist and bluegrass singer-songwritier living in Asheville, NC. His debut album under his own name was released in September 2015.

Ken’s style is polished, progressive bluegrass, with the heartfelt lyrics of James Taylor and John Lennon and the instrumental creativity of Bela Fleck and Tony Rice.

Ken is no stranger to success, performing at national festivals such as Wintergrass, and the Northwest String Summit and leading the band Wayward Vessel to a 2nd place victory at the Telluride band contest in 2012. Ken is currently booking and promoting to support his debut solo record, Crossing The Black,​ released in September, 2015. His music has historically kept people in their seats because of his smooth and engaging voice, thoughtful lyrics and truly unique and interesting arrangements. L​isten to C​rossing The Black to see why Ken’s music is so loved, and imagine the sounds from the record filing your venue, or your radio program, and engaging the ears of a smiling audience.

On this page, you will be able to listen, watch and learn all about Ken. If you have any additional questions or requests, please email ken directly at

Ken’s music, as a whole, will be at that Bela Fleck / Ricky Skaggs / Doc Watson / Tony Rice / Norman Blake level soon – he won’t be a minor league player for long. – No Depression

Important Links

The Ken Chapple String Band is available for booking. Ken is also available for solo and small-ensemble performances.

Link to buy Crossing The Black directly from Ken

Link to buy on iTunes

Link to buy on CD Baby

Link to buy on Bandcamp

Crossing The Black is available on Airplay Direct!

About Crossing The Black

Ken’s debut record is called Crossing The Black, and contains 10 tracks of original material recorded at Big Red Studio with Billy Oskay, engineer. For the first time, Ken is the sole songwriter, arranger and producer for the record. The record’s namesake is the Black River in upstate New York, where Ken spent most of his weekends and summers as a child; Songs inspired by his family’s Black River cabin are intermixed with his life experiences while living in Portland.

Crossing The Black has received national attention for the creativity and honesty portrayed by the original heartfelt music and stellar instrumental performances.

Ken’s music, as a whole, will be at that Bela Fleck / Ricky Skaggs / Doc Watson / Tony Rice / Norman Blake level soon – he won’t be a minor league player for long. – No Depression

The biggest inspiration behind recording Crossing The Black was leaving Portland and moving to Asheville, NC. His leaving the city prompted him to assemble a collection of songs that represented his life up until this pivotal moment, including falling in love with his wife, Michelle, and meeting his daughters. The record is also intended to showcase some of the brightest and bravest acoustic musicians in the Portland area.

His warm, gentle voice makes listening to his album a relaxing endeavor, which may be best suited for lounging on a warm summer’s night with a few candles burning nearby. His songs carry themes of love and following the heart. – NYS Music

Crossing The Black features some of the finest musicians that Ken has come to know through my bluegrass community including Martin Stevens, Peter Schwimmer, Lex Browning, Julie Schmidt and Rob Wright. One of the goals of Crossing The Black was to show North Carolina and the world the fabulous musicianship of this hand-picked group of Northwesterners.

“The Wheel,” has come to an end and I am going to play it again. Maybe three times. One thing is for certain, Ken Chapple thought about what he wanted to say, how he wanted it to play it and it shows. – No Depression

Stream Crossing The Black

Watch Ken Chapple Perform Live (2015)

Ken's Bio

Bluegrass flatpicker and singer/songwriter, Ken Chapple has always challenged himself and stretched the boundaries of his field. Ken is in the midst of releasing his debut record of 100% original material. After two records, and countless shows with Wayward Vessel, and songwriting partner Julie Schmidt, Ken is branching out with his own record, and his own brand of acoustic music. Once again he is stretching the musical boundaries of his bluegrass genre, as well as the norms of music production and release.


Ken with his daughter Ruth

Ken has studied guitar since he was 12 years old, strumming Grateful Dead, Neil Young and Bob Dylan songs with his older brother, Matt. Ken discovered bluegrass and flatpicking guitar while attending college at SUNY Fredonia in early the 2000s, where he studied classical guitar and computer science. At Fredonia, Ken stumbled upon a group of musicians who were picking fiddle tunes, and singing high lonesome songs. He followed that trail, which led to Tony Rice, David Grier and Clarence White who remain Ken’s biggest guitar influences.

It was Ken’s heavy interest in newgrass, especially Psychograss (Gavid Grier, Mike Marshall, Darol Anger, Tony Trischka and Todd Phillips,) that drew Ken out to Portland, Oregon in 2002 to visit west coast friends, and attend the Northwest String Summit, where David Grisman and Psychograss were participating in Yonder Mountain Stringband’s new festival.

Ken Chapple Telluride 2012

Ken with Wayward Vessel, Telluride 2012

After an exhilarating weekend at the String Summit, Ken decided to move to Portland. He relocated to Portland the following summer, where he attended graduate school at Portland State University for computer science, and later met his wife, and began a career track in music. It was also in Portland where Ken discovered the bluegrass festival and jam culture, which completely captivated him.

Ken formed Wayward Vessel in 2009 when he met fiddler Julie Schmidt at a Portland bluegrass jam. Wayward Vessel has enjoyed several years of success, releasing two records, and performing on stages all over the NW, including Wintergrass, Bluegrass From The Forest, Wheeler County, and 2nd place finish at the 2012 Telluride Bluegrass festival band competition.

Ken currently lives in Portland, OR with his wife Michelle, daughters Ruth and Cora, and dog Sammy. In addition to music, Ken also works on open source software development (OpenEMR) and also works with his wife on her blog and educational resource for textile designers.

Crossing The Black Credits

All songs written, arranged and produced by Ken Chapple, ASCAP

Crossing The Black (UPC 888295287876)

  1. Cutie Pie 3:32 [ISRC US-B8D-15-00030]
  2. Golden Belle 3:06 [ISRC US-B8D-15-00031]
  3. See Where She Goes 3:41 [ISRC US-B8D-15-00032]
  4. Pair Of Twos 4:51 [ISRC US-B8D-15-00033]
  5. Black River Cabin 3:11 [ISRC US-B8D-15-00034]
  6. Without Your Warmth 3:59 [ISRC US-B8D-15-00035]
  7. Salvation 5:06 [ISRC US-B8D-15-00036]
  8. Sweet White Clover 4:57 [ISRC US-B8D-15-00037]
  9. Crossing The Black 6:16 [ISRC US-B8D-15-00038]
  10. The Wheel 4:29 [ISRC US-B8D-15-00039]

Total time: 43:08

Ken Chapple (guitar, lead vocals)
Lex Browning (fiddle, vocals on Cutie Pie, See Where She Goes, Black River Cabin, Salvation and Sweet White Clover)
Rob Wright (bass, vocals on Cutie Pie, Black River Cabin, Salvation and Sweet White Clover)
Peter Schwimmer (banjo)
Martin Stevens (mandolin)
Julie Schmidt (vocals on The Wheel)

Artwork by Lance Lovett
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Billy Oskay at Big Red Studio Corbett, OR. Assistant engineer Eric Broestl.
Ken’s vocals and guitar on Cutie Pie, vocals on Golden Belle, vocals on Pair Of Twos, vocals on Black River Cabin, vocals on Without Your Warmth, vocals on Salvation, vocals on The Wheel recorded in Ken’s Studio, Portland, OR, by Ken Chapple.
Lex’s and Rob’s vocals on Cutie Pie, Black River Cabin recorded at the Maproom, Portland, OR, by Ken Chapple.
Lex’s and Rob’s vocals on Salvation and Lex’s vocals on See Where She Goes recorded at Lex’s Studio, Portland, OR by Ken Chapple.

Thanks to this amazing band who worked hard to help me achieve my vision for this record and special thanks to Lex Browning for his encouragement, and lending me gear.

Thanks to my wife Michelle, my daughters Ruth and Cora, my dog Sammy and my cat Cleo for inspiration and motivation.

Thanks to my mother and father for providing me all of my opportunities to live and play at our Black River cabin.

Thanks to my sisters, my brother, all of my family and friends in the bluegrass community, and people that have touched me along this journey.

These songs are for you.


“Ken’s music, as a whole, will be at that Bela Fleck / Ricky Scaggs / Doc Watson / Tony Rice / Norman Blake level soon – he won’t be a minor league player for long.” – No Depression (October 2015)

Ken in Acoustic Guitar Magazine, April 2015

Ken was an artist interviewed in the April 2015 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine as part of an feature on stringbands. Ken wrote:

“Bluegrass music has been the nucleus of my existence ever since I went to my first tiny, local bluegrass jam in Portland in 2004. Despite a degree in classical guitar, my music had always been steeped in improvisation and jamming. Before I stumbled on the bluegrass jam scene, I had no idea that improvisation and collaboration were at the center of bluegrass culture. I was familiar with bluegrass music, but was unaware of the bluegrass community. What sets string band music apart from any other genre? Community, Authenticity, Musicianship, and Thoughtfulness. You’re exposed, vulnerable— string band music is nude emotion, and the community is there to support you.”

Ken in October 2014 Bluegrass Express

Ken’s acclaimed article on practical ways to improve your flatpicking guitar technique was featured in the October 2014 issue of the Bluegrass Express.

writing away from your instrument

Ken’s article on writing away from your instrument was featured in the publication Songwriting Magazine.

Wayward Vessel in 2013 Bluegrass Unlimited

Wayward Vessel’s 2012 release, Before The Grey, received a stellar review in the national publication Bluegrass Unlimited.

Although young, this ensemble is clearly accomplished and their talents shine through here.

Contact Ken

Please contact Ken directly if you need any additional information, files, or would like to schedule an interview.


phone: 503-849-0608