Frank and Allie bring their bluegrass back to the Harlequin March 22


The Frank and Allie Lee bluegrass show is at 7 p.m. today at The Harlequin Theatre inside FairOaks Mall, 2380 25th St, in Columbus. Due to a Republic error, the was listed incorrectly in an events list on Page D2 of Thursday’s GO section.


Frank Lee’s gourd banjos sound a bit different to the ear of his musical partner wife.

“They’re lower-pitched than what you normally would think of for a banjo,” said Columbus native Allie Lee, speaking by phone from their home in Bryson City, North Carolina. “And well — I picture it like music for a hippo in a tutu dancing in slow motion.”

There you have it, hippo hipsters — a big instrument just for you.

Frank Lee plays four of those specially-made banjos on his latest solo disc fittingly titled “Gourd Head,” a childhood nickname his father lovingly applied. Some of those tunes will be part of Frank and Allie’s old-time bluegrass-oriented concert at 7 p.m. March 22 at the Harlequin Theatre inside FairOaks Mall.

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But the duo, married in September, cannot bring the fruit of such instrumental labor to the show. They have no cases to protect the gourd banjos. So those new tunes will come forth in a more traditional fashion.

Their April 2018 release “Roll On, Clouds” showcases their favorite songs from more than two years of performing together. These pieces range from blues tradition (“Somebody On Your Bond,” “Roll and Tumble”) to bluegrass classics (“Standing on a Mountain,” “Cabin on a Hill”), done with what they term an “old-time aesthetic.”

The duo last played locally a year ago, also at The Harlequin. Two days after the show, when a snowstorm canceled a scheduled Indianapolis concert, the two celebrated a blizzard of romance by getting engaged in Columbus.

Allie Lee said the idea of being with her partner nearly 24/7 these days while on the road for shows is full of harmony.

“We’re both introverts,” she said. “So we know to give each other space.”

Frank Lee, who plays guitar, slide guitar, banjo and violin, is a veteran of the Americana/folk genre, having toured in the 1990s as a founding member of The Freight Hoppers on Rounder Records, a longtime major label of the genre. Allie Lee, on guitar, banjo and harmonica, is fresh off several years with Hoosier-based folk group The Whipstitch Sallies.

This concert will unfold slightly differently than last year’s Columbus appearance.

“There might be a little more fiddle playing, since Frank has been playing that more,” Allie Lee said.

Pete Wernick, also known as Dr. Banjo in national folk and bluegrass circles, has called the pair’s work “music that keeps its close connection to earth.”

Considering the gourd banjos, one could clearly say no pun intended.

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Who: Folk/bluegrass artists Frank Lee and Allie Burbrink Lee (a Columbus native) performing songs from the rural South, spanning bluegrass, old time, country blues and spirituals in an 80- to 90-minute concert.

When: 7 p.m. March 22.

Where: Harlequin Theatre inside FairOaks Mall, 2380 25th St. in Columbus

Concessions: Cash bar available.

Tickets: $15 in advance at or at the mall office; or $20 at the door.

Information: or 812-343-4597.