Growing up in western North Carolina’s Ashe County, Trajan “Tray” Wellington heard a lot of music — and from the first time he heard the banjo as a young teen, he was, he says, “hooked.” Even before he graduated from East Tennessee State University’s renowned Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country program, Wellington had earned acclaim as the banjo player with Cane Mill Road, performing across the country and winning a 2019 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Momentum Instrumentalist of the Year award while the group took Momentum Band of the Year honors. A well-received, independently released 2020 EP under his own name, the creation of his Tray Wellington Band and signing with Mountain Home Music Company that same year marked Wellington’s decision to make his own path going forward.
As he began releasing singles in advance of his full-length debut, Black Banjo, Wellington continued to garner attention, leading banjo workshops at the prestigious Merlefest and Gray Fox festivals; performing on the IBMA’s 2020 World of Bluegrass Main Stage and acting as host for the Momentum Awards ceremony; gaining coverage in publications like No Depression, The Bluegrass Situation and Folk Alley; and appearing on David Holt’s PBS NC series, being interviewed by Rhiannon Giddens for a BBC documentary series and by W. Kamau Bell for his CNN series, United Shades of America. Upon its release in May, 2022, Black Banjo earned a glowing review in the Wall Street Journal that concluded:
“This is a record that breaks right through subgenre boundaries. If bluegrass is about spotlighting virtuosos, here’s a new one people will be checking in on for some time to come.”