Aynsley Porchak & James McDowell

Aynsley Porchak began playing fiddle at the age of 9. She was introduced to bluegrass through the music of Kenny Baker and Bobby Hicks, and quickly fell in love with the music. In order to further hone her craft, Aynsley enrolled in East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies degree program in 2013, and shortly thereafter became a member of the university’s Bluegrass, Celtic, and Country Pride Bands. Aynsley is also an experienced contest fiddler. She was Blessed to win the Grand Master Fiddler Championship in 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee, and in 2017, she also became the Canadian Grand Master Fiddle Champion, making her the first person to win both competitions.

In 2020, Aynsley completed her thesis entitled “If I Could Only Win Your Love: Lyrical Analysis of the Sacred and Secular Songs of the Louvin Brothers”, and received a master’s degree in Appalachian Studies from East Tennessee State University. Aynsley is passionate about teaching and giving back to the music that she loves so much. She feels very Blessed and honored to be playing with Carolina Blue, and is thankful to be playing with such talented musicians and even greater people!

Born in Henderson County, North Carolina, James McDowell’s music roots run deep. His grandfather James ‘Coot’ McDowell, who played for the “Southern Mountaineers” and the “Green River Boys” has been a large influence on his music. 

James attended homeschool, focusing extra time on music. He began guitar lessons at age 13 and banjo lessons at age 14, from Ken Schoewe. At age 15, James was invited to play with the “Old Time Pickers” by Sam Cox, who continues to mentor James. James has also served as banjo player for the “Mully Holler Gang”. James has participated in competitions, near and far. He has placed 2nd in the RenoFest banjo competition and 6th in the guitar competition. 

In addition to playing music, James enjoys spending time with his family. He is also very active in his church, Crab Creek Baptist, where he serves as a leader in the Awana program. James also enjoys hunting, fishing and studying history.