Country music is more soundtrack for the beer and barbecue crowd than the wine and cheese folks.

But on Friday the Arizona-born, Nashville-nurtured country quartet The Railers will be plucking and picking among the vineyards of Arizona Hops & Vines in Sonoita as part of an end-to-end swing — Sonoita, Scottsdale, Flagstaff — through their home state.

Here’s a quick introduction.

Who’s who: Brothers Jordan and Jonathan Lawson  play fiddle, mandolin and acoustic guitar; Jonathan’s wife Cassandra  plays concertina; Tyler Oban plays drums. Everyone contributes vocals, but Jonathan most often takes lead.

How they met: The Lawson brothers, who grew up in Safford, were studying classical violin at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff when they met Cassandra, a Phoenix native who was studying opera voice. Jonathan and Cassandra struck up a romance that led to marriage. The trio met Oban, who is from Indianapolis, in Nashville at Belmont University.

They sound like .... : “At the core of us is sort of like the Dixie Chicks thing, with the grassy, Americana element, but we try to give it a little edge. I jokingly tell people we’re like a hillbilly Fleetwood Mac. We’ve got the grooves and the rock, but we’ve also got that acoustic thing,” Jonathan Lawson said.

Nashville or bust: Jonathan moved to Nashville six months ahead of Cassandra and brother Jordan. Cassandra enrolled in the music business program at Belmont and acted in commercials. The brothers landed gigs in bands — Jordan played fiddle and acoustic guitar with country singer Josh Turner; Jonathan signed on to play fiddle with Sara Evans.

“We all kind of had money coming in on the side,” Lawson said, which made it hard to pull up stakes and strike out on their own.

Napkin promise: “Tyler was really that guy that said, ‘Hey, we can do this. We are all talented. We can do this band if we put our minds to it’,” Lawson said. “We all signed a napkin at a coffee shop. We gave ourselves six months to go full time or we were just going to give up and go do real jobs and actually make money.”


March 2011 — Sara Evans taps them to open her show.

January 2012 — They land a publishing deal.

October 2013 — Warner Nashville signs them to a record deal.

Today — They are in the studio recording their debut album.

Next: The Railers’ first single could go to radio in the next few months.

I cover music for the Arizona Daily Star.