bluegrass by the numbers

23 string band 2

the 23 string band: scott moore, chris shouse, t. martin stam, dave howard and curtis wilson.

The band name says it all. You get lots of strings and lots of sounds to sing about.

Sure, bluegrass largely dictates the music of the Kentucky-based 23 String Band, but this is no traditionalist outfit. Some members were schooled in rock ‘n’ roll, others have degrees in classical music and there are leanings to jazz all over the place. When these sounds hit the stage, what results is a homey, harmony-rich and ultra-playful sound that is less like Bill Monroe and more in line with such new generation renegade acts as Old Crow Medicine Show.

“As far as genre goes, I think we have a number of different genres that we pull from,” said Breckenridge County-born fiddler Scott Moore, who will perform with the 23 String Band as it helps brings the food and music celebration Crave Lexington to a close on Sunday. “But all the genres are filtered through our own capabilities.

“John Hartford once said, ‘Style is based on limitation.’ So whether it’s our limitations or our abilities individually or as a group, I think it all tends to give our body of music a sound all its own.”

With members from Owensboro and the Cumberland Valley region, along with a North Carolina defector from Chapel Hill, the 23 String Band has been as comfortable performing at largely traditional string music events like the Festival of the Bluegrass as it has at more youth driven jam band gatherings like the Terrapin Hill Harvest Festival. Nationally, the band has performed at the prestigious Grey Fox Festival in New York and such equally heralded RockyGrass in Lyons, Colorado.

The breadth of the 23 String Band’s demographic appeal is outdone only by its stylistic reach. Among the delights on its 2001 indie recording Catch 23 is a percussive, chant-like cover of Hartford’s Long Hot Summer Nights that could pass for a generations-old work song. But then the recording veers into its title tune, an animated instrumental that follows in the literate musical footsteps as such jazz-savvy New Grass stylists as Bela Fleck and Jerry Douglas.

“One of the unintended bright shining spots of this band is how universal the appeal really is, whether its older folks who generally prefer traditional bluegrass or younger folks who have seen us play at Forecastle or at a club. We can go from playing the Sally Gap Festival in Williamsburg, Ky. one weekend to a rock festival the next weekend and in both places have people coming up and saying how genuinely excited and pleased they were with the performance. The feeling is very mutual.”

Moore is also looking forward to be part of Crave Lexington, viewing the event’s focus on locally sourced food as a natural fit for the 23 String Band’s multi stylistic but grassroots-produced music.

“All of us feel pretty strongly about craftsmanship, local food and issues of sustainability. It all ties in together with roots music. Especially with younger folks, all of those things are tied in together. I think there are going to be lot of like minds out there. I’m looking forward to taking part in the festival with them.”

The 23 String Band performs at 3 p.m. Sept. 22 as part of Crave Lexington at MoonDance Amphitheater at Beaumont Circle, 1152 Monarch St. Admission is free, although there is a charge for food and drink tickets. Some meal events also require tickets. For a full schedule, go to

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