Archive for June, 2014

In performance: Alejandro Escovedo

alejandro escovedo

Alejandro Escovedo

One of the more intriguing aspects of Alejandro Escovedo’s local performance history over the past two decades has been the dual identities used to present his music. One has been a primarily acoustic, chamber-style setting; the other a more jagged, electric environment. Last night during a sold-out performance at Natasha’s with violinist Susan Voelz as his lone accompanist, both profiles converged nicely in a program with a strong autobiographical design.

The majority of the 1¾-hour show aligned songs from throughout Escovedo’s extensive solo career with corresponding stories – spoken snapshots, in a way – from the famed Texas songwriter’s personal and professional upbringing.

The show-opening The Rain Won’t Help You When It’s Over, pulled from his ’80s tenure with the Austin band True Believers, was prefaced with a remembrance of Escovedo’s early days as a songwriter. San Antonio Rain – one of four tunes presented from his most recent album, 2012’s Big Station – outlined his family’s move to California. The still-haunting Wave offered the first of several Father’s Day tributes the singer offered to his own dad.

Wave especially underscored the show’s wonderful instrumental dynamics. With Escovedo securing the rhythm role, Voelz was free to play huge, elongated lines around the melodies. Some came with an exactness that directly enhanced the song’s drama. But there also were intuitive flourishes and fills that alternately drove and embellished the music.

Escovedo didn’t forsake his rock ’n’ roll persona, though. While an encore of the Rolling Stones’ Sway was played as an acoustic elegy and the show-closing take on Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes was presented less like a rock anthem and more as a cordial sing-along, Escovedo’s own Everybody Loves You let the singer and Voelz lock horns. With Escovedo switching to electric guitar, the two traded jagged solos, riffs and assorted musical barbs until the brakes were slammed on, with the singer returning to rhythm duties. The tension and release that dominated the song represented one of the evening’s two great extremes.

The other was the lullaby version of Ian Hunter’s I Wish I Was Your Mother, a staple of Escovedo’s concerts for the past 20 years. Avoiding any undue sentimentalism, the song was delivered as a quiet confession that interspersed lovely interplay with a beat or two of exquisite silence. An effective implementation of the latter is a trait of a master songsmith, even when the song he is singing isn’t exclusively his own.

festival of the bluegrass: dry branch fire squad

dry branch

dry branch fire squad: brian aldridge, dan russell, ron thomason and tom boyd.

As the final performance of the 41st Festival of the Bluegrass got underway this morning at the Kentucky Horse Park, Ron Thomason – vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and all-around raconteur of the Dry Branch Fire Squad – quoted the late John Duffey of The Seldom Scene and his feelings about performing all-gospel sets: “We’ll do all the gospel shows they want as long as we can play at 11 o’clock at night.”But here, the longstanding Dry Branch was serving up gospel at the more appropriate delivery time of 11 on Sunday morning. It was country gospel, too – the kind of deep rooted yet surprisingly soft sell spiritualism that predates bluegrass. Built on stoic, understated harmonies and brittle instrumentation that was authoritative but devoid of flash, such a sound has long been a specialty of Dry Branch. It was also a platform for playful sermonizing that made Thomason seem less like a rural preacher and more like Will Rogers.

Much of this morning’s set centered on spirituals the quartet recorded for the The Gospel Way, one of the two new albums cut recently over a four day session. The fare included Take Me in Your Lifeboat, which boasted intuitive quartet singing and an amusing tale about “existential angst” from Thomason and how it pertained to fiddle solos in old-time music (Dry Branch currently tours without a fiddler). Other highlights included a gentle reading of Will the Circle Be Unbroken that returned to tune to its unadorned roots and a crisply understated reading of the Carter Family’s 50 Miles of Elbow Room.

Dry Branch also performed a set of more secular-dominate material last night at the Festival that highlighted its other new recording, Don’t Forget This Song. Needless to say, the subject matter of Thomason’s between song banter varied greatly.

This morning he discussed banjo tuning, eulogized bluegrass gospel great George Shuffler and ended with a sobering intro to the war memorial tune He’s Coming To Us Dead (“a lot of them come back that way, you know”). Last night, he joked about knife fights, farmer’s daughters and space aliens driving in the passing lane. There were strong differences musically, as well, including a version of the vintage Tommy Roe pop hit Sweet Little Sheila augmented by Thomason’s variation of the body slapping percussion style known as hamboning.

A nearby patron accurately summed up the performance: “It takes a real hambone to really know how to hambone.”

in performance: lydia loveless

lydia loveless

lydia loveless.

“We’re going to play our Neko Case tribute set now,” said Lydia Loveless as she dug into her 75 minute performance last night at Willie’s Locally Known.

It was a purely sarcastic but perhaps unintentionally ironic remark. Like it or not, there are similarities between the two singers, from the clarity, potency and timbre of their voices down the narrative structure of their songs.

But there were also a number of stylistic traits in Loveless’ show highlighting distinctions in her music. She is a straight talker, whether it’s about love, sex or personal identity, and if that meant tossing a few coarse words into her songs to roughen the terrain or strength her viewpoint, so be it.

Such instances underscored the occasionally punkish undertow in older works (Can’t Change Me, from 2011’s Indestructible Machine album, in particular) that made it into Loveless’ setlist last night. But the eight songs pulled from the new Somewhere Else (nine, if you count the vinyl version) were comparatively streamlined with country and Americana accents.

On Chris Issak, the reference point favored Rosanne Cash over Case while the album’s title tune used strains of pedal steel guitar to summon a steady but restless groove and a similar sense of discontent (“I just want to be somewhere else tonight”). It was a rather finely crafted piece of unsettled, autumnal pop.

All that said, the overall performance design of this show could have done with some sprucing up. Guitarist Toss May, while connecting with Loveless for the odd harmony or two, spent considerable time crouched by his amp or sipping beers during songs (not between songs, but actually during them). There was also an instance where Loveless’ drummer left the stage to use the restroom, leaving the rest of the band to begin Verlaine Shot Rimbaud without him. His return earned an onstage scolding from the singer and a noticeable drop in band drive and cohesion that lasted for several songs.

Finally, it was tough to decipher Loveless’ choice to end the show with four songs performed solo on electric guitar. There was a certain coarse appeal to the set. In the end, though, each song (especially the wistful More Like That) would have benefited from the color and embellishment her band could have provided.

festival of the bluegrass: the seldom scene/23 string band/joe mullins and the radio ramblers/the grascals

seldom scene

today’s seldom scene: dudley connell, ben eldridge, ronnie simpkins, fred travers and lou reid.

The biggest celebrity of Day 3 at the Festival of the Bluegrass at the Kentucky Horse Park wasn’t onstage. It was everywhere else. The star was a low humidity Saturday with temps in the 70s with no threat of rain everywhere. The performing artists remarked on it, the vendors at the festival beamed about it and neighboring patrons soaking up the pre-summer sun were literally having a field day with it.

The music responded in kind. Mainstay headliner The Seldom Scene, which seemed to be in a bit of a performance rut at recent visits, dusted off a few gems and re-examined several audience favorites. Old Train and Muddy Water sounded alert and vital, a pair of John Fogerty covers (110 in the Shade and Big Train from Memphis) reaffirmed the band’s stylistic dexterity and dobroist Fred Travers’ gentle vocal turn on Heart and Soul upheld the strength of the Scene’s recent material.

Also adding to the band’s renewed vigor was mandolinist Lou Reid, whose fearsome high tenor vocals drove several wailing exhibitions of three part harmonies (with Travers and guitarist Dudley Connell) that served as codas to several songs.

Louisville’s 23 String Band has become a fast new generation favorite at the Festival. While the quintet saved material from its soon-to-be-released 23*SB album for its evening set, the band’s afternoon outing had members huddled around a single microphone for the playful sighs, shouts and harmonies of Bees’ Knees, the still-dramatic new grass instrumental Catch 23 and a feverish cover of Tom Petty’s Listen to Her Heart (in all likelihood, the only tune of the entire four day event to reference cocaine) that led to a blazing solo from the band’s sharpest soloist, fiddler Scott Moore.

The preceding set by Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers could not have differed more. Where 23 String Band’s youthful gusto would have been right at home in a prohibition era speakeasy, banjoist Mullins (a veteran Ohio broadcaster, hence his band’s name) went for traditional bluegrass and contemporary gospel, the latter stretching into fairly starched Bill Gather territory. Still, the band couldn’t help balancing new works from its forthcoming Another Day From Life album, the gospel quartet-driven No Longer an Orphan and the high lonesome thread of I’ll Be There, Mary Dear with the moonshine themed Katy Daley. As always, for every Sunday morning in bluegrass and country music, there is a Saturday night.

One of the biggest non-weather hits of the day was the Festival return of The Grascals, whose music has been edging away from the heavy country slant of its early albums. That said, three tunes from the band’s 2005 self-titled debut album – Leavin’s Heavy on My Mind, Where the Corn Don’t Grow and Me and John and Paul – contributed greatly to the band’s rootsy stride. Of course, having a star instrumentalist like Kristin Scott Benson showcasing Earl Scruggs-style banjo picking when the solo spotlight came her way helped keep The Grascals on the traditional path, as did the consistently strong high tenor vocals of Terry Eldredge. As a side note, The Grascals were the only band allowed an encore during the afternoon sets.

Old-timey fave Dry Branch Fire Squad turned in a fine set as well as the Festival broke around 7 pm for dinner. Well save observations from that performance when we review Dry Branch’s Festival-closing gospel set on Sunday.

in performance: drive-by truckers

drive-by truckers 1

drive-by truckers: jay gonzalez, patterson hood, matt patton, mike cooley and brad morgan.

Sometimes you can’t help saving your best trick until the end of the night. That’s essentially what happened last night as Drive-By Truckers began to call it an evening at Buster’s.

Up to that point, the venerable Athens, Ga. troupe, which has long been the antithesis of the conventional southern rock band, had already put in a solid night’s work. It heaped on 2 ½ hours of rough cut, guitar saturated rock ‘n’ roll, along with all the scorched solos and meaty riffs such music triggers. But the band’s songs, now solely the products of guitarist/singers Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, regularly soared beyond all that by exploring dark urban myths and even darker rural realities.

Sometimes the songs were threadbare in their sense of desolation, as in Hood’s Pauline Hawkins, one of six grim tales from the Truckers’ fine new English Oceans album. In other instances, the mood was more forgiving and hopeful, as in A World of Hurt (another Hood tune, this one from 2006’s A Blessing and a Curse). Last night, Hood repeated the song’s simple affirmation (“it’s good to be alive”) as if it were a mantra.

One could go on about the distinctions between Patterson and Cooley as songwriters underscored during the show. Patterson was more the street evangelist. For Puttin’ People on the Moon, he raged politely about unemployment, health care and distrust of Washington politics – topical stuff, until you realized the song was over a decade old. But Hood still proclaimed faith in life, love and especially music in the encore warhorse Let There Be Rock.

Cooley’s songs, while every bit as detailed, were told in more conversational terms, as with the bittersweet English Oceans parental reflection Primer Coat or the jagged country postscript A Ghost to Most from 2008’s Brighter Than Creation’s Dark that offered a more introspective restlessness (“Talkin’ tough is easy when it’s other people’s evil”). Sadly, last night’s sound mix wasn’t always kind to the lower end of Cooley’s singing, causing entire verses of his lyrics to be lost.

But it was the show-closing Grand Canyon that smoked everything. A remembrance for longtime band co-hort Craig Lieske, the song was one of the few instances where the Truckers told their story in largely sonic terms.

The tune’s power came in waves. An initial ripple effect of guitars splintered into freeform electric chaos that ended with each player leaving the stage one-by-one, paring the music down to Brad Morgan’s solemn drum foundation and a layer of purposeful feedback that rang out after his exit. Part eulogy, part musical anarchy, Grand Canyon was a grand finale in every respect. If you left early, you definitely missed out.

festival of the bluegrass: the gibson brothers/michael cleveland and flamekeeper/russell moore and IIIrd tyme out

gibson brothers

the gibson brothers: eric and leigh gibson. herald-leader staff photos by rich copley.

“Songs like that make me love the guitar,” said Leigh Gibson as the band he fronted with older brother Eric ripped through one of the most popular, though most treacherous, instrumentals in any bluegrass repertoire – Bill Monroe’s Big Mon.

The guitarist wasn’t gloating over any performance glories the tune brought his way earlier today as the Festival of the Bluegrass headed into its second day at the Kentucky Horse Park. In fact, quite the opposite was true. He was relishing sitting out of the Olympian sprints on fiddle, banjo (his brother’s weapon of preference) and especially mandolin that raced madly around him as the tune intensified.

As a whole, though, nothing The Gibson Brothers played, and certainly no one onstage playing it, could have truly been considered safe. The quintet embraced bluegrass tradition throughout but was hardly content to make the music seem like a museum piece. Leigh possessed an ultra persuasive country intent in his singing, whether he working alongside the natural acoustic groove of Wishing Well, spinning a grand rambler’s tale in Walkin’ West to Memphis or leading the elegant waltz melody of Dyin’ For Someone to Live For.

Eric, on the other hand, possessed a decidedly higher mountain tenor in his vocals, sounding akin to a young Del McCoury on Ragged Man and Farm of Yesterday, the latter being a chronicle of the brother’s younger days on their parents dairy farm in upstate New York.

But the onstage MVP of the Gibson Brothers wasn’t a Gibson at all, but fiddler Clayton Campbell. A player with an expressive, exact tone, he drove the band through its most dizzying instrumental runs (the aforementioned Big Mon) as well as its most jubilant gospel-rich works (Ring the Bell).

michael cleveland

michael cleveland.

The gospel mood was initiated earlier in the day through sets by one of the festival’s most frequent guests, Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out, and the most prominent act making its debut at the event this year, Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper.

IIIrd Tyme Out introduced a radically altered lineup, led by the festival introduction of Keith McKinnon, who replaced longtime banjoist Steve Dilling earlier this year. Also new was bassist Blake Johnson, who proved a capable vocalist during a playful cover of Jimmy Martin’s Hold Whatcha Got and a capable addition to the group’s a capella gospel quartet sound on We’ll Soon Be Done with Troubles and Trials.

But for all of IIIrd Tyme Out’s rapid fire instrumental work, its robust vocal harmonies and its ongoing dance between gospel and secular music, it was Moore who served as catalyst with a voice still rich in high tenor gusto.

Fiddler Cleveland was perhaps the sharpest player of the day, and it wasn’t just because of his speed and agility, Both were generously on display, though, during a succession of spitfire instrumentals, which might explain why Cleveland has been awarded the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Fiddle Player of the Year honors nine times).

Much of his most absorbing work came while underscoring the leaner, lighter Farewell for a Little While and the patiently paced, old-timey charmer Fiddlin’ Joe. But For pure performance dynamics, however, nothing beat Cleveland’s transformation of Shenandoah Waltz into a lovely serenade of slo-mo swing that beautifully complimented the sublime Friday afternoon weather that made the often sweltering festival seem like a springtime escape.

(View Rich Copley’s photo gallerry of this show here.)

drummer, doctor and trucker

drive-by truckers 2

drive-bytruckers: brad morgan, patterson hood, jay gonzalez, matt patton and mike cooley

If you think drums are integral to the deeply literate, pile-driving rock ‘n’ roll of Drive-By Truckers, then spend some time with the band’s new English Oceans album.

The clap of sticks from Brad Morgan, who has manned the drum chair in the Athens, Ga. band for the past 17 years, is the first sound you hear before the Truckers erupt into a Mike Cooley narrative about life in wartorn suburbia. Morgan is also the last musician standing as the album fades with the beat of Patterson Hood’s eulogy for a longtime Truckers pal.

To bookend an album so powerful, a sound so huge and a band so continually vital speaks well to the kind of musical gusto Morgan can summon. But there is another, less visible role Morgan has played behind the scenes. Given the personalities at work in and around the band, the kind of relentless touring regimen they often fall into and the potentially devastating aftermath both can unleash, Morgan’s other duties have probably played into the Truckers longevity as deeply as his groove.

“I always saw myself as the psychiatrist of the band who was making sure everybody is happy and making sure everything is rolling the way it should be.

“It’s all about personalities living in very close quarters. I mean, we see the crew as band members. We’re all living together. We’re around each other all the time. It feels like there are 10 people in the band. All those relationships have to work. Everybody has to get along. If people have problems with somebody, I’m like, ‘Let’s figure this out or something else is going to happen.’ I’m kind of sensitive to that type of thing.”

His efforts seem to be working. Morgan said the current band spirit is high, thanks largely to its newest lineup, dubbed DBT 12 in the liner notes to English Oceans. The album marks the recording debut of the band’s latest recruit, bassist Matt Patton.

“As a drummer, a good bass player for the rhythm section is really important,” Morgan said. “Just having somebody there who is just nailing it every time really takes a load off me. Plus, it’s nice being on the road with a bunch of old friends and having everybody get along.”

But personalities have also been at the heart of the Truckers’ longevity. On English Oceans, Cooley and Hood take full and equal ownership of the band’s songwriting duties for the first time. The distinction between their narrative styles of songwriting (Hood’s songs read like dark, rural novels while Cooley possesses a more informal yet bluntly conversational tone) have fascinated Morgan even before he joined the band.

“I was like the No. 1 fan,” he said. “I would be at every show. One of my best friends was playing drums for them at the time. When I was able to start subbing in the band, it was great because every night I would get to hear those songs from the back of the stage. Even today, that puts me back in that state of just how much I love the band and the songs. People at the shows get that, too. I can see it in people’s faces.”

Perhaps the most the heartfelt personality surrounding the Truckers these days belongs to a friend who is no longer with them. On the Hood-penned Grand Canyon, the closing song on English Oceans, the Truckers honor Craig Lieske, a late touring companion who sold merchandise at concerts and was a beloved member of the Athens music community.

“It sucks to have that happen,” Morgan said. “We were on the road with Craig for, like, seven years. Before that, I had been friends with him for another 10. I mean, everybody loved him. It was a connection you kind of took for granted until he was gone.”

Drive-By Truckers perform at 9 tonight at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom.899 Manchester St. Tickets are $28. Call (859) 368-8871 or go to www.bustersbb.com.

festival of the bluegrass: mountain heart/frank solivan and dirty kitchen/barefoot movement

dirty kitchen

frank solivan and dirty kitchen: mike munford, frank solivan, danny booth and chris luquette.

The week-long Best of Bluegrass fest made the final transformation into the Festival of the Bluegrass last night, shifting focus from multiple downtown venues (which were still active with BoB related events) to the Kentucky Horse Park. There, under the glow of a brilliant full moon, the 41st FOTB got underway with an astonishingly far reaching sampler of string band sounds.

Headliner Mountain Heart covered most of them in battalion sized jams that utilized all of the band’s seven monster players. Specifically, Mountain Heart ran through warp speed instrumentals, rustic traditional tunes, stoic ballads and, at one point, a bit of bluegrass psychedelia.

The extremes were measured early into its set with Devil’s Courthouse, a hot-wired instrumental led by fiddler Jim Van Cleve that rocketed by with solos that shifted from tradition fiddle tune fire to a progressive, new grass-style ensemble charge.

Immediately after that, the players downshifted in tempo and downsized to a quartet for a new, haunting road ballad from guitarist/keyboardist Josh Shilling called No One to Listen.

Mountain Heart also gets honors for perhaps the most improbable cover tune of the night – a reading of Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe that reworked the song’s dark guitar passages into a series of recoiling riffs that made the move to bluegrass seem almost obvious.

Preceding the band was the festival debut of Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen, a quartet with origins in the unlikely bluegrass epicenter of Alaska.

Throughout its brief set, mandolinist Solivan let loose the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Banjo Player of the Year (Mike Munford) and Instrumentalist of the Year (guitarist Chris Luquette) in a series of largely progressive jaunts that included a refreshingly desperate sounding cover of the Box Tops hit The Letter. But when they dug into Jimmy Martin’sSophronie, the players revealed a sense of tradition that was a deep as it was effortless.

This must have been the night for far afield cover tunes. Also on last night’s bill was the Johnson City/Nashville band Barefoot Movement, a group beaming with youthful zeal that worked to its favor when exhibiting a performance demeanor still in the development stages.

They proved a brave bunch, too, for giving such disparate tunes as Wade in the Water and the Blind Melon hit No Rain bluegrass treatments that were surprisingly complimentary.

(View Rich Copley’s photo gallery of Dale Ann Bradley’s BoB/Thursday Night Live show here.)

a tucker, not a trucker

shonna tucker

shonna tucker.

Here’s a bit of rock ‘n’ roll coincidence for you. On the night before Drive-By Truckers return to Buster’s on Friday with tales of rural unrest, two of the band’s former members will play at Willie’s Locally Known, 805 North Broadway.

Tonight, Shonna Tucker, the band’s bassist for eight years will showcase her debut solo album, A Tell All, with her country-soul informed band Eye Candy. The group includes another Trucker alum, John Neff on guitar and pedal steel guitar.

During Tucker’s stay with the Truckers, she contributed one-to-two songs alongside the tunes pf Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley to their albums. The 2011 split with the band apparently wasn’t on the best of terms. When asked prior to a 2012 Truckers show at Buster’s if her parting was amicable, Cooley said politely but succinctly, “Not really.”

Tucker’s Eye Candy Band include several vets of a long-fertile Athens, Ga. music scene. Along with Neff, the lineup includes guitarist Bo Bedingfield, keyboardist Neil Golden and drummer Clay Leverett.

Bio material for A Tell All describes he album as “ten songs about love and jealousy, nights spent on the road and nights spent in the kitchen, the things men do to women and women do for men.”

Opening tonight will be The Campbell Family Band and The Kentucky Hoss Cats (7 p.m., $10). Call (859) 281-1116 or go to www.willieslex.com.

Tomorrow, we will hear from longtime Trucker drummer Brad Morgan ahead of the band’s Buster’s return.

in performance: steep canyon rangers

steep 2

graham sharp and woody platt of the steep canyon rangers performing last night at paulie’s toasted barrel. herald-leader staff photo by rich copley.

On night three, BoB went big time. With a full video crew on hand to broadcast the evening live on KET-TV, the Best of Bluegrass fest took the Grammy-winning Steep Canyon Rangers, headed to Paulie’s Toasted Barrel and sent world class string music to the world – well, to the region, at least.

The North Carolina-based band proved to be a decidedly contemporary lot that regularly veered into folk, jazz, swing and multiple areas of Americana. The traditional touches – and there were many on display last night – surfaced discreetly. Sometimes they were evident in the band’s three and four part harmonies (the show-opening As I Go). In other instances, they appeared in the storylines of the songs (the emancipatory coal mining saga Call the Captain). There were also plentiful examples within the instrumentation (a dervish of a fiddle solo by Nicky Sanders that quoted, among others, War and Led Zeppelin).

Still, the overall song structure and performance presentation was all bluegrass. That was largely because the Rangers didn’t retool bluegrass as a commodity to reach other markets, as so many younger acts are doing in courting country music popularity. Last night, the Rangers did it the other way around.

In a set dominated by original material, the band took all kinds of modern inspirations and made them work effectively within a bluegrass framework. The instrumental Knob Creek, for instance, was built around the scholarly Euro-swing textures of mandolinist Mike Guggino, even though the tune was possessed the looseness and lyricism of a traditional fiddle tune. Later, during an extended instrumental intro to the very non-bluegrass themed Las Vegas, the full band engaged in the kind of new grass fusion that recalled the great ‘70s recordings of David Grisman.

But the big leap of faith required when absorbing the Rangers’ music is the acceptance of drums. In traditional bluegrass circles, drums are viewed as heretical. As so much of the Ranger’s music is rhythmic to begin with, the subtle percussion accents (which consisted mostly of brushes on a snare) sounded quite natural. They certainly added to one the evening’s most traditionally minded songs, the train-themed title tune from the Rangers’ 2013 album Tell the Ones I Love. But they seemed equally in place as they heated up the very organic (and very modern) groove to I Thought She Loved Me.

Gold stars go to drummer Jeff Sipe, whose lengthy credits include tenures with Leftover Salmon, Keller Williams and Jeff Coffin. An 11th hour replacement for the ill Michael Ashworth, Sipe alertly navigated through the Rangers’ many stylistic shifts with little more than an extended soundcheck prior to the show as rehearsal (Sipe, however, recorded with the Rangers on Tell the Ones I Love).

For the past five years, the band’s involvement with Steve Martin’s performance projects has made it something of a cro                                                                                                           ssover curiosity. But last night’s fine show reaffirmed the Rangers’ own musical identity – a profile indebted to bluegrass but open minded enough to enlist and assimilate any string sound around without surrendering to it.

Last night’s program also featured the regional trio Local Honeys, whose strongly traditional (but cordially delivered) blend of fiddle, banjo and autoharp took bluegrass back to its country roots beginnings. What emerged was a light, learned Appalachian string sound that nicely balanced the modern times that were to follow.

(View Rich Copley’s photo gallery of this show here.)

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