Saturday, June 03, 2006

The river's rising at BotR

A true festival pleasure is the chance to hear bands both young, up-and-coming and established acts that you might know only by reputation. For me, an additional buzz comes from that early glimpse of a band destined for fame.

They tell me the weather in Pueblo today was hot and dry, but on the river the breezes were cool and the music sizzling.  Anne & Pete Sibley graced the River stage with a pleasant set that found a ready audience in the early day crowd. The Wyoming couple's easy stage manner and well-crafted original tunes fit nicely with their guitar & banjo instrumentation. 

Next in the lineup, fresh from an extended stay in Missouri was Foxfire, a young band featuring siblings and a burgeoning family harmony. The elements for a solid unit are all there - but, typical with young bands, missing only the years of experience needed to cement the musical relationships. 

Meanwhile, at the unplugged Pickin' Parlor, purists High Plains Traditions entertained an appreciative crowd eager for the genuine high, lonesome sound. These guys might not be the next incarnation of the Monroe Brothers but they do add an authentic tone the younger generation of players can't quite deliver.

The day's schedule moved into an alternative acoustic reality with the BGotR debut of the Hot Club of Santa Fe, seriously talented musicians recreating the 1920's Parisian jazz of Django Rheinhardt & Stephane Grappelli interspersed with swinging interpretations of pop classics. "Route 66" sounds natural in swing tempo thanks to Asleep at the Wheel, but "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" might make even the most jaded Dylan fan perk up and pay attention. The Hot Club was also the first band of the day to offer OBC - Obligatory Bluegrass Content - with its set closer, Bill Monroe's "It's Mighty Dark to Travel."

In the Pickin' Parlor, a stellar quartet from New Mexico made its BGotR debut. Raising Cain has been gathering positive reviews from respected musicians and has just released its second CD, produced by the estimable Sally Van Meter.  RC's set in the close quarters of the unplugged tent was a tour de force of  well-crafted original tunes blended with covers drawn from the West Coast school of hippie grass, including "Dark Hollow" and "Know You Rider." (We understand that a China => Rider segue may be in the works). The original songs, products of three strong writers in the band,  stand out as clean, sophisticated works. Guitarist Aimee Hoyt's powerful contralto easily filled the Parlor tent while Greg Daigle's vocals, banjo, and lead guitar embellished inventive chord progressions and Trischka-esque banjo rolls. Mandolinist Don Grieser, although not a vocalist, emanates an engaging stage presence that draws the audience into the sort of relaxed receptivity that makes the band's originals, including the addictive "Tango in Durango", especially effective. Watch for these folks - they are bound to be a powerful and influential unit on contemporary acoustic music.

The River Stage was host to a pair of Festival favorites, the Hot Strings (formerly the Pagosa Hot Strings) and the Hickory Project.

The musicians in Hot Strings have played together nearly a decade, even though  the oldest member is in his early 20's. Yes, this is one of those precocious child bands that seem particularly popular in bluegrass circles. Sometimes this works really well, as in the spectacular success of Nickel Creek. In this case, the lineup has hardly changed, giving the Strings an obvious chemistry and intuitive anticipation, both essential elements in the sort of freewheeling jamgrass these guys seek to create. The problem is that despite their years together, the Hot Strings have not yet found the one clear motif that could unite their impressive but disparate skills and talents. Today's set, for instance, launched with a sprightly fiddle original, "Ghost of the Leopard", but then descended into a grassified version of Peter Frampton's "Do You Feel Like I Do?" The set revived with the reggae-flavored "We Will March" and then wrapped up with the OBC of "Little Maggie." I like these guys, and I do expect them to  grow into their potential, which is considerable.

I want to talk about two bands that seem, to me at least, representative of twin currents in the contemporary acoustic music scene.

The Hickory Project, of Penn Hills, Pennsylvania, delivers an expert, passionate mix of folk and swing salted with driving acoustic breakdowns and perfectly-balanced vocals. Their seamless, professional sets make effective use of a twin guitar attack and exquisitely blended harmonies that take special advantage of fiddler Sue Cunningham's vocal subtleties. There is no doubt in the mind of any listener that the Hickory Project loves its work. Solidly based in the fundamentals of the craft, Hickory Project expands into satisfying original compositions, such as "Satisfaction Guaranteed", and "Run, Rachel, Run." This is the sort of band that can expect a lengthy, artistically rewarding career and adequate revenue streams to support its members. But you sure won't hear them on the radio.

And then there's Cadillac Sky. If any band on this weekend's schedule is poised to "hit the big time", here they are. More on them in the next post. -- Zen Curmudgeon

numly esn 88236-060603-799492-58Rate content:

© 2006 All Rights Reserved.

powered by performancing firefox

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I say briefly: Best! Useful information. Good job guys.