Friday, January 11, 2008

RiverCity notebook

Various musicians pulled double duty by sitting in with other bands as well as their own. Ron Stewart, who plays banjo with Dan Tyminski, filled in on fiddle with Rhonda Vincent on short notice when Rage standby Hunter Berry came up lame. Here's hoping Hunter is back on his feet soon.

Marty Stuart came with a partial lineup of Fabulous Thunderbirds and filled it out with the McCoury boys--Ronnie on mandolin and Rob on banjo. The two bands have gigged together before and there was lots on onstage chemistry in Portland, especially the dueling mandos with Ronnie and Marty.

I hadn't realizedthat Chris Eldridge, late of the Infamous Stringdusters and set to debut in Chris Thile's Punch Brothers band, is also a sometimes member of his dad's band, Seldom Scene. And he looked so young in his short haircut and striped shirt that at first I thought he might be a younger brother. Sure enough, it was Critter himself, adding some six-string firepower to the Scene's instrumental attack.

I had forgotten that Bryn Davies holds down the bass part in Republic of Strings. Having missed her since she stepped down from the Rowan-Rice Quartet last year, it was nice to see her trademark moves as she more than held her own with the rest of Anger's virtuoso band.

Ron Thomason and Dry Branch Fire Squad were in fine form, delivering two sets of traditional bluegrass along with a welcome helping of Ron Thomason's comedic monologues. I was familiar with riff on Utah Philips leading into "Orphan Train" and his antiwar commentary introducing "He's Coming to Us Dead," but they are equally powerful in the retelling. The band's Sunday set was all gospel. I buttonholed Thomason afterwards asking for a comment on the Grey Fox site relocation, but he didn't want to say anything on the record.

John Reischman & The Jaybirds impressed with their bluegrass chops but also their sweet original songs, several sung by bassist Trish Gagnon. It turns out that Gagnon, a Canadian, almost didn't make the gig over a visa problem until the festival management asked for help from U.S. Senator Ron Wyden's office.

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