Red, White and Bluegrass

P.D Kelley

American Progressive Bluegrass at Its Best

On Sunday, March 18th, the Rogue Theatre crowd got to indulge in a postmodern Bluegrass extravaganza with two bands of similar temperament and musical style: Old Salt Union is currently touring with, and opening for, Yonder Mountain String Band, and if you’ve ever felt you just couldn’t get enough of this fusion of old time stompin’ and pickin’ with modern harmonies and original compositions, then my prediction is you got your fill on this evening. To quote one critic (and I think it applies to both groups) “Old Salt Union has the groove and the chops of a great string band balanced with infectious rock and roll energy.” Co-founder Ryan Murphy plays the banjo with grit and joy and he has gathered some stellar players around him: violinist John Brighton, mandolinist Justin Wallace, upright bassist Jess Farrar and guitarist Rob Kindle. The level of musicianship is top knotch and I defy anyone to not move a body part when listening to what I would call a thrilling performance.

Ditto for Yonder Mountain String Band. These folks are at the top of their game and have been perfecting their craft since 1998. Co-founder Dave Johnston is also the banjo player and his mates include Ben Kaufmann on the upright bass, Adam Aijala on guitar, mandolinist Jacob Joliff and some feminine energy with Allie Kral on the fiddle. She has a stand-out voice to match her compelling work on the fiddle. One of the band members shared with the audience that she was pregnant (visibly so) and that he watched in fascination as her stomach rippled as the baby moved around. Man, that kid is gonna come out kicking in rhythm, and should be singing before he/she can walk. That’s my segue into how fine and sweet the vocals and harmonies were from all five players. The younger crowd was at the front of the stage and danced and whooped it up from beginning to end. The older generation stayed in their seats and were swaying away. Yonder Mountain said they would be coming back to the Rogue on their next tour so make sure to catch them on the next go round.

Catch you on the flip side.