Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 4 Reviews

Hot Rize
Saturday, Oct. 2, 1:15 p.m.
Banjo Stage
Reviewed by Sarah Bardeen

By the time Veteran progressive bluegrass act Hot Rize took the stage, what had been a comfortable noontime crowd had grown into a sea of people stretching the length of Speedway Meadow. Old-timers Pete Wernick, Nick Forster and Tim O'Brien were joined by newbie Brian Sutton on guitar. The band opened with an instrumental tune, then launched into the murder ballad "99 Years," rolled on with "Hard Pressed" and were well into "See What the Lord Has Done" when the crowd really caught on to their greatness. They slowed the pace down with a gorgeous version of Butch Waller's "The Voice on the Wind," which was actually written near San Francisco and contains one of the most bittersweet choruses ever: "As sweet as a song on a violin / as sad as a sky on a starless night / or a tear in your eye / in the pale moonlight."

But love gone wrong couldn't rule the day, and politics reared its head when Tim O'Brien suggested "Untold Stories" could apply to the presidential election. The "Martha White Theme" lightened the tone a bit (pun intended), as the guys sang about their namesake: her famous self-rising flour. Then O'Brien got a little less coy about his political beliefs, saying of the election "There is going to be a regime change; change is our friend." The band then launched in to 1991 International Bluegrass Music Association song of the year "Colleen Malone."

Probably the most beautiful song the band played was the Jimmy Webb classic "Wichita Lineman." The unusual chord changes and the less-than-direct lyrics ("And I need you more than I want you / And I want you for all time...") takes bluegrass in a new direction: sad, thoughtful and unpredictable yet still clearly bluegrass. For an encore the audience was given a choice of "Achy Breaky Heart" or "High on a Mountain." Guess which one we chose?

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