Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Folklife show that fell through the cracks

Posted By on Sun, Oct 19, 2008 at 2:25 PM

Sometimes things fall through the cracks in our event listing system, an e-mail is overlooked or gets incorrectly diverted by the junk mail filter. Here's the p.r. for a very cool show tomorrow night (Monday) that I discovered this morning after hearing about it from a friend:

What:  Humboldt Folklife Society presents Russ Barenberg and Bryan Sutton
When:  8 pm, Monday, October 20th
Where: The Arcata Playhouse

On Monday, October 20th, the Humboldt Folklife Society brings two fabulous flatpicking guitarists - Bryan Sutton and Russ Barenberg - to the Arcata Playhouse.  If you enjoy neatly crafted tunes and phenomenal talent, this is a golden opportunity to see two first rate players in person.  The show starts at 8 pm, with doors at 7:30 pm. Admission is $20 general, $18 HFS members.  Tickets are available at Wildwood Music and The Works, and at the door.

Russ Barenberg

Russ Barenberg

Russ Barenberg

Russ Barenberg started his professional career in 1970 with Country Cooking, and has since played with a variety of stellar musicians, including a trio with dobro great Jerry Douglas and bassist Edgar Meyer. That trio issued the 1993 album "Skip, Hop, and Wobble"; a classic blend of their styles, and a testament to the creativity each holds with their respective instruments.  Russ was nominated for a Grammy in 2008 for "Little Monk" off his When at Last release. Other career highlights include recording for Ken Burns' movies as seen on PBS, including "The Civil War" series, "Huey Long," and others.

After moving to Boston in 1979, Barenberg joined Glaser and fiddler/mandolinist Jay Ungar in the triple-fiddle band Fiddle Fever, recording two albums with the group.  While in Boston, Barenberg was also active in the vibrant contradance scene, playing frequently for dances, and a number of Barenberg's own tunes have since become popular standards in the contradance repertoire.

Barenberg moved to Nashville in 1986 and has become a mainstay of the recording scene there.  He accompanied Irish singer Maura O'Connell for several years, and worked with Jerry Douglas, Darol Anger and Snuffy Walden to create the soundtrack for Homecoming with Anne Bancroft.  He continues to be involved in The Transatlantic Sessions, a series of television shows produced in Scotland that bring together top acoustic musicians from the British Isles and United States for collaborative performances.  His latest album, When at Last, received a 2008 GRAMMY nomination for Best Country Instrumental Performance, and a nomination for the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Instrumental Album of the Year.

Few guitarists so perfectly blend a mastery of roots music traditions with melodic originality, or so finely balance muscularity with delicacy.  Each moment of his new album is shaped by these artistic dualities, and by Barenberg's newfound energy and re-dedication to making music central to his life.  "I'm at a point in my life now where I really appreciate what a gift it is to be a musician," Russ Barenberg says with a smile, "and I'm ready to embrace whatever's involved in doing it for a living.  It's just a great time for me."

Bryan Sutton

Bryan Sutton

Bryan Sutton

Bryan Sutton is one of the most in-demand session players in bluegrass and country music today. He has toured and recorded with Ricky Skaggs, Bela Fleck, Earl Scruggs, the Dixie Chicks, Dolly Parton, the Chieftains, Randy Travis, and Jerry Douglas.  Sutton has earned 3 Grammy awards, as well as being a 5 time IBMA Guitar Player of the Year, and credits Doc Watson, Tony Rice, and Norman Blake as his influences.

Though it features some of the most iconic bluegrass guitarists in history (including Tony Rice, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs and David Grier), Sutton's new cd, Not Too Far from the Tree, is a tribute to the kind of personal, spontaneous music making that often happens when guitarists get together to jam informally. "I wanted to get out of the studios, out of the sterility of standard record making," he says "and capture as much of the music on my own as possible, so I decided to go to people's homes."

Sutton first conceived of his new album of guitar duets "in a car on the way back from a trip," he says. "I was thinking about all these guys that had influenced me and that some of them weren't going to be around forever.  I was thinking about records like Mark O'Connor's record of fiddle heroes and Jerry Douglas' record with all the Dobro players. And I got this idea of recording with these guys that were my heroes and also good buddies and advice-givers -- people that have helped me in my career as a player. I felt like it was something I could do, and I felt honored to be in a position to be able to call everybody up and ask if they wanted to record."

"I really like the musical conversation that goes on in a duet... In a duo, you have the freedom to go as far as each person is willing to go.  You have this great possibility to get one sound, one voice.  The guitar has such a wide tonal range that in a good duet situation you don't miss anything, you don't want for bass or the mandolin chop or anything. You've got plenty of sustain and rhythm, all that stuff.  When you get a trio, suddenly you have different roles to play.  And in a band everybody has their specific part to do at any given moment.  But with a duet you can constantly change dynamics and it's completely free."
Arcata Playhouse is a community arts center dedicated to bringing live performance to the Humboldt region, and is located at 1251 9th street in the Old Creamery Building in Arcata.  For more information on the show, visit or call 822-5394.

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Bob Doran

Bob Doran

Freelance photographer and writer, Arts and Entertainment editor from 1997 to 2013.

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