Let me put it to you as straight as I can people: you need the .357 String Band in your life. Life is better with the .357 String Band. The world is a better place because the .357 String Band is in it.
Am I still high as a Georgia pine off of 1 1/2 hours of music over 24 hours ago, and thus speaking in grand terms I will regret later? Possibly. But if the .357 String Band rolls through your town and you’re sitting at home watching reruns of Law & Order, you will be the one regretting it my friend.
In my Best Albums of 2008 article I put their latest Fire and Hail as No. 1. But a huge test for me for any band is if their music is as good in the live environment, and I have to say, the .357 String Band was not as good. It was BETTER.
On a Monday night, added on short notice to the tour schedule, and to an audience straining to make double digits, the .357 String Band emptied the kitchen. Their energy and technical prowess cannot be conveyed in words, and their showmanship was a 10.
The .357 String Band is made up of 4 musicians at the top of their craft. Playing acoustic rhythm and the heart of the band is Derek Dunn. Everything seems to pivot around him, and he is the muscle that pushes the blood through this explosive band. Joe Huber on banjo and Jayke Orivs on mandolin are the ringers of the group. These are the guys that set your hair on fire with their top notch technical prowess. If anybody can play their instruments faster than those two men, I’ll eat my hat.
But the guy that impressed me the most in the live setting was the bass player, Rick Ness. It is so easy to look over the bass player in a band, esp. in recordings, but as far as I am concerned Rick matches in skill, creativity, and energy, any other member of the band, and possibly any other upright bass player out there. Yes, I said that.
I have a new favorite bass player, and his name is Rick Ness. I have seen other upright bass players that can slap with such skill you never miss the drummer, and others that can belch out triplets that make you wonder if your really hearing and seeing what you think you are. But Rick adds elements I’ve literally never seen, like bringing his fretting hand around the opposite side of the bass neck to slap an extra open string during a run, and I swear the dude spent most of the time with one or both feet off the floor, literally riding his upright bass while playing it. Plus his squeeze is Rachel Brooke, which means he can pretty much 1up and other stag out there.
Think of the technical skills of someone like Dan Infecto or Zach Shedd, combined with the energy and stage presence of Joe Buck AND Jimbo Wallace all at the same time. That is Rick Ness.
Compared to their recordings, which again last year I ranked below none, the .357 String Band’s fast songs were faster, their dynamics more definable live. One of their recorded songs that took some warming up to for me was a cover of Those Poor Bastard’s “Glory, Amen.” Possibly because that song stuck to me from the original artist, it was hard for me to appreciate the .357 version. But live, that was my favorite song of the set. Also, the banjo player Joe Huber shouted instead of sang at times during his songs that added a new, more energetic element to the live show.
You feel when watching this band, each member is pushing the others, to increase the energy, hasten the pace, to be the best person on stage. They are four equals in talent that become greater than the sum of their parts when that first downbeat rings out.
On a personal level, their just great guys as well. They’re not droolers (as some might expect), but not pointy-nosed intellectuals (like myself) bitching about how music should be, and why they are better than everyone else. Just down to earth people, approachable, easy to talk to guys.
If you ask me, as musicians, recording artists, performers, and people, it is hard to find any one to put above the .357 String Band in the current REAL country movement. It’s as simple as that.
.357 String Band Albums:
PS: I also did an audio interview with the band before the show which I hope to have tweaked and ready to post soon.
Also for all of you back east who’ve been pointing and laughing at the long musical drought I’ve endured for the last year, we’ll the tide is turning. .357 on Monday, Bob Wayne tonight, Devil Makes Three in a couple of weeks, and Scott H. Biram in about a month! I’ll be bringing you as many reviews and interviews as I can!