Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hot Mustard at Fritz in Keene, NH

On Friday evening we dropped into Fritz: The Place to Eat at at 45 Main Street in downtown Keene, NH to see Hot Mustard.  It was a warm, quiet Friday night in downtown Keene (the college is not in regular session) but an enthusiastic audience stayed to enjoy the second set of this rising local band that has been gaining enthusiastic fans and garnering dates in their short history.  Hot Mustard began with a N.H. Arts Grant between Bill Jubett and master banjo player Bruce Stockwell.  The grant required a performance as its culmination.  Adding April Hobart and Kelly Stockwell to the mix, the band opened for a Bill Evans and Megan Lynch concert.  Since then, Hot Mustard has won the Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival band competition, resulting in an appearance from the Jenny Brook stage on Sunday.

Bruce Stockwell

Bruce Stockwell has been a mainstay in the regional bluegrass scene for decades.  In 2005 he won the Merlefest banjo contest, bringing him some renewed attention, but to banjo professionals he's been well known for a long time.  His precise and inventive fingerings consistently demonstrate a mastery of the fretboard.  While deeply devoted to traditional bluegrass, he's comfortable playing in a range of jazz and folk-oriented styles as well. Hot Mustard, so far, sticks closely to traditional bluegrass, playing covers of the standard repertoire with unusual drive and creativity.

April Hobart

April has been attending and picking at bluegrass festivals since she was a child.  She's the daughter of Bruce Hobart, fiddler for Maine bluegrass band The Hemmingway Brothers.  She has a fine bluegrass voice which she complements with first rate rhythm guitar.  She's a seasoned performer whose facial expressions and body movement brings each song to life.  She sells every song with enthusiasm and grace.

Bill Jubett

Bill plays fiddle and joins with Bruce on double banjo pieces.  Their closing duet on Foggy Mountain Breakdown provided an interesting and lively take on this familiar standard Scruggs work.  His high tenor singing complements the trio very well and blends effectively with April's voice on duets.  

Kelly Stockwell

Kelly's bass work in Hot Mustard provides just that, plenty of hot mustard to their vibe.  Her bass playing is highly reliable as she leads the beat, and she builds on that with thoughtful and on target runs and walks on her instrument.  She also add a sprightly, and slightly edgy, liveliness to the band.   Perhaps most interesting to me was the very jazzy bass break she took.  Many bass players with years more experience than Kelly has would not take on this challenge in a bluegrass band.  It's a delight to watch her move and work with her instrument.


Recently moved to this new location at 45 Main Street in Keene, NH, Fritz began its history as Fritz Belgian Fries, but has moved to the entertainment and restaurant center of Keene, not far from the campus of Keene State College.  The restaurant serves an appetizing combination of salads, pannini sandwiches, and delicious fries made from fresh potatoes served with a variety of tasty dips.  Click here to view the menu.  There is regular live music and a scheduled open mic at Fritz.  The food is tasty;  they specialize in serving vegetables and fruits from local farms and orchards.  It's pleasant place to stop for a snack, lunch, or a light supper.

Hot Mustard