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.
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 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'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.