Wednesday, January 20, 2016
The Lonely Heartstring Band at YeeHaw Music Fest 2016
The Lonely Heartstring Band
The Lonely Heartstring Band, the Boston-based young band composed of four Berklee College of Music graduates and a Boston Conservatory ringer brought musical warmth, first rate singing, exciting harmonies, and instrumental virtuosity to the chill night air that has suddenly dropped onto south Florida giving it a hint of the arrival of serious winter across the northern half of the country. Their appearance at YeeHaw occurred because of the alert readiness of Promoter Ernie Evans to see an opportunity and to grasp it coupled with the band's willingness to appear on short notice before the event was officially begun. Barely thirty people braved the weather or arrived early enough at the Okeechobee Agri-Civic Center in Okeechobee, Florida to avail themselves of this remarkable experience. Those who did were transported to a musical world beyond their expectation.
The Lonely Heartstring Band was formed when a young couple called someone at Berklee, the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world for those studying for professional careers in rock, pop, jazz, and roots music, asking for a bluegrass band to play only Beatles tunes at a wedding. This serendipitous moment led the creation of a band clearly functioning within the template of bluegrass music while including covers of classic folk rock and rock bands from the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon that seem just right "bluegrassified," as the band calls it. Meanwhile, they show their respect for tradition by covering songs like "Sow 'em on the Mountain" by the Carter Family, classic bluegrass like Flatt & Scruggs' "I'd Rather Be Alone Than Dream of You Only," or Mel Tillis' "Ruby," The band strives successfully to maintain the internal integrity of each song, while giving it a fully bluegrass treatment as well.
George Clements possesses one of the cleanest, clearest tenor voices around. Each word comes through the microphone with a purity that makes each word count. While, with so many talented pickers in the band, he doesn't get much chance to demonstrate his own flat-picking, but when he does, it's first rate.
Patrick McGonigle's background includes studies in classical violin beginning with the Suzuki method as a child. He later switched to traditional music before attending Berklee. He's now studying for a Master's degree at the New England Conservatory of Music. He sings tenor in the band, adding an effective voice and a sparkling personality.
Pete Wernick remembers a teenage Gabe Hershfeld at festivals in the northeast soaking up bluegrasss and playing endlessly in festival jams when the banjo was almost bigger than he was. He had first heard Earl Scruggs' banjo on Car Talk, but his style and sound have diverged widely from Scruggs as he includes elements of Bill Keith and Bela Fleck in his accurate and tasteful melodic play. He's a superb technician who listens carefully, one of the finest solo and backup banjo players around.
Matt Witler came to Berklee from California. His mandolin play is precise and quick. His chop strong, yet he also plays some of the best fills you can hear. His background is in bluegrass, but he has added deep interests in jazz, pop, and classical music to his broad repertoire.
The only member of the band who's not a graduate of Berklee College, Charles attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, studying classical bass. He has toured worldwide with classical symphony orchestras, but his love of folk and bluegrass music has made him a valued member of Lonely Heartstring. Meanwhile, he continues to play part time with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He's the valued baritone singer in the band's trio.
The Clements Twins
The Lonely Heartstring Band brings a quality to bluegrass that refreshes without challenging tradition. Their respect for their musical antecedents is combined with an awareness of the cutting edge, but committed to song structure, solid singing, and virtuoso instrumentation. They've done their homework and thoughtfully found their own sound and vibe. Recently signed to a recording contract with Rounder Records, their first CD will be released in April. Meanwhile, here's the title song from their new album.
Lonely Heartstring Band - Deep Water - Video
The Lonely Heartstring Band is currently on a national tour. Keep an eye on their schedule and try to see them at a venue near you. This is a band you'll be able to brag about seeing before they were famous, but you don't have much time.