Telluride House Band closes it out with a bang
As the temperature sank Sunday night the realization sank in. Telluride 2010 was just about history and the majority of us would go back to our cubefarms in a day or so with just memories. But first there was a mighty powerful mood elevator; the epic final set by the Telluride House Band. Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, Bela Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Bryan Sutton and Stuart Duncan define the sound and spirit of this festival like no others can or ever will.
To recite their credits would be pointless and absurd. The meat is in the music they are making now, today. It is so vital, creative and powerful that prior accomplishments are irrelevant. The highlight of the set was Edgar Meyer’s new composition “Natchez”. It was a circular piece of music that gathered strength and power with each bar until the whole stage seemed to be on the verge of disintegration. Each player soloed while the main theme grew in intensity. It wasn’t malevolent by any means but the mood was dark and sort of dangerous. Edgar’s strengths are well known to the Telluride crowd and while he’s not as animated as Sam, as well known as Bela or Jerry, he is the hub of the wheel in many respects. This piece of music ranks up there with the most powerful pieces I’ve ever heard in any genre.
Bryan Sutton got the biggest hands of the night for his soloing. As a flat picker, he has risen in the last decade to a position formerly held by Tony Rice. Ironic because as Tony’s replacement during the Acoustic Planet Bluegrass Sessions tour in 2000, he was introduced to a whole new audience. Since then he has become the first call flat picker. Mostly quiet, reserved and polite, this North Carolina native is clearly a fan favorite.
Sunday night he premiered a new piece he’d written called “Log Jam” about which Sam quipped, “Sounds painful”. Like all of Bryan’s compositions and interpretations, it was lightning fast, agile and full of meaning at every turn. As in many of the House Band’s tunes, the old testosterone competitiveness arose. Even though the band members would probably never admit it, there is more than a little “top this, you guys”. This group clearly is challenged by their bandmates and takes relish in putting forth their very strongest effort.
The final tune was a complete surprise to this listener. They did a version (Sam’s idea, I’m sure) of Red Peter’s “Hows Your Whole, Family?” an off color ditty more likely to be heard on the Howard Stern show than at Telluride Festival stage. It was a gut buster, the audience was howling with laughter. To see musicians who make their living producing art of the highest caliber and quality tackling some potty humor song showed how down to earth and fun loving this group is.
The only downside to this stellar group of musicians is that they only do one date a year together. Imagine how many people would be inspired to learn musicianship if this was a touring/recording outfit?
Now that the sunburn is peeling, the bags are unpacked and recollections are sifted, I can safely say that Shangri La exists in the San Juan Mountains. All the tired raving superlatives proved correct.The Telluride Bluegrass Festival has reached that level. And thanks to Grant and Kim from No Depression, and Brian Eyster from Planet Bluegrass, this lucky x 3 bluegrass fan got the experience of a lifetime.