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Montana Slim String Band at Freight & Salvage

Montana Slim String Band at Freight & Salvage

Friday, February 19, 2010
The first thing I noticed when Montana Slim String Band took the stage was the imposing statue of their rhythm guitar player. At well over six feet tall, Jesse is impossible to ignore, until the music starts. The only thing bigger then Jesse is MSSB's sound. Their sound immediately filled the room at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley and put a death grip on your senses. The band began playing with no discussion and Brent quickly focused attention on his nimble fingers tearing up the fretboard on his mandolin while Dave, and his bass called Trumptet, held down the bottom end with spot on timing. Dave breaks out his bow on one occasion to provide an eerie, haunting sound. Most of the band shares vocal duties, blending subtle harmonies into a full-bodied sound that fills out their music and consumes the audience. I was initially skeptical when I first saw Turi setting up the effects peddles for her fiddle, but she, and the rest of the band, use them judiciously to ad a depth to their sound that gives them a refined, modern edge. Their style of music most certainly falls into the Newgrass or Jamgrass territory, but with Brent's smoking mandolin and Sean's unearthly flat-pickin' breaks, they pay due homage to the masters. When I heard Sean's first break I expected to see smoking frets, but his calm stage presence and smooth, relaxed pick hand belies his intricate melodies and break neck speed. His use of the entire fret board makes me think that there's a rocker somewhere inside that wants to get out, but just can't overcome the bluegrass.

The band also managed to provide a musical marathon, blending one song into another, lulling you into a sense of contentment that makes you forget that you've been listening for over ten minutes. They kept the audience connected with their honest lyrics that provide a vehicle for the band to display their emotional connection to the music. Their extended jams were highlighted by Brent and Turi’s instruments occasional back and forth arguments. Though, neither mandolin or fiddle were ever able to claim dominance, they did manage to push each other to greater levels of virtuosity.

The most difficult thing about seeing Montana Slim String Band is catching them in town. In Jesse's words they tour, “pretty much all the time”, but they are more than worth the effort. They put on a show that will be sure to get you toes tappin’ and you neighbors dancin’; even at a seated venue like the Freight. To take some of their music home you can find their LP Slim Pickin's at either iTunes or CDBaby and they will be back in town for a major show at the Independent in San Francisco on March 25th. These guys are sure to deliver.

-Jonathon Miller

Published: February 27, 2010 |

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