Bluestring – the next wave from Athens, Ga.
“Living in Athens has been more of a motivator because the local scene seems to have died because Athens has become such a venue for national acts to come through,” said Bluestring guitarist Clay Evans. “The local music scene has suffered because we can’t play bigger venues. It’s driven me to become a national act. It made me more competitive.”Bluestring formed in Athens in 1998 as a four-piece bluegrass band, but since then, it has dropped its mandolin and fiddle instrumentation along with its bluegrass sound, opting for a funky, rock groove with a jazz approach.”When we first started, we tried to be more bluegrassy than we were,” Evans said. “Our music has matured so much. I actually see myself as a songwriter now. I’m becoming more comfortable with the way I communicate my music – it’s partly growing up. We focus on songs, but we also do a lot of improvisation on stage.”In the past two years, Bluestring has changed its lineup. First, sax player Brad Thomas entered the mix with Evans, bassist Chuck Thomas and percussionist Nick Prince. Last year, drummer Jason Jones joined the outfit, replacing Bakari Brock, who became a manager for the band. Last summer, violin and mandolin player Ted Pennington left the band.In 2001, Bluestring caught the attention of Butch Trucks, of the Allman Brothers Band. He signed the band to his new Flying Frog Records label.Bluestring’s new CD, scheduled for release in March, tells the story of the outfit’s changes. It departs from the band’s most recent album, “Overthinking,” by dropping the bluegrassy fiddle and mandolin instrumentation, adding Kevin Thomas on keyboards and Benji Shanks on lead electric guitar and focusing on songwriting. Evans wrote most of the lyrics, filled with coming-of-age introspection and spiritual matters.”It’s become a lot more soulful,” Evans said. “I would call it a rock album for sure, but there’s still some cool improvisational points we hit that sets it apart from popular rock.”Bluestring weaves in and out of musical genres without missing a beat, but the influences all of the musicians share include Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, James Taylor, Bruce Hornsby and The Funky Meters. In addition, R.E.M. has profoundly affected Evans.With less than a year of full-time touring under its belt, Bluestring has captured audiences with a new breed of funk and jazz often compared to the Dave Matthews Band with Southern rock and South African flavors.Bluestring plays at 10 p.m. tonight at Half Moon Saloon.This story originally appeared in the Summit Daily News. Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 245 or by e-mail at email@example.com.