Out of the ditch | VailDaily.com

Out of the ditch

Wren Wertin

Barbara Cue, the side project of Widespread Panic’s Todd Nance, 6 String Drag’s William Tonks and Bloodkin’s Crumpy Edwards, has just released a new album, “Ditch Lily.” The folks at the Saloon in Minturn are celebrating the event with a CD release party beginning at 9 p.m.

Nance and Tonks saw each other often at NRBQ concerts. They’d dub footage from each other for various purposes, and swap material.

“NRBQ is a good synthesis of The Beatles, Carl Perkins, jazz and rockabilly,” said Tonks. “They’ve got about a thousand albums out and Todd and I are big fans.”

The two musicians started playing NRBQ covers together. Two of Tonks’ friends, Jon Mills and John Neff, were also big fans, so they stopped by to play. Edwards sat in one night, and a band was born. The campy feel of a cover band was fun for a while, but the professional musicians were bound to stretch out.

“Ditch Lily,” their second album, doesn’t have a single NRBQ song on it. They write almost all of their own material, but they’re stuck with the name.

“We kept thinking we should change the name,” said Tonks. “But I think it’s a case of: you made your bed, now lie in it.”

Besides, they like their roots.

Barbara Cue gives the musicians a chance to do whatever it is they don’t get to do in their “day jobs.” Nance sings about a third of their songs, a big change for the Panic drummer. The type of song Barbara Cue is liable to perform is sometimes markedly different than that of other projects.

“If it doesn’t sound fun we don’t do it,” he said.

“Ditch Lily” is a polished album. Recorded over the course of seven months, it’s a good disc to have in the changer. They’ve got a guitar-driven sound, with forays into the land of the wicked bass. Nance’s drums are always solid. Two notable tracks are “Seasons” and “King Your Face,” both collaborative efforts on the part of the musicians.

Their live shows always draw Panic and Bloodkin fans, as people are curious about them.

“But it’s up to us to keep them coming back,” said Tonk. “We’re not Widespread Panic, but there are similarities of course. We also get the country rock crowd.”

Though still a fledgling group, Tonk and company intend to keep on keeping on. Based in Athens, Ga., they’re amidst a thriving music scene.

“It’s pretty healthy right now,” said Tonk. “The rise in the jam band culture means that being able to play your instrument is in vogue again.” Barbara Cue won’t be playing the party, but is hoping to tour in Colorado next year. For now, their album is available at tonight’s CD release party at 9 p.m.

Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at wrenw@vaildaily.com or phone at 949-0555 ext. 618.

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