Rollin’ down the river |

Rollin’ down the river

Wren Wertin
Special to the DailyThe Tuscarawas River Band is kicking up their heels with a free concert tonight at Half Moon Saloon in West Vail.

Being the self-respecting musicians they are, they loathe to be pigeon-holed into one genre. Though often called a newgrass group because of their instrumentation, they also incorporate funk, rock, blues and soul into their shows.

“We really try to share the musical expression,” said Jesse Cravens (five-string electric bass, four-string acoustic bass). “Everyone has different background musically.”

Fusion violinist Hilary Murray has a classical training which creeps into the mix, just as drummer Brian Johnson’s checkered past of top 40, jazz and punk music can be heard with the rhythms he lays down.

Cravens hooked up with Murray and brothers Corey McCahill (six and 12-string guitars) and Jamie McCahill (guitar, harmonica) in Crested Butte.

They were influenced by the frequent appearances of Leftover Salmon and the String Cheese Incident, and soon headed to Ohio to pick up Johnson, their “missing link.” They take their name from a county in that state, where the McCahill brothers also grew up.

Tuscarawas River Band plays originals with the odd cover thrown in. (Jerry Garcia Band, Guns N’ Roses, and Phish have all made the cut at some point or other.) They’ve been concentrating on five-part harmonies recently, filling their sets with melodic interludes.

Local music fan, Andrew “Ziggy” Zweigbaum, booked the musicians for a party he’s hosting at Half Moon Saloon later this month. He’s been dropping by the Moon for a dose of live music since it was the Jackalope. He met Murray through some mutual friends who knew her from her Alaska days.

“They improvise a lot,” he said. “And they have some really neat covers, like Phish covers bluegrass style. Hilary is just amazing. She plays the mandolin too.”

He chose the River Band for its frolicsome dance groove, which is something the musicians consciously strive for.

“A perfect performance has to do with raw energy, when the whole crowd is involved,” said Cravens. “I would say the interaction with the crowd plays a big part.”

The Tuscarawas River Band plays a free show tonight at the Half Moon Saloon in West Vail at 10. For more information on the group visit their Web site at or call the club at 476-4314.

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

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