WEST VAIL – Fresh off a tour of the Northern Rockies, where snow seemed to follow them around, the Wayword Sons are headed into Vail to play at the Sandbar Friday.A four-piece band, the Wayword Sons are Benny Galloway (upright bass), Gregg Andrulis (keyboard), Anders Beck (dobro) and Pete Kartsounes (guitar). Galloway is a lifelong musician who has traveled all over the country, writing songs along his way. Andrulis played with guys who would later form Jamband powerhouse Umphrey’s McGee. Beck was a member of Broke Mountain Bluegrass, winner of the prestigious 2003 RockyGrass band competition. Kartsounes has played with a wide variety of musicians across a multitude of musical genres (see a list at petekmusic.com) in addition to recording two studio albums.The Wayword Sons play songs ranging from short waltzes to hard-driving bluegrass to 15 minute jams (the lengthy jams are a recent addition that arrived when Kartsounes joined the band a few months back). This diversity makes it tough to classify the band’s genre, as Beck elucidates. “We often get called a bluegrass band, but that is a bit of a misnomer,” he said. “We’ve been called ‘newgrass,’ which is closer to what we do because most of us are rooted in bluegrass music, but take the music farther out. We like to stretch it and Pete certainly helps with that. Sometimes we’re a bluegrass-type band, sometimes we’re a rock band without drums.”Based out of Durango, the band rarely plays shows in their hometown. Beck explains that, “it’s pretty good, there are more good musicians than most other towns of this size, but there aren’t many venues to play in. We really don’t play here that much, actually we really haven’t been home much at all recently, having been on the road.” The band has played shows all over the country in the last year, and this emphasis on touring certainly takes a toll on the musicians.
“It’s a lot of driving around and a lot of hotel rooms. Probably more of that than actual playing music, which is kind of strange and not quite what someone would imagine from the outside looking in,” he said. “I just keep telling myself that it is better than sitting in a cubicle or something. It’s hard with all of the traveling, but we try really hard to make sure that when we step on stage we are ready to rock and full of energy. That much we owe to the fans that come to our show.”One of the band’s major assets is the songwriting talent of Galloway. Many jamgrass fans were first introduced to Galloway (who is also known as Burle) when Yonder Mountain String Band released their “Old Hands” album, comprised completely of songs penned by him. Bluegrass bands often play covers of classic bluegrass tunes, but I can’t say I’ve seen a whole album written by a contemporary songwriter and recorded by another band. Many of the songs on “Old Hands” are crowd favorites at Yonder shows, a testament to Galloway’s prowess. “Burle is literally writing all of the time,” Beck said. “Often there are just bits and pieces that we try to work into an idea or a new song. His songs just keep getting better and better. The most recent new one that we started playing is called ‘Rocking Chair’ and it is an instant Burle classic and some of the other bands that play his songs are chomping at the bit to get a hold of that one.”Burle isn’t the only link to Yonder Mountain String Band. The Wayword Sons have opened for Yonder on more than a few occasions, and members of Yonder are featured on the band’s recent release entitled “Poor Boy’s Delight.” When asked about other musicians he’s gotten the honor to play with, Beck mentioned that he, “got to sit in with Drew Emmit Band for a whole set last summer which was a blast. We’ve been doing some shows where we are Vince Herman’s backup band, too. Its pretty amazing for me to think that five years ago I was buying Leftover Salmon albums and now those guys are calling to see when we can get together and play.”One of the biggest achievements so far for the band was getting a slot at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2006.
“Telluride was amazing,” Beck said. “I’ve personally been going to the festival for a long time as a fan, so it was an honor to be asked to play the festival. The view from stage [looking out at 10,000 fans] is unbeatable. Musically, I think it is the perfect festival for us, bluegrass-based but stretching boundaries.” When asked about their plans for the upcoming summer, Beck said that, “there are a bunch of festivals lined up.” Don’t wait until the summer to see the Wayword Sons, this show will be in a much smaller venue and you’ll get a better sense of what their music is all about.
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