Words by Kathy Foster-Patton

Uncle Earl & The Blue Canyon Boys :: 01.06.06 :: Rogers Hall :: Lyons, CO

Blue Canyon Boys
Uncle Earl and The Blue Canyon Boys filled up Rogers Hall in Lyons, Colorado with some great bluegrass and old time music on January 6th. The bands performed in an intimate setting, selling out their show in the hometown of Uncle Earls' KC Groves. Audience members arrived early to get good seats, stacked their own chairs afterwards, and then walked home. That's how things work in a small town like Lyons.

The Blue Canyon Boys opened with a polished performance of tunes richly flavored with strains of old time and country. Guitarist Jason Hicks, mandolinist Gary Dark, and bassist Chris Goodspeed have just released their debut CD, but they've been playing together in other bands for years. The set mix included originals from each of them, as well as tunes from Willie Nelson, Bobby Osborne, and Jim and Jessie, among others. Hicks and Dark traded off lead vocal and harmony duty, and their voices nicely complemented each other. The band members are fine instrumentalists, and the song selection put their prowess on display and entertained the fans with interesting selections. The Blue Canyon Boys' original work is impressive, especially Hicks's "Just An Ol' Dirt Road," Dark's "Another Forty Bucks Gone," and Goodspeed's "In This Valley" featuring heavy gospel-influences. Goodspeed appeared to be having the most fun of anybody in the place, bouncing around on stage with his upright bass. Be sure to keep an eye on these guys.

Uncle Earl
Following The Blue Canyon Boys, the five woman of Uncle Earl didn't waste any time in claiming the stage. Uncle Earl is KC Groves on mandolin, Abigail Washburn on banjo, Rayna Gellert on fiddle, and Kristin Andreassen on guitar, with all of them taking turns at lead and harmony vocals. Their regular bass player, Sharon Gilchrist, was missing from this show, so Erin Coats from the award-winning group Hit & Run sat in on bass. Uncle Earl is a Rounder Records band that has shot to national recognition in just a couple of years. Renowned resonator guitarist Sally Van Meter describes their approach, "Uncle Earl puts on a show that makes their audience want to jump up, dance, and sing as if they are band members themselves. Quality abounds in Uncle Earl, from great fiddling and old time banjo with killer harmonies to fancy hoofing and well-crafted songs. All this leads to a great groove that makes you have to get up and shout!"

Uncle Earl by Tobin Voggesser
They didn't disappoint the Lyons crowd. Opening with "Walking in My Sleep," Washburn sang lead with a voice that seemed to come straight from an angel. Local Sally Van Meter sat in on "Stagger Lee," a traditional murder ballad with Andreassen on lead, followed up by local girl KC Groves and her original "Pony Days." The "g'earls" enthralled with their accomplished musicianship and exquisite harmonies. They crowded around the microphone to get just the right sound and did a great job adjusting the amplitudes of both their instruments and their voices to suit the tune. Perhaps most impressive was the fact that they aren't afraid to put their instruments aside and let their voices carry the song. In "Keys To The Kingdom," sung by Washburn with the others on harmonies, the only sound besides their voices were the slaps as each hit their thigh in time to the music.

Uncle Earl by Tobin Voggesser
The show flew by. Andreassen is an impressive clogger and demonstrated her craft to a couple of tunes. Gellert sang the traditional Irish-sounding "Willie Taylor," which they dedicated to a good friend even though it was a murder ballad. Washburn delivered a song in Mandarin Chinese, and once the chorus had become recognizable, encouraged the audience to join in with an "Everybody!" They and the rest of the girls obliged.

The encore was a lovely a cappella gospel tune called "Room For Everyone In Heaven," followed by an instrumental where Andreassen and an audience member clogged up a storm. Once they saw there was no more music to come, the audience reluctantly folded and stacked their chairs, obviously wishing the show could go on into the wee hours. It doesn't work that way, though, in a small town like Lyons.

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[Published on: 1/15/06]

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overall Wed 1/18/2006 01:34PM
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I caught these ladies when they were last-minute mainstage replacements for Tony Rice last year at Merlefest. In front of a huge crowd, they more than held their own. Purity, Polish and Poise. They are terrific. If you get the chance, be sure to see them.