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At A Glance
Smokin' Grass doesn't totally identify with traditional bluegrass, because of its rock roots, according to founding member Michael Santosusso. The Vermont-based acoustic sextet, consisting of Santosusso (bass, vocals), Adam Frehm (dobro), Doug Perkins (acoustic guitar), teenage fiddle sensation Patrick Ross, mandolinist Beau Stapleton, and drummer Eric Hamell, continued to hold a sure footing in the breakneck rhythms of traditional bluegrass, but wasn't afraid to take a spin with Duke Ellington's "Caravan," Bob Dylan's "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry," and Rodney Crowell's "One Way Rider" in 2001. Original tunes have remained the group's mainstay, though, and its own songs, which venture into jazz, funk, and rock, are characteristically humorous, danceable, and emotionally uplifting. Smokin' Grass started in 1996 as a casual gathering of musicians performing at potluck dinners and pizza bars in Burlington, VT. Over the years, the band grew into a solid national touring band which opened for Jazz Is Dead and Buckwheat Zydeco and attracted guests John Sebastian (Lovin' Spoonful) and Ray Spiegal (Mickey Hart's Diga Rhythm Band) to its 1998 debut CD, Take Yer Pick. The musicians came to the group from diverse backgrounds. Santosusso, who hails from Mercer County, NJ, and studied broadcasting at Mercer County Community College, has an interest in classic rock, but he has trained in classical music, too. Perkins has a jazz and bluegrass background. Ross is a third generation fiddler in his family. Stapleton stays true to traditional bluegrass. Smokin' Grass listened more to traditional bluegrass, such as Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs, than might be imagined from its eclectic sound. They are aware of other contemporary newgrass bands, such as Leftover Salmon, Jazz Mandolin Project, and the Sam Bush Band, but they don't see themselves entirely in that camp. The addition of drums in 2001 opened up danceable rhythmic possibilities for Smokin' Grass, but the group remained just as comfortable with a slow, lyrical ballad. Smokin' Grass released its sophomore CD, In the Barn, in 2001.
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