I’ve always loved the different versions of bluegrass that come from around the world and from different parts of America. Yes, there’s always the need for the traditional fires to be kept burning in the bluegrass world. But, a hundred different versions of “John Henry” by bands that do not sound as original or distinctive as the first generation bands tend to meld into one big indistinguishable musical blob after a while.
Much like the geography of the Appalachian Mountains, the Piedmont of North Carolina, and the foothills of Kentucky has influenced the sound and themes of bluegrass, the music that comes out of the western United States has also proved to be unique at times. Such is the case with the Sweetwater String Band, who hails from Mammoth Lakes, the only incorporated town in the beautiful eastern California county of Mono near Yosemite National Park.
The “cello-driven High Sierra bluegrass” of the Sweetwater String Band is made by Scott Roberts on mandolin and vocals, Jeff Meadway on guitar, Patrick Ferguson on bass, and David Huebner on cello and vocals. All of the earthy and atmospheric cuts on River Of Rhymes were written by Roberts and Huebner. While there are Western themes represented in these songs, the band also pays tribute to a couple of individuals back East in the Appalachians. “Doc’s Waltz” is a nod to the late Doc Watson and his trips from Deep Gap to Boone back before the traffic built up and nature surrounded the dirt roads. “They Turned The Mountains Upside Down” is dedicated to the late Larry Gibson who founded the Mountain Keepers organization that fights against mountaintop removal. (www.sweetwaterstringband.com)DH