Newgrass king Sam Bush and Tahoe’s Dead Winter Carpenters nail it
TRUCKEE, Calif. – The Dead Winter Carpenters and the Sam Bush Band played an open-air concert at Tahoe Donner golf course on July 21, thrilling music lovers of all ages with a wide variety of string band music.
North Tahoe’s own Dead Winter Carpenters kicked the night off around 6:30, playing a set of original tunes, including several off of the new album, “Ain’t It Strange.” DWC played rocking jams “Cabin Fever” and “How to Make a Living 101,” alongside slower and more gentle songs like the nostalgic “Find Your Home.” Dead Winter Carpenters closed with “Old Home Place,” a traditional bluegrass song written by Mitch Jayne, rendered in the band’s doctrinal upbeat and rhythmic style.
As usual, a solid turnout of dedicated fans came to see the hometown band, dancing, singing along to their favorite songs and shopping CDs and apparel at DWC’s merchandise booth.
By the time the Sam Bush Band took the stage, the audience was well warmed up by DWC’s stomping beats and Jenni Charles’s searing fiddle runs. The veteran bluegrass musician dove right in and grabbed the audience’s attention with “Memphis in the Meantime,” a rocking John Hiatt song contrasting country music culture with Memphis rock and blues.
The Sam Bush Band showed why its frontman has been at the forefront of bluegrass and newgrass music for four decades and counting. Bush’s legendary energy and phenomenal picking skills were on full display, his fingers a blur of motion on both mandolin and fiddle.
The band covered ample ground in its set list, from “Circles Around Me Now,” the inspirational title track of his most recent album, to extended jams of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love?” and “One Love.” Fans of Bush’s ripping instrumentals were not disappointed, as he had the entire crowd moving and grooving with “New Country.” A lengthy jam of Allman Brothers’ “Whipping Post” and Bush’s own “Banana’s” made for a ripping combination of blues and Latin jazz.
For an encore, Bush and company paid tribute to the late Levon Helm of the band with “Up on Cripple Creek,” the audience singing along lustily.
A festive crowd of around 1,500 turned out for the concert, with chairs, blankets and picnics in tow. The Tahoe Donner driving range provided a wonderful venue, with spacious seating on grass lawns sloping down to the concert stage. While food and beverages were available for purchase, Tahoe Donner also generously encouraged concertgoers to bring their own.
The only downside to the concert was that there probably won’t be another like it in quite some time. Live bluegrass music from two excellent bands in the open air under starry Sierra Nevada sky is a hard act to follow.
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