A good-time listen full of fun, folksy & fanciful groove
Playing Time – 46:01 -- In so far as…to the extent that….much music is being produced today, a band’s challenge is always to define their own personalized and unique sound that will cause listeners to sit up and say, “Hey, that’s cool!” Insofarasmuch, an acoustic music project from The Two High String Band, does just that with their laid-back mélange of eight originals and four other songs that illustrate their eclectic musical tastes from folk to bluegrass, and Dawg to old-time blues. Their lilting melodies easily get your toes tapping.
The Austin-based string band formed as a trio in 1995 with Billy Bright, Bryn Bright, and Brian Smith. In mid-2002, Geoff Union joined the group, and they became a full time band featuring two guitars, upright bass, and mandolin or mandola. Billy, Bryn and Brian handle the vocals. Guest artist David Grisman lays down some tasty mandolin licks on “Sonny’s Ride,” and “Dang, Howdy!” The former is a high-stepping bluegrass-flavored instrumental named for the Brights’ dog. Another highlight of the album is Vassar Clements’ guest fiddling on three tracks: Sonny’s Ride, Somewhere Between, and You Can’t Run Away From Your Feet.
The four two high guys and gal refer to their own music as “from the lonesome to the lithesome…” and “Bill Monroe in mind…no fiddle or banjo.” One definitely hears the influence of Mississippi John Hurt in Billy Bright’s self-penned “Alabama Blues,” featuring some exhilarating fingerpicked guitar. Their cover of Guy Clark and Verlon Thompson’s “Bunkhouse Blues” also has some engaging guitar played in the same style. Brian does all the fingerpicking and rhythm playing, and Geoff does the flatpicked leads.
The band pays a tribute to another fine guitarist, Norman Blake, with “Thanks Norman.” John Hartford is clearly another of the band’s influences as they cover his “You Can’t Run Away From Your Feet,” and offer their own composition,“The Old Place,” which easily could have been a Hartford hit. Billy Bright’s defining lead vocals certainly remind one of the late John Hartford. Brian sings lead on Bunkhouse Blues, Somewhere Between and Old Grey Mare. Billy sings the lead on four songs. The closest the band comes to bluegrass is with their duet harmonies on a Merle Haggard cover, “Somewhere Between.” The album’s five instrumentals display some bluegrass sensibilities, but they also demonstrate the characteristic fluidity and dynamism that jamgrassers possess.
The band is currently playing a number of restaurants in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and perhaps their enchanting acoustic repertoire could be best called or categorized as “cafegrass,” an eclectic musical blend that’s perfect for a java-sipping bunch of people who listen. However, more than just a regional act, the band has also toured the northwest, colorado, southeast, and northeast. In their short time together, The Two High String Band is building a fanbase, and they have already shared the stage with the Tony Rice Unit, Slaid Cleaves and Yonder Mountain String Band, among others. In 2004, we’ll also be able to see them at Merlefest. While their musical approach is rather unconventional, they don’t seem so far removed from or unaware of their traditional roots. There’s plenty here to enthuse a traditional music fan, and Two High’s music should only serve to redirect many younger fans back to those roots.
Billy, Bryn and Brian met while attending the Berkelee School of Music in Boston, and The Two High String Band actually formed as a result of the “party release” jams that happened every night in the apartment that Billy and Brian shared. Bryn, a jazz major living downstairs at the time, wasn’t very pleased with all the stomping around and racket…until they invited her up to join them on bass. The Brights have backed folk musician Caroline Herring, toured as part of Peter Rowan’s Texas Trio, and Bryn has recorded and toured with Old & in the Grey, featuring Peter Rowan and David Grisman. Billy and Bryn also have a 2002 album of original instrumentals that included guests Peter Rowan, Vassar Clements, Tony Rice, Danny Barnes and Eamon McLoughlin.
“Insofarasmuch” was recorded almost entirely live in their home studio indicating that the band has gotten their arrangements very tight. The party release jam has now graduated to full-fledged band. The album isn’t a glossy and over-produced Nashville production. Instead, it’s very quaint and unpretentious, packed with music that is a good-time listen full of fun, folksy and fanciful groove. (Joe Ross, staff writer, Bluegrass Now)