Dry Branch Fire Squad at Arcata Playhouse Feb. 12 and 13

Wed, 02/12/2014 - 8:00pm

Dry Branch Fire Squad at Arcata Playhouse Feb. 12 and 13





   The nationally acclaimed bluegrass band Dry Branch Fire Squad will perform two concerts at the Arcata Playhouse, 1251 9th Street in Arcata, at 8 p.m. on Wed., Feb. 12, and Thurs., Feb. 13. They will also conduct a workshop/jam session at 6 p.m. on Feb. 13, which is included in the price of a ticket.


   Tickets are available at the Arcata Playhouse and online at Brown Paper Tickets for $18 general admission and $15 for students, seniors, and Arcata Playhouse or Humboldt Folklife Society members.


   Concert ticket holders are invited to the workshop/jam session to get up close and personal with the Squad as they explore their southern bluegrass and old-time music roots, answer questions, and perform music they will not be playing in concert. Participants are encouraged to bring their instruments and voices to join in.


   The New York Times has said of the band “As much as bluegrass music’s new traditionalists pride themselves for their purity, they will have to go a long way to capture the historical resonance and simplicity found in the Dry Branch Fire Squad.”


  Southern California Bluegrass News has exclaimed “Simply put, this is the best live band playing today. I was moved not only to laughter, but tears and joy as well. Every time!”


   The Los Angeles Daily News reported “What separates the band from most neotraditionalists is its knowing, unsentimental evocation of mountain culture. Rather than representing Appalachia as a kind of mythical paradise lost, the band often speaks to the present-day realities of lost jobs, rural slums, poverty and social disintegration.”


   The Philadelphia City Paper explained “No white hats, no synths, no navels hanging out; these people are thoroughly for real. Voices are as hand hewn as the title implies, no suggestions of blues or rock or anything but generations of Appalachia in their tone.”


   Of popular band leader Ron Thomason, Putting On Airs reported “He covers many subjects, ranging from poverty to racism, education to the arts, class differences to testosterone, horses to music, all in an absorbing, flowing drawl. I can’t think of a better introduction to American music – Dry Branch is so much more than a bluegrass band!”


   Founded by Ron Thomason in 1976, Dry Branch Fire Squad has been performing 38 years, recorded more than two dozen projects, produced 18 CD’s, and has performed at the most prestigious acoustic music venues and festivals throughout North America.


   Fueled by the musical vision and cultural commentary of Thomason, they have become an institution in American acoustic music. Inspired by an fierce and uncompromising loyalty to the most traditional aspects of bluegrass, old time and southern gospel music.


   The Squad has performed for the National Council for the Traditional Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, and has toured internationally for the U.S. Information Agency. They host the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, NY, the largest bluegrass festival in the northeast, and the High Mountain Hay Fever Festival in Westcliffe, CO.


   In addition to Thomason on mandolin, guitar and lead vocals, the Squad includes Brian Aldridge on guitar, mandolin and harmony vocals, Tom Boyd on banjo, dobro and harmony vocals, and Danny Russell on bass and harmony vocals.


   Thomason began his professional music career at the age of 13 and has played and recorded with The Clinch Mountain Boys, The Wilson Brothers, Joe Isaacs, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley and many others. Growing up in southwest Virginia, he says “I had the great fortune of being sixteen years old before we got electricity. And so I lived a pretty earthy life. What a gift it’s been!” He has taught both math and english in college and at almost every secondary level. An accomplished equestrian, he trains horses and competes professionally, and also enjoys mountain climbing, skiing, and conservation advocacy.


   If Brian Aldridge was the worst musician in his family he would still be one of the best in the country. He grew up listening to his father, the great banjoist Howard Aldridge and the many friends who came to pick with him including Bill Monroe, Sid Campbell, Frank Wakefield and Jack Casey. He is known as an expert on vintage mandolins, in which he frequently deals, and


also owns a very successful gutter business in the central Ohio area.


   Tom Boyd is an expert banjoist and dobro player who has performed and recorded with Larry Sparks, The Allen Brothers, Mac Wiseman, Hylo Brown, Jack Casey, Chubby Wise, and Ricky Skaggs. He also performed on Thomason's first solo album in 1972. He has also been a machinist, luthier, business owner, and enjoys drag racing his 1989 Super Pro Mustang GT.


   Dan Russell plays stand-up bass, guitar, banjo, and the pedal-steel guitar. His banjo work runs the gamut of all bluegrass styles, and his boundless energy keeps the band on its toes. Dan has a also remodeled homes, cut tobacco, done yard work, split and delivered cord wood, been a welder.


   The association between Ron, Dan, Brian and Tom goes back forty years to southwestern Ohio and a common musical thread tied to Brian’s father, Howard Aldridge, a three–finger Scruggs– style banjo player who turned down an offer to play in Bill Monroe’s band. Ron gives him credit for “giving us the background and making musicians out of us.” Even though at one point in the late 1970's by Dan’s reckoning “all four of us guys lived within seven miles of one another,” they didn’t start playing music together until Tom joined in 2005, completing the quartet.


  More information is available online at: