The Grateful Bluegrass Boys with Blue Grama at Hodi’s Half Note
Redner is known as a ball of light and positive energy with every project he touches. He was the fiery fiddle player in Hot Buttered Rum for 13 years before giving up their extensive touring schedule for a different approach. His latest project The Grateful Bluegrass Boys is a celebration of the music that has inspired Redner for his entire life. An unashamed Dead Head and true fan of song craft Redner incorporates a large selection of Grateful Dead on his setlist, but there was much, much more. They invited local pickers Blue Grama up to get the night started.
Blue Grama has been bouncing around the Fort Collins scene for a number of years. Their approach is blend of the traditional with the likes of Son Seals, but we’ll get there. The power picker of the group was David Jensen. His fingers were working overtime throughout their hour long set. They focused on original numbers until the band blasted off on the classic Red Allen & The Kentuckians tune “Hello City Limits.” They dedicated Willie Nelson’s “Always On My Mind” to Jeff Austin who had recently passed. Quite unexpectedly the band launched into the Son Seals favorite “Funky Bitch” made famous by Phish. This was a nice touch. They were done just after 10 PM.
The Grateful Bluegrass boys consist of Redner on mandolin and fiddle and a “continuing cast of characters.” Most of their songs were instantly recognizable versions of stringed out Dead tunes or fun covers. “Dire Wolf” came early before a stellar “Loser.” Sean Lehe took the mic on Van Morrison’s “And It Stoned Me” much to the delight of the crowd. “Cold Rain and Snow” was another early highlight, with this band really playing in synch throughout the evening. They closed the first set with a surprising take on the Dire Straits classic “Walk Of Life” into “Big River.” With a band that primarily plays covers the art can be in the mash up.
The second set was another heater from The Grateful Bluegrass Boys. They dug deeper into the Dead catalog with tracks like “Ramble On Rose” and “Deal.” We were treated to our first Dylan track of the evening with “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” The “Scarlet Begonias” into “Fire On The Mountain” was another strong take on a classic combo. Redner dedicated the bluegrass traditional “Blue Ridge Mountain Home” to his fallen friend Jeff Austin. His shadow will hang over just about every bluegrass performance for the foreseeable future. He was an icon of the national scene and he will be dearly missed. The Grateful Bluegrass Boys were a nice treat for the weary and saddened bluegrass fans on the Front Range. Many including myself watched Jeff for over a decade with his various projects from Yonder to 30db to JAB. He is and always will be a legend. Thanks to Redner and company for helping to ease the pain.