Wednesday, March 23, 2005
A conversation with . . .
The Jugbusters, who want to make you cut a rug
This Saturday, local old-time band The Jugbusters kicks off the first of what its members hope will be a long-running monthly square dance at the Floyd Country Store. Fiddler and vocalist Bill Richardson's 10-year Jugbusters project has gelled in its current form, more or less, for the past two years. Recently, Richardson, bassist Larry Houghton, guitarist Nicholas Polys, mandolin player Bob Browder and Jugbusters soundman Leonard Fox shared their thoughts on the Jugbusters sound.
How much are you gigging?
Larry Houghton: We probably play 50 gigs a year, at least.
What’s the band dynamic like?
LH: John and Nicholas work this magic with the guitars, it’s really old-time guitar to perfection. Nicholas is driving that beat. John’s putting in these nice bass runs. It’s really beautiful. Nicholas really pays attention to what John’s doing. They’re They’ve got something special going.
You’re playing the stable driving rhythms, and John’s picking out the melodies.
LH: More bass runs I would say.
Nicholas Polys: Yeah, kind of like those country fills that are really tasty at the end of a line. He’ll pick the perfect line to bring the phrase back around. That’s a lot of his experience and good taste. I sort of see my responsibility mostly as keeping the driving rhythm down. Learning about the dance music and the old-time music, it’s pretty important.
Bill Richardson: You’re filling in the sound, too.
NP: I’m doing full chords, gives it a bigger sound.
Filling in the high end.
LH: Yeah, Nicholas has really learned to pick stuff out and add his little tasty notes that tend to be more on the high end than John’s real bassy stuff. He tends to do these fun chords that are more up the neck, that really add an entirely different sound than John’s. And more recently, adding Bob in there on the mandolin filled that out. And the way that Russ plays banjo, Bob’s been working on understanding how that works, and those two are coming together and starting to develop a sound that works off each other.
BR: We’re a bigger old-time band than most groups, but all the old music I’ve listened to, the real classic stuff, it was a bigger group. Five or six pieces and two guitars, mandolin, fiddle and banjo was the sound I liked the best.
LH: And bass is good to have, too, I think.
BR: Absolutely, absolutely.
With that many people, you can really start to fill in those registers.
BR: It’s a bigger sound, and it lets the different instruments do their share to create a bigger sound instead of just a bunch of individuals playing as hard as they can, which a lot of old-time bands end up doing.
LH: A lot of them tend to just drive the whole time. . . . I wouldn’t say we’re like a bluegrass band, but we approach that style in letting some of the other instruments have their day.
BR: Yeah, a year ago from the way it was sounding, the feeling was that we were reinventing bluegrass. Except that we’re not taking solo breaks.
You don’t take solo breaks live?
NP: We highlight.
BR: That predates bluegrass. But we’re reaching that kind of energy.
Old-time with bluegrass energy?
LH: We’re sort of old-time country music.
It’s hard to be tight with six people. That’s a lot to tighten up. On the sound level, too, I can imagine that’s a challenge. You’re amplifying six acoustic instruments and vocals that are all miked.
LH: I run my bass through an amp.
LH: But it’s a really nice Acoustic Image amp and it gets the perfect sound, and I actually use it more as a monitor and it ends up being part of the house sound.
[To Leonard Fox] Any comments you want to make on your role in the group?
Leonard Fox: I’ve only been doing this for these guys for a short time. They seem to appreciate what I’m doing. Mostly I’ve been doing rock music most of my life. I met these guys, or at least three out of four of the bunch here, about a year and a half ago at the old-time jam at Gillie’s. That was kind of my first real introduction to old-time music. . . . It is a challenge. Like last night [March 18] for instance, we’re having to use a house system, and Bill’s playing and doing vocals through the same mic, so I basically had to baby sit baby-sit his channel all night, because his vocals would come out booming because it has to come out loud for the fiddle.
[To Bob Browder] So you've only been hooked up with these guys for about four months. How did that happen?
Bob Browder: I met these fellas down at the Blacksburg old-time jam at Gillie's on Tuesdays. I'm normally a guitar player, but they were needing a mandolin player. I've got some experience with it, so I thought I'd give it a try and it's worked out really well — it's tons of fun.