Worried Man Blues from the album Good Medicine
The repertoire of the Atlanta's Blueground Undergrass has long been a place where a love for revamping old tradition has comfortably coexisted with inspiration from such seemingly incongruent American music pioneers as Bill Monroe and Miles Davis.
Led by bespectacled banjo man and vocalist Rev. Jeff Mosier, the group was part of a new wave of bluegrass/jam rock fusion groups which proliferated during the 1990s and early 2000s. Since then, Mosier and company has continued to refine and expand their interpretation of roots music, much in the way Mosier's mentor Col. Bruce Hampton has done over the years.
Blueground Undergrass celebrated its tenth anniversary as a band earlier this year. Although the membership may be a little different these days, the group is still informed by Mosier's humanitarian, lived-in songwriting and his comfortable, back porch approach. A commendable taste in covers is exemplified by the inclusion of material from Texan singer/songwriter Guy Clark and definitive old-timey combo the Stanley Brothers on BU's last release, 2006's Faces.
Rounded out by pedal steel guitarist Mark Van Allen, guitarist Johnny "Mo" Mosier, bassist Kyle Spark, drummer Vic Stafford, and fiddler/mandolinist Owen Saunders, the Undergrass fold remains a comforting, unconvoluted place in an often extended solo and hippie dance dominated corner of the musical spectrum. A subtle jazz turn here, a little waltzing fiddle there; the group does not let volume, wasted improvisation, or unneeded elements of fusion define its material.
They haven't gone disco, but that doesn't mean you can't dance to 'em. As long as the good Rev. Mose is at the helm, it looks as though Blueground Undergrass will remain an oasis for those who'd rather pull up a chair than bust a move, as well as those who prefer their roots music spiked with variety and a one-man team of dueling banjos that welcomes absolutely no Deliverance cracks on the side. —Michael Andrews
Blueground Undergrass performs at the Pour House (1977 Maybank Hwy., 843-571-4343) on Fri. Nov. 28. Tickets $12. Visit www.bluegroundundergrass.com for more.