40 years is a long time for any band to stay together…especially a bluegrass band where the slices from the “success pie” are much smaller. Hot Rize, formed in Colorado in 1978 and originally a part of the “Newgrass” movement, celebrated with a 40th Anniversary Bash. The shows took place in January 2018 and for those who didn’t make the trip to Boulder the new CD does an excellent job of presenting Hot Rize and their special guests over 22 songs in all their sharp finery and hot licks
Bluegrass is not hard to do poorly…those banjos don’t play themselves…but when it’s done well there is no equal in the world of music. During their four decades together the four guys in Hot Rize kept busy with other projects and their pickin’ is choptastic! Their last album, 2014’s When I’m Free, is represented by four tunes, with “Western Skies” being the most evocative. Pete Wernick’s banjo, Tim O’Brien’s mandolin and Bryan Sutton’s flattop ring true with new strings on vintage instruments. Vocal harmonies abound as well as gospel pleadings and tales of traditional romance. All phases of Hot Rize’s oeuvre are presented on 40th Anniversary Bash, with “Blue Night” (the first song on their first LP opening up the set), “Radio Boogie,” “Walk the Way the Wind Blows,” and “Just Like You” spanning their career.
Special guests appear in the form of Dobro master Jerry Douglas, mandolinist Sam Bush and fiddler Stuart Duncan. Douglas takes the tale of “Coleen Malone” to new levels of sorrow as he uses his glissando to evoke sadness and grief. Bush riffs on Los Lobos’ “Burn It Down” from When I’m Free. The traditional fiddle/banjo assault is laid bare on “Huckling The Berries” with Duncan sliding into some sweet tones.
Vocally, no one can match O’Brien’s High Lonesome Sound and on “Wichita Lineman” he backs up the story of how he was originally asked to join the band in 1977 to hit the high notes required by this Glen Campbell classic. Doing less “traditional” bluegrass fare such as this tune and having Nick Forster play an electric bass guitar (less car space!) helped Hot Rize summit the Newgrass mantle.
As they enter their 41st year, Hot Rize remains the best there is in bluegrass, and as the genre is such a live entity this 40th Anniversary Bash show from earlier this year is a must for fans of any kind of music.
40th Anniversary Bash
[Ten in Hand]