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Dawg Part Deux

Newgrass band Old School Freight Train records with David Grisman.

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Having just returned from northern California, where they recorded tracks in Grisman's home studio, the band is still a bit star-struck. Guitarist and vocalist Jesse Harper admits Grisman's stature influenced the band signing with Acoustic Disc: "Part of signing with him was a little bit to do with worshipping him. The other part was he was such a fair businessman."

Mandolin player Pete Frostic agrees that Grisman is a giant of the industry. "He just took the mandolin in an entirely new direction and put a new vocabulary to it. And his rhythmic sense is off the charts." Frostic feels the band and Acoustic Disc are a great fit: "I think we're the next extension of what Grisman started." Working strictly with traditional acoustic bluegrass instruments, Frostic says, "We try to set up a really awesome polyrhythmic groove and put some funk or modern jazz influences over it."

Bass player Darrell Muller agrees their band owes a lot to Grisman's "dawg music," which Muller describes as "a style of acoustic music that incorporates gypsy jazz, bluegrass and Latin." But unlike Grisman's work, half of their material is vocal. Along with 13 originals, two covers were recorded — Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" and Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927." Grisman plays on "Eurydice," a bossa nova tune penned by fiddler Nate Leath, who joined the band in 2003 and is completing his degree at Berklee College of Music in Boston. The album, titled "Run," will be released in May.

As a producer, Frostic says that Grisman "is about as laid-back as you could possibly be but had really good insights into our arrangements." Between sessions, the band would play pingpong, or jam with Grisman.

For meals, Grisman would take them to his favorite haunts, where according to vocalist Harper, they "had the best food ever!" But Harper might be a little star-struck, considering that an early meal, likely a vegetarian burrito, gave him food poisoning and landed him in the hospital for two days.

The band handled that setback, as well as some nervous moments when they found out Grisman recorded them live on analog tape, meaning there was no chance to overdub or fix mistakes. Initially skeptical, Frostic grew to love the method. "It's like a live show — you're all in the same groove, same pocket, and you're able to feed off of each other."

Harper adds, "It was a bit of a shock. It keeps you on your toes. But he wouldn't have it any other way."

Somehow Grisman must have sensed OSFT would go along with his way of thinking. According to Muller, Grisman "hadn't signed a band in 10 years" when he called and said "he'd love to record us." S



Old School Freight Train will be performing at Ashland Coffee and Tea, 100 N. Railroad Ave., on Saturday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8 at the door. Call 798-1702 or go to www.ashlandcoffeeandtea.com.



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