David Grier on guitar, bluegrass and going solo
Last spring’s performance by the string trio of Phillips, Grier & Flinner at the Wheeler Opera House was sublime to the point where it would be hard to imagine any member of the combo – bassist Todd Phillips, guitarist David Grier or mandolinist Matt Flinner – playing anything to top that acoustic trio music. Or even wanting to try.But such string wizards are prone to trying their hands at other forms, in other combinations. Matt Flinner, for instance, who boasts at least semi-regular membership in some six groups, recently returned to Aspen to play semi-electric jazz fusion with his Matt Flinner Quartet. The music, though enjoyable, could not compare to the sounds Flinner whipped up with Phillips and Grier.Now comes Grier’s turn to try to match the magic. Grier will perform a pair of solo shows this week: Wednesday, Oct. 6, at Aspen’s Main Street Bakery, and Thursday, Oct. 7, at Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale.
The idea was set early on for Grier to play a range of music. His father, Lamar Grier, was a noteworthy banjoist, good enough to play in Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys for several years in the mid-’60s. But the elder Grier chose the guitar for his son, seeing it as a more versatile instrument. “Guitar you could play in any type of music,” said the younger Grier, assessing his father’s reasoning.Grier began learning guitar from his father at age 6, starting out with the familiar bluegrass style he heard his father play at the Grand Ole Opry. But as a teenager, Grier began to spread his wings, trying out electric guitar in a country-rock band in Virginia.That electric excursion turned out to be a side trip. In the years since, Grier, now 43, has specialized in acoustic, bluegrass-derived music. Three times Grier has been honored as best guitarist by the International Bluegrass Music Association, and Acoustic Guitar named him one of the 15 Guitarists of the Decade for the ’90s. Aside from Phillips, Grier & Flinner, which has been a steady touring unit for six years and has a pair of CDs to its credit, Grier is part of the jazz-bluegrass fusion supergroup Psychograss, which includes Mike Marshall, Darol Anger, Tony Trischka and Phillips, and he tours occasionally in a duo with mandolinist Mike Compton. Grier has also released several acclaimed solo CDs, including his 1988 debut, “Freewheeling.”Grier says each combo is “has its own thing that’s great.” What he likes about the trio – that it affords a lot of space between the sounds – is even more pronounced when playing solo.
“You’ve got to keep it in your mind that you’re the only one,” he said. “But I like it. I’m used to it now. I hear a lot of people say, ‘How do you do that?’ The way I look at it, when I’m home playing with my guitar, that’s what I do. I play solo.”Grier has recently taken another sharp musical turn. For his latest solo CD, which he is in the process of recording, Grier is using a rhythm section of electric bass and drums. He is even recording some tracks on electric guitar, an instrument he hasn’t performed on in years.”It’s way different than any other record I’ve done before,” he said, adding that a new Psychograss CD is slated for release in early spring. “It’s my record, it’s my label, my money. So I figured, why not?”
For more acoustic enjoyment: The Seventh Annual Musical Tribute to John Denver concerts, featuring special guest Noel Paul Stookey of Pete, Paul & Mary, has two shows at the Wheeler Opera House Oct. 9. The concert on Oct. 8 does not have Stookey, but features the usual lineup of Denver bandmates, co-writers and friends.The Limeliters, a folk group that traces its roots to 1950s Aspen, plays the Wheeler Oct. 23. Grier’s sometime bandmate, fiddler Darol Anger, brings his American Fiddle Ensemble to the Wheeler Nov. 5. And Harry Manx, who blends acoustic blues with Indian ragas and more, is at the Wheeler Nov. 20.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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It might require a little extra preparation, but there’s no need to be afraid of colder months when going out fishing.