This week marks the first in the HVBA’s Member Band Spotlight Series, where we shine the spotlight on our wonderful local member bands in the Hudson Valley! First up is long-time member Too Blue!
In 1995, banjo player Joan Harrison and guitarist Betsy Rome were introduced to one another by Ben Freed, a wonderful banjo player from Armonk, NY. They played together as a duo, and eventually became a trio, with Jack Murphy on bass. Michael Sassano joined the band on mandolin during the recording of their first CD, A Little On The Blue Side. When Jack left the group, jazz bassist Jamie Doris came on board. Kalia Yeagle, of Bill and the Belles, played fiddle with Too Blue while she was a student at Vassar, followed by Sofia Chiarindini of The Ruta Beggars and Jacob’s Ladder. Currently performing as a quartet, the band welcomes guest fiddlers such as the HVBA’s own David Chernack.
Too Blue’s repertoire is drawn from a diverse range of genres, with input on material choice and arrangements coming from all of its members. Bluegrass, Swing, Celtic, Jazz—their versatility appeals to bluegrass and non-bluegrass audiences alike. According to Joan, Too Blue’s influences include “Bela Fleck, Bill Keith,Tony Rice, Doc Watson, Sam Bush, Andy Statman… It’s a long list! Initial band influences tended to be more contemporary—Newgrass Revival, Alison Krauss, Blue Highway. Over the years, material has also been mined from Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, and Ralph Stanley.”
Recently, old time tunes have even made their way into the mix. Beyond the bluegrass umbrella, Too Blue covers Ray Charles, James Taylor, Todd Rundgren, Asleep at the Wheel, Patsy Cline, and Duke Ellington. “It really is a musical stew of what the band likes and ultimately, what works.”
And how has Too Blue kept the magic alive since 1995? Joan says, “keeping a regional band going for nearly 30 years is no small feat. Too Blue takes a professional approach to performance and material choice and development, while managing to have a whole lot of fun. Come on out and join us—we’re sure you will too!”
You can see Too Blue on Saturday, August 12th at 1pm at the Podunk Bluegrass Festival in Goshen, Connecticut, and on Friday, September 8th at 6pm in Millerton, NY—or check them out online!