Gayle Yeomans and I attended the wonderful house concert by Boston's Mile Twelve at Lynn Rosen's lovely, comfortable home in Rhinebeck Friday Sept. 8. The room was nearly full; a good, and appreciative crowd. It was Mile Twelve's final northeastern concert for some time to come. They're off on a southern swing, and then headed "Down Under" to tour New Zealand and Australia this fall. Also, they are up for a number of awards at IBMA week in Raleigh NC at month-end.
I've known some of the individuals in Mile Twelve for a few years, and I introduced the band at Thomas Point Beach this year where I was emceeing, and they played plugged in. However, this was my first opportunity to sit in the audience and enjoy their acoustic performance.
Each of the five musicians has monster skills instrumentally. I found their vocals are just as good. I've heard guitarist Evan Murphy and bass player Nate Sabat sing duets before. Evan Murphy has the vocal chops to be a "boss man" lead singer if he lets himself step out a bit. But I was surprised and pleased to hear all five sing during this show. Kiwi Catherine "BB" Bowness on banjo has always been quiet as a mouse in my experience, but she sang beautifully and joked, too. Virginian Bronwyn Keith-Hynes also sang, as did the newest member, mandolinist David Benedict from South Carolina. Their variety of harmonies was terrific, and their ability to dynamically blend their voices and instruments working a single microphone was VERY pleasing to a traditionalist like me. Clearly these five young folks have worked untold hours on their arrangements. Really wonderful.
Additionally, the bulk of their program was original compositions, both instrumentals and vocals. They tended to be mostly "modern" and fairly complex. Some were unabashedly "Yankee" in outlook, recalling Boston and the Massachusetts coast, and even also Manhattan, Nate's home. Naturally, they featured the cuts from their new CD "Onwards," which Gayle brought home.
The audience responded with enthusiastic approval. I won't spoil their encore number for you, but it was a country classic combining George Jones, Dolly & Porter, and the Osborne Brothers. It was the most stunning encore number I've enjoyed in years or even decades. And they had the nerve to state that they don't get many encore opportunities and often have nothing planned!
Bluegrass really needs new talent like Mile Twelve. I hope hope HOPE that they stick together, make a mark, and become an established presence in bluegrass. They play the modern style -- and yes, they can jam out -- but they can also do bluegrass in the classic style. And they do it with originality. It puzzles me how they developed their instrumental skills without reflecting Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe or Doyle Lawson, Tony Rice, or the great leading bluegrass fiddlers. To be sure, BB Bowness reflects the modern bluegrass banjo styles of Bela Fleck and Noam Pikelny, but she is doing her own thing, not their licks. Good Lord, she plays most of her breaks in a state of apparent bliss with her eyes closed. Nate's ferocious bass playing is WAY beyond anything I've witnessed in bluegrass, Tom Gray included. But it's not too technical to be enjoyed. You can't help but like the POWER he gets out of his bass fiddle. Bronwyn's and David's playing was equally impressive and original.
It's challenging to imagine just how far Mile Twelve may be able to go with their music. They are creating at a furious pace -- will they have the permanence to contribute new standards to the bluegrass repertoire? I'd like to see that happen.
As always, thanks to HVBA, Lynn Lipton and Lynn Rosen for a great house concert by Mile Twelve. Best Wishes, Bon Voyage and Good Luck at IBMA to Mile Twelve.
Dick Bowden: Dick Bowden recently retired after a 45 year career in the paper industry, and moved from Connecticut to Big Indian NY (Ulster County) where he ekes out a precarious existence as a groundskeeper. Dick has been performing bluegrass music on banjo and guitar since 1966 in his home state of Maine, throughout New England, and internationally with The Case Brothers - Martin & Gibson. He has performed for HVBA with the Old Time Bluegrass Singers, and also sent in a squadron of Dick Bowden's Flying Circus. Most recently Dick has played Dobro (tm) with the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. Dick has also written many articles for Bluegrass Unlimited, Bluegrass Today, and HVBA.