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Published: 2001/11/21
by Lauren Scharnak

Jackstraw, Goodfoot, Portland, OR- 11/17

Bluegrass fans – round up your cowboy hat and dancin'
shoes – Jackstraw is coming to town. The Portland band
is going on a three-week tour working their way east
to the home of bluegrass music. Jackstraw spent their
last Portland show until January with fans on
Saturday, November 17, at the Goodfoot Pub. Bluegrass
enthusiasts came out of the woodwork to see them off
and get their fix of Jackstraw’s traditional,
down-home sound.

Once the house music was turned off, Jackstraw
exploded with the acoustic harmony that characterizes
all of their songs. With so much modern music being
plugged-in, it’s refreshing to experience Jackstraw’s
rootsy, natural sound. Rarely using a set list to
guide them, Jackstraw incorporates traditional and
original songs into their repertoire. Don’t be
fooled-their original tunes blend in nicely with an
Americana flare, even working the crowd into a greater
frenzy. Cheers and wild boogying welcomed the original
tune, "Spring on the Hill."

The boys of Jackstraw have the background to develop
such traditional music. Sons of songwriters, blues
singers, and fiddle players, each member grew up with
time-honored influences. Watching them play inspires
you to grab a guitar, mandolin, or bass and get back
to your southern roots-even if you don’t have any.

Jon Neufeld impresses even the greatest guitar player
with his frantic fingerpicking. Darrin Craig backs him
up with a natural guitar rhythm, occasionally
delighting the crowd with his own solos. Jesse Withers
provides the backbone with his upright bass plucking,
and David Pugh adds the finishing touch with his mad
mandolin strumming. Their voices combine to create a
southern rock feel-old-timey without twang overkill.

I was pleasantly surprised Saturday night to see Lex
Browning sit in on fiddle. Browning, of "Great Plains"
fame, has played with country stars such as Kenny
Rogers, Tanya Tucker, and more recently, Austin Lounge
Lizards. The fiddle was a natural complement to
Jackstraw’s intense bluegrass flare.

Despite some sound problems early, it was quite
an evening. Having seen Jackstraw a couple of times
before, I was surprised at the turnout. The Goodfoot
was pushed to the max, with fans stranded outside the
club waiting to get in. Those of us inside danced all
night to Jackstraw favorites such as "Train 45" and
"Chug-a-lug."

The band played feverishly until about 2:00 a.m.-just
in time to get out of town for the Leonid meteor
shower. (How better to cap off a night of rippin’
bluegrass than a display of mind-blowing meteors?) As
a representative of Portland’s bluegrass fans, I wish
Jackstraw a successful tour. Portland’s music scene
won’t be the same for the next month without the band
that always seems to be playing a rockin’ show each
night of the week. If you’re in Utah, Colorado,
Kansas, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, or
Oklahoma, take advantage of seeing a band that
Oregonians are proud to claim.

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