Dead Winter Carpenters, Ole Beck VFW Post 209, Missoula, MT – 4/5
Photo by Kevin Kenly
The Dead Winter Carpenters have jumped aboard that highly popular jamgrass train and quickly constructed themselves a unique car all their own. Since then they have been creating some of the most diverse music that such a broad genre has to offer. This Northern California Quintet has found itself nearly indefinable: too Americana to be Rock and too Ragtime to be Bluegrass. They consist of Jenni Charles (fiddle/vocals and cowboy boots), Jesse Dunn (guitar/vocals), Sean Duerr (guitar/vocals), Dave Lockhart (upright/electric bass), and Ryan Davis (drums).
The show started exactly at 11pm when all members came out on stage, shared glances and then quickly and without a count-off they jumped into a raucous cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Going Down The Road Feeling Bad.” Their take on this song was a sign of things to come, as it laid a foundation for each member of the band to tighten their vocals and warm up their musical chops. Davis kept the tempo light and directed throughout. As their set moved quickly onward, the show contained songs from their entire catalog. Duerr, who sang lead on numerous tunes, has a very solid and clear voice. Dunn, who opted to play acoustic guitar on most songs, contrasted Duerr’s soprano vocals with a more rough country vocal feel. Both complemented and harmonized to near pitch-perfection with Jenni Charles. As one song blended into another they moved from their Ragtime bush-burner “Devil Town” off of their first album to newer material from their upcoming release, Ain’t It Strange.
They were held together by a well laid yet steady and grounding rhythm section, particularly on a maze of songs that included a elongated segue from “Leavin’ With A Smile” > Tahoe Gal.” Then, with Charles’ fingers dancing across the neck of her fiddle, the band landed their jam into a spacey rendition of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My.” Duerr took lead on the jam section of this classic, as it was transformed from its traditional melodramatic ode to rock and roll only and the crowd responded with shoulder to shoulder dancing. The climax of the song saw all three vocalists and five instruments meeting in sonic unison.
After a 15 minute break, the band returned to the stage and again thanking the patrons of the venue, jumped straight into a requested cover of “Sparkle.” As Lockhart, now on electric bass and Davis, now shirtless, sporting dark oversized sunglasses, began the familiar beating rhythm to the Phish song, Charles grabbed her fiddle and jumped in, then stepped to her mic and said, “this is just a teaser.” The crowd exhaled “ahh’s” until she said, “just kidding” and Duerr took over with the lyrics. The jam that ensued was dizzy with excitement as each member of the Dead Winter Carpenters soloed on their instrument, building the melody as the crowd and band sang, “Laughing Laughing, Fall Apart.” One fan observed that he had never seen a fiddle fly so fast as the guitars, strings, and bass all reached a remarkable crescendo. Afterward the lights went down and with lasers flying above the now completely dark room, the stage was set for four more songs, intertwined with instrumental teases of “Nothing Else Matters” and “Cinnamon Girl.”
After over two and half hours of music the Dead Winter Carpenters left little to the imagination as they exited the stage and headed off to Jackson Hole. With more shows and festivals to come this Summer and a new album to be released in May, the Dead Winter Carpenters have certified their place on the jamgrass train, with the horizon line hardly being the limit.