Stearns hosts Vermont Bluegrass legends


Max Van Wie

Dan and Willy Lindner with Bob Amos and Catamount Crossing

Stearns Performance Space was home to an interesting night of Bluegrass originals and traditional music Wednesday, Nov. 13.

Opening the show, Bob Amos & Catamount Crossing mixed their distinctly northern Bluegrass with traditional southern Bluegrass music to create a sound that proved to be both powerful and caressing at the same time.

Amos’s smooth banjo rolls backed by his traditional five-piece band including Freeman Corey on fiddle, Bob Dick (formerly of Front Range) on bass, Gary Darling on mandolin and Steve Wright on guitar, created a more-than-solid foundation on which to build their nearly flawless three and four-part harmonies.

The band left little to be desired as far as technique and musicianship, the minor flaws covered by powerful vocal harmonies that flowed smoothly out into the audience., The band served up a blend of their original bluegrass tunes while still playing upbeat and driving standards such as “Salt Creek” and “Big Sciota” to keep the undeniably older crowd’s feet tapping.

Brothers Dan and Willy Lindner (formerly of Banjo Dan and The Midnight Plowboys), who alone make up the band The Sky Blue Boys, followed up Catamount Crossing’s energetic set with a bare bones “brothers duet” performance.

This kind of two-person band is inspired by many bands during the 30s and 40s that were also were brother duets. The brothers took time on stage to explain how this band makeup started because of the distance between homes during that time period. Boys growing up on farms who played instruments back then only had their own brothers to play with on a daily basis. This band makeup resulted in many extremely refined and practiced two-piece bands popping up randomly all over the country. One more popular band that found great success in the “brothers duet” style of music during the 40s was Flatt and Scruggs, two men who wrote many of the bluegrass standards of their time.

The Lindner brothers were true to their roots and went on to perform a set that was both highly refined and highly energetic. It was difficult not to smile while watching these brothers, sporting matching clothing and mustaches, perform with seemingly effortless harmonies that only true kinship could achieve.

Banjo Dan proved to be proficient on not only his banjo but also on his dobro, which he played on minor-key songs such as “Maggie’s Farm,” which brought a dark and lonesome sound to the set.

The brothers ended with a Civil War song entitled “Last Letter Home,” in which the oddly close two-part harmonies were prominent. Dan contributed the last verse of the song, ending the set on a more personal note.

At the very end of The Sky Blue Boy’s set, the Lindner brothers, in true Bluegrass tradition, invited the whole Catamount Crossing band up onto the stage to perform a few impromptu traditional pieces to end the night – including a Ricky Skaggs piece entitled “River of Jordan” and the old Bill Monroe tune “Wheel Hoss,” on which every member of both bands took a solo, except for Bob Dick on bass.

The dynamic on the stage was interesting because it was not only host to a large amount of talent but also a large amount of respect. Both bands were obviously thankful for the opportunity to perform with each other, openly expressing their gratitude to an obviously appreciative audience.

For Bluegrass fans, Wednesday night’s show in Stearns was a real gift and a chance to spend an evening with a number of Vermont’s musical legends.