The muddy Willamette River that runs through Portland may not be as famous as the Mississippi, but it brings to mind a new form of American roots music that is influenced by traditions of the South as well as the rainy woods of the Northwest.
Jack-straw's music brings to mind a new form of American roots music influenced by traditions of the South as well as the rainy woods of the Northwest.
The bluegrass band is a forerunner of Oregon's bluegrass sound. The band members know bluegrass history, play a cutting-edge take on their mix of traditional and original songs and don't hesitate to pay tribute to such music icons as The Stanley Brothers or Bill Monroe.
"We write pretty good songs," says Darrin Craig, Jackstraw's rhythm guitarist. "We like to play a mix of those and traditional music, maybe some older country music by Merle Haggard or George Jones. So many of those old songs were played with electric bass, pedal-steel guitar and drums, but we play them with bluegrass instruments."
Jackstraw will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Unitarian Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland. Tickets cost $18 in advance and can be purchased at www.gaiaconcerts.com or Music Coop. Tickets will cost $20 at the door.
The band formed in 1997 when Craig and guitarist Jon Neufeld met mandolin player David Pugh and bassist Jesse Withers at Artichoke Music, a guitar store in Portland. With six albums to its credit — including one performed live at The White Eagle in Portland — Jackstraw has toured the country playing roadhouses, clubs and festivals.
The Portland Mercury wrote, "With precise, nimble picking and a continually forward-thinking outlook, Jackstraw breathes young life into old-time bluegrass with their tightly strung, hollow-bodied wooden instruments, and imprints a fresh Pacific Northwest stamp on a pleasingly familiar sound."
About a year ago, Craig says, the band added banjo player Sam Yale to the mix.
"He's a good fit," Craig says. "A good singer and songwriter."
Jackstraw finished recording a new album last winter, but is holding its release until next spring when the group begins to tour again.
"After October, we won't do a lot of shows," says Craig, who's a stonemason by day. "But we'll play some of the songs from the new album at the show in Ashland."
There's "Wichita," written by Craig; "Made a Penny," by Yale; and Pugh's tongue-in-cheek "Stalking Monroe," an instrumental showcasing his mandolin playing.
Jackstraw's newest album, "Sunday Never Comes," was released in 2011 on the band's independent label.