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The Devil Makes Three returns to Ashland

The Devil Makes Three has been touring and recording for a decade, but guitarist and singer Pete Bernhard says he feels the trio is only now hitting its stride.

"This is what we've done with our whole adult lives," he says during a telephone interview. "I feel like right now, we're the best we've ever been ... which is really cool.

"We've got a new album out that we're really proud of," he says, referring to "I'm a Stranger Here," released in October — the trio's fourth full-length CD. "Also, I think we're all just playing together on a higher level than we ever have and everybody is contributing more than they ever have."

The Devil Makes Three — with Bernhard, stand-up bass player Lucia Turino and guitarist Cooper McBean — will play its old-timey junkyard blues at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St., Ashland. Folk and bluegrass band The Brothers Comatose will open the show.

Tickets cost $22.50 in advance and can be purchased at Music Coop in Ashland, Bad Ass Coffee in Medford, Listen Here and Dragon's Lair in Grants Pass, online at www.ticketswest.com or by calling 800-992-8499. Tickets will cost $25 at the door.

Bernhard, Cooper and Turino have done well while keeping their albums in-house. Since forming in Santa Cruz, Calif., in 2002, the group steadily improved as it developed its rollicking brand of rootsy acoustic music over the course of two studio albums — its 2002 self-titled debut, "Longjohns, Boots, and a Belt" (2004) and "Do Wrong Right" (2009) — along with a couple of live releases — "A Little Bit Faster and a Little Bit Loose" (2006) and "Stomp and Smash: Live at the Mystic Theater" (2011).

Along the way, Devil Makes Three built a following that is big enough to enable the group to headline theaters and large clubs.

Bernhard says the members decided it would take working with an outside producer to further raise their game in the studio. For "I'm A Stranger Here," the band brought on Buddy Miller to produce the album.

Miller, who has been building an impressive resume of production projects, turned out to be a key player in helping Devil Makes Three take its music to a new level on the newest CD.

Miller chose 10 songs from Bernhard's new material and refined them. He also helped the group capture its live energy and sound.

The songs stand out, sharper and catchier than ever. "I'm a Stranger Here" has the kind of frisky barroom, bluegrass-flavored romps ("Dead Body Moving" and "Worse or Better") and rustic ballads ("A Moment's Rest") that have been staples of the group's music.

There are some surprises as well. "Hellelu" takes a twangier, old-time country direction with great results, and "Forty Days" brings some New Orleans ragtime with the help of Preservation Hall Horns.

Then there's "Hand Back Down," the standout track on the CD. Here Devil Makes Three slows its tempo and builds a spooky, but ultra-catchy melody around a grooving, steady thump of rhythm.

The Devil Makes Three returns to Ashland