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Caleb Klauder Band plays the Unitarian

Put on those dancing boots and grab someone cute because the Caleb Klauder Country Band is coming to Ashland. The celebrated Portland-based band is known for its honky-tonk music inspired by old-time country and bluegrass, but with a distinctly Northwest sound.

“We play acoustic guitar, mandolin, fiddle, upright bass, steel guitar and some drums. We try to walk that line between bluegrass and country,” says lead singer and songwriter Caleb Klauder.

The band is playing a double bill with The Steel Wheels, a mountain-music group from Virginia, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21, at the Unitarian Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland. Tickets cost $20 in advance and can be purchased online at www.gaiaconcerts.com or Music Coop, 268 E. Main St. Tickets will cost $22 at the door. 

Klauder says the show is inspired by traditional country dance-hall days when locals would gather to enjoy music and kick up their heels.

“We have a lot of fun,” he says. “I love it when folks who aren't sure they even like country music come to hear us and leave thinking 'Hey, that was good. I guess I do like that kind of music.'”

He says that he doesn't use set lists for his concerts.

“I don't like to plan too much what we are going to play. It's more fun to feel the energy of the audience and pick songs that reflect that energy. We put on a really good show.”

Klauder's songs lend themselves toward traditional country themes — mostly about love and heartbreak. As a songwriter, Klauder's trying to get out of the broken-hearted, lonesome country song cliché and write songs that have more of a positive outlook. But, like everyone, he's been through enough of his own troubles, and that stuff is real.

"I do like songs that have some kind of a lift to them, though,” he says. “Part of that is in the performance, and we try to give listeners something to anticipate; a sense that something big is happening.”

Klauder and his band like to connect with audiences. “I hope the music has touched people in some way and lifted their spirits, even if they aren't dancing. We've played concerts before where I look out into the audience and see people hearing the same song and someone is crying, and someone else is smiling and someone else is dancing. That's the beauty of music. We can connect with it and respond in our own way,” Klauder says.

Last year, the band headlined the West Coast Country Festival held in Greensprings, and they've performed all over the country as well as internationally, though Klauder says he particularly enjoys the music scene in Oregon.

“It's funny, we'll play some place like Nashville and people will ask how we learned to play country. Music travels and moves, it doesn't matter where you are from, it matters if you love it,” Klauder says.

He adds that there is a strong country music scene in the northwest region and it is distinctive in some ways. “I think the DIY movement in the region has influenced music as well,” Klauder says. “We like to try new things and break the rules. I say that with a deep appreciation for the older music, but people in the northwest are really into doing their own thing in their own way.”

Member of Caleb Klauder Country Band include Jesse Emerson, Ned Folkerth, Reeb Willms, Russ Blake and Sam Weiss. For more information about the band or to purchase their newest album, “Just A Little,” visit www.calebklauder.com. For information about The Steel Wheels, visit www.thesteelwheels.com. For information about the concert, call 541-708-0715.

Angela Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at decker4@gmail.com.

Old-time country and bluegrass influence the Northwest sounds of the Portland-based Caleb Klauder Band. Photo courtesy of The GAIA Project