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Grisman brings his Experience to bear

Acoustic music legend to ring in New Year with Shook Twins


by: COURTESY OF DAVID GRISMAN - David Grisman and his band keeps accoustic bluegrass alive.If you’re looking for a slightly different New Year’s Eve party, you might consider checking out the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience with Portland’s Shook Twins at the Alberta Rose Theatre.

Both groups play twice, first at 7 and then 10 p.m.

Grisman is a musician’s musician, combining jazz, bluegrass and other styles as a mandolinist, composer, bandleader and producer.

Along the way, he’s played with Stephane Grappelli, Tony Rice, Frank Vignola, Darol Anger, Mike Marshall and Hal Blaine in his quintet. He’s also collaborated with Jerry Garcia, Stephane Grappelli, the Grateful Dead, John Hartford, Del McCoury, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Earl Scruggs, James Taylor and Doc Watson.

Meanwhile, twin sisters Laurie and Katelyn Shook have become one of the region’s most popular duos, playing their quirky, harmony-filled folk-pop and opening for such acts as Ryan Adams, Michelle Shocked and The Bodeans.

Grisman’s band features: Keith Little (who’s jammed with Ricky Skaggs, Dolly Parton and the Country Gentlemen) on five-string banjo, guitar and vocals; Jim Nunally of John Reischman & the Jaybirds on guitar and vocals; Chad Manning on fiddle and Samson Grisman on bass.

The New Year’s Eve shows should fit the season, David Grisman says.

“I’m sure it will be a celebratory atmosphere, and we’re working up a whole slew of tunes for a tribute to the Doc Watson project, so this show will certainly be special and different from what we’ve been doing lately,” he says. “It definitely will be ‘hardcore’ traditional bluegrass.”

by: COURTESY OF SHOOK TWINS - The Shook Twins, Laurie and Katelyn, bring their quirky, harmony-filled folk-pop to Alberta Rose Theatre later this month, along with the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience.Grisman says his approach to performance is sort of semi-democratic.

“I have some truly gifted musicians in both my bands — the David Grisman Sextet and the Bluegrass Experience — and I’m always glad to have their input,” he says. “Of course, I make the final, or temporary, decisions, but I always consider what the band members think and usually we all agree because we have similar musical outlooks.”

Jerry’s ‘Dawg’

A big promoter of acoustic music, Grisman says it’s hard to gauge the health of the genre.

“Sales in the music business are down for many reasons, and I suppose that’s some kind of bottom line,” he says. “Nevertheless, there are many very talented young acoustic musicians who are taking various forms of roots music, including bluegrass, to some very interesting places. Of course, many acts that are labeled ‘acoustic’ are not. I don’t consider any instrument that is amplified with a pickup to be fully acoustic. We all use microphones, just like Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers.”

On that note, Grisman believes oldies, in terms of sound equipment or acoustic acts, are goodies.

“I don’t think that there have been any advances made in these areas since the 1950s,” he says. “The best microphones are still the classic designs from that time, and the best concert halls in the world have been around longer than that. The best mandolins, banjos and guitars were made in the 1920s and 1930s and violins and basses, of course, go much further back than that.

“Perhaps musicians and engineers are more knowledgeable now in their employment of these technologies,” he adds. “But the acoustic concept has been around for literally centuries, and that’s part of the reason it’s so fabulous.”

Probably best known in the general public’s mind because of his collaborations with Garcia — who nicknamed him “Dawg” — Grisman says he misses his old friend.

“Jerry was as humble and generous and knowledgeable a fellow as you’re ever liable to encounter,” Grisman says. “Our friendship was, and still is, very special to me. Of course he made some mistakes, but he did learn from them and always took full responsibility for his own life. I miss him dearly, but his spirit is always here.”

Garcia was also a role model for aspiring players, he adds.

“He was one of the very few musicians who could successfully make the transition from acoustic to electric perfectly without losing one iota of musicality,” Grisman says. “That alone classifies him as a master, in my humble opinion.”