For The Love Of Bluegrass

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

If you love bluegrass music but have never heard of the Otter Opry, then there’s a real surprise treat for you this Saturday in Santa Cruz, courtesy of the Northern California Bluegrass Society.

The Otter Opry is a not-for-profit series of concerts featuring bluegrass and old-time music.  Each month, the United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz plays host to some of California’s top bands.  The society believes that nothing beats live music in terms of entertainment value, and that the concerts should be available to the whole family.  Therefore, all ages are welcome to the shows and children under 12 years of age are admitted free.  Refreshments are also available at each event.

Two bands will be featured on Saturday’s bill.  The first is Rick Jamison and Copper Canyon, who released their debut CD, “Tales from the Canyon,” earlier this year.  Bandleader Jamison is a native of Washington, DC, and has been playing guitar since he was 9 years old.  In 1982, on a whim, he entered the West Coast Flatpicking competition in Norco, CA.  He had never played on stage in front of people before, but nevertheless took second prize.  He soon realized that performing had a strong attraction for him, and over the years has gained a solid national reputation as a bluegrass guitarist.

The other members of Copper Canyon are lead vocalist and mandolinist Phil Cornish, bassist Jerry Logan, a veteran of the bluegrass circuit, five-string banjo player Pat Ickes and fiddle player Megan Lynch.  Lynch recently won the 2004 National Fiddle Championship in Weiser, Idaho.  Copper Canyon have received acclaim for their CD, which consists of original dongs by Jamison and Cornish.   Reviewers have praised their approach to songwriting which deals with contemporary subjects while maintaining the traditional sounds of bluegrass.

Saturday’s second band hails from Sacramento.  The four members of Blue Canyon claim over 75 years of performing experience between them.  All are former members of well-established bluegrass bands, and all are vocalists, which allows the band to sing incredible harmonies.  Blue Canyon specializes in taking traditional bluegrass songs and giving them a modern twist.

So if bluegrass is your thing, you could do no better this weekend than catch the Otter Opry show in Santa Cruz, and if you enjoy it, there’s even more good news.  The Northern California Bluegrass Society puts on at least one concert every month.  Upcoming shows include Jones and Bliss at the Cayuga Vault on September 24 and the Sibling Brothers at the Otter Opry on October 9.

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, September 9, 2004

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