Dead Winter Carpenters are another group of virtuoso musicians toiling in bluegrass obscurity. But it shouldn’t—and won’t always—be that way?
Though it would be easy to write this band off as another Yonder Mountain String Band or Trampled by Turtles knock-off giving a punk spin to tradgrass as this Northern California combo generate a high energy output, they are in no way like the above mentioned acts. Seriously, name the last bluegrass band with a full-kit drummer, electric guitarist and an upright bassist that doubles on electric?
I’m still thinking too. This ensemble’s originality comes from deftly updating classic fiddle tunes with modern rock sensibilities that also drift into Grateful Dead jams, alt-country, reggae and, at times, even hip-hop (which sounds, well, wrong, but is super cool because it actually works). If anything DWC are more like alt-bluegrass pioneers New Grass Revival in pushing the edges of a genre that’s been stagnating in recent years.
All this makes for a rowdy, fun kick-up-the-heels live experience as the band–Jenni Charles on fiddle and vocals, guitarists/vocalists Jesse Dunn and Sean Duerr, bassist Dave Lockhart and Ryan Davis on drums—follow improvisational impulses in fleshing out established songs or just outright cutting loose. This includes scorching guitar leads, blistering fiddle romps and breakneck drum solos—decidedly not your typical bluegrass fare.
The band’s just released album, Ain’t It Strange, picks up where the live show leaves off—in a more controlled studio setting, or course—with crafty songwriting and impressive playing over and among various intertwined genres. It’s a healthy dose of fun and bottled energy.
And if they stick with it long enough the question of who are Dead Winter Carpenters will eventually shift to when can I see them again? —Glenn BurnSilver
(This article appears in the Phoenix New Times blog Up on the Sun.)