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Friday, July 27, 2012

Best Band of the Summer

Band Profile:  Back Forty

In my opinion, there is nothing better than good live music.  And I see a LOT of live music.  So it is rare that a band sneaks up and grabs me like Ypsilanti's own Back Forty.  

Back Forty Getting Their Groove On
 First, I should admit that I blatantly stole the images and bio information for this article from the band's website, www.backfortymusic.com , and Facebook page.  They are both very well done, so check them out.

I grew up in Ann Arbor, literally a block from the Ypsilanti border, and graduated from Eastern Michigan University--twice--so it's always fund to discover homegrown bands, especially "SeMiBluegrass" bands.  I stumbled on these guys at Bell's Brewery where I had gone to catch Dragon Wagon's set.  Wow!  When I walked in, these guys were in the middle of a high-energy, infectious groove that had every face in the place glued to the stage.  It was impossible to really focus on anything else while they were playing.  I'm normally a fan of more traditional bluegrass/newgrass, so the inclusion of a drum set and (mostly) electric instrumentation usually turns me off--but not this time, these guys are GOOD! 

Love This T Shirt!
From their website: "Back Forty is a staple of the Midwest live music scene. Over the last 5 years Back Forty has played just about every venue and major festival in Michigan and choice venues throughout the Midwest. The Band has also recorded and released two full length albums and is working on their third.

The Band is comprised of Dan Ripke on guitar, Andy Benes on mandolin and guitar, John Yax on drums, Colin Murphey on fiddle, and Jeff Friesen on bass. The band is also joined regularly by their three piece horn section and a slew of guest musicians."

Deep in the Groove
So, why do I like them so much?  First, they understand the groove.  Not worrying about being classified to a single genre, they play what the crowd wants to hear, and inevitably get every face smiling, every foot tapping and most of the dance floor swinging. They bill themselves as "Funkgrass", but I hear more "Country Blues", "Folk Rock", and "Reggae-infused Jam Band?"

Next, I love the mix of traditional bluegrass instrumentation (fiddle, mandolin) with electric (guitar, bass) and killer drum riffs.  Without this eclectic mix of instrumentation, the band would have a hard time carrying off their diverse mix of original tunes.  Their songs bring a good mix of bar-band fodder with poignant, timely songs and lyrics about living and surviving in the world today.  Lastly, I LOVE that the band posts all their live shows online for download .  With thousands of tracks spanning at least 6 years it's cool to hear the band grow and mature.  I'm completely blown away at the quality of these live recordings.  While an audiophile might not care for them on high fidelity equipment, they're more than good enough for iPod/Digital listening...in fact...they're as good or better than a lot of professionally mastered music I've got in my collection.  Can't wait to see these guys live again, they make my day!  You should make it a point to catch them at your earliest possible convenience.

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