Bearfoot Bluegrass

A second CD and a tighter sound

Posted: Friday, August 15, 2003

Bearfoot Bluegrass Band's second compact disc, "Back Home," is scheduled to come out at the band's CD release party, Friday, Aug. 22, at Anchorage's Discovery Theater.

If all goes well with the CD production, the group, which has been playing together since forming in their early teens in Cordova, may be able to ship a few copies to Juneau for its 7:30 p.m. show Monday, Aug. 18, at the ANB Hall.

Tickets - $15 for general admission, $10 for students and seniors and $45 for families - are available at Hearthside and Rainy Day Books.

"I don't want to brag or anything, but from this point last year to this year, our rhythm is a lot tighter than it used to be," said bassist Kate Hamre, on the phone last week from a hotel in Spokane, Wash. "We've gotten so much better just because of this CD project. Playing with a click track and being in tune and playing with each other and really listening to all of those components, it's really helped us become closer."

Bearfoot, a five-piece group based out of Anchorage and Cordova, also will be hosting its 2nd Annual Bluegrass Camp, Monday to Wednesday, Aug. 18 to 20, at Northern Light United Church. The camp is open to kids of all ability levels, ages 5 to 17. Space is limited, so call the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council at 586-ARTS for more information.

All five Bearfoot band members now are out of high school. Guitarist Mike Mickelson is attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks, fiddler Annalisa Woodlee is married and studying at Portland State University, fiddler Angela Oudean is starting her second year at East Tennessee State University, mandolin player Mike Norris studied at Fairbanks last year and Hamre is beginning her first year at the University of Idaho in Moscow.

"We've been doing this for awhile, so it's always been like we've been separated," Hamre said. "It's a little rough at the beginning of the tour, but after you do a few gigs you get back into the groove. We get together and we do massive amounts of shows in a short period of time, and then we go off on our separate ways for awhile."

Bearfoot Bluegrass won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival's band competition in 2001. This summer, they've been invited to play on "Mountain Stage" on Sept. 28. The two-hour radio show is recorded live in Charleston, W. Va., and broadcast on National Public Radio.

Bearfoot has also been invited to perform as one of the showcase bands at the International Bluegrass Music Association's World of Bluegrass Week, Sept. 29 to Oct. 5 in Louisville, Ky.

Bearfoot is finishing its third straight summer tour of the United States, and Juneau is the last stop. The band has been on the road since June 3 and has traveled as far east as South Dakota. They've hosted 12 kids' bluegrass camps this year and sold out their stops in Seward, Homer and Lyons, Colo.

"It's just so cool to see kids that have never picked up an instrument, in two to three days they'll have learned a song or three different chords, or they'll be able to play and sing," Hamre said. "Even if they don't pick it up correctly musically, they still love it. They're so enthusiastic. During their lunch breaks, they play music. I had to make one kid go to bed, because he wouldn't stop playing his instrument."

Bearfoot's first CD, "Only Time Knows," included many arrangements written by other artists. "Back Home" includes songs written by Mickelson, Oudean, Norris and Woodlee. Oudean wrote the title track.

Todd Phillips, a Grammy-award winning producer and a former player with the David Grisman Quintet, helped Barefoot produce the record at his studio in Ukiah, Calif. The band worked on the release for the past year, recording in August and December 2002 and March 2003.

"It does sound a lot different, but it still sounds like us," Hamre said. "It has a taste of him in there. He's this perfectionist. He wanted it to be really good. He'd make us do it over and over again."

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