Yonder come the bluegrass bands.
Lawrence gets to hear at least three of the top bluegrass artists in the nation during a concert starting at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Liberty Hall, 642 Mass. Well, at least a local bluegrass expert Mike Allen, host of "The Flint Hills Special" on KANU says they're among the top.
The unusual concert stems from a recording project called "The Bluegrass Album Band," a kind of supergroup made up of Doyle Lawson, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, J.D. Crowe and others. Those four performers, along with some of their groups, are on the bill for the Saturday concert.
"It's very unusual that bluegrass artists of this caliber come together for a concert," Allen said. "Since it really falls between the cracks of their ususal concert management, they put together the tour themselves without their own managers. And they chose to pass up bigger cities like Kansas City and stop in Lawrence, which is really a privilege."
A SERIES of albums by the Bluegrass Album Band drew praise from the critics, Allen said.
"Once again, this group has managed to play the music that first inspired them with the kind of love and dedication and commitment it deserves, and without a hint of musty folklorism," wrote Bob Claypool of The Houston Post about "California Connection," the third Bluegrass Album issued by Rounder Records.
Some of artists also will be playing by themselves or with their groups, Allen said. Lawson, who plays the mandolin, will play with his group Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. Allen said they play both bluegrass and gospel, and they've issued albums of a cappella gospel quartets.
ON THE other hand, Tony Rice, who is scheduled to play with his group "The Tony Rice Unit," plays acoustic music ranging from bluegrass to folk to jazz, Allen said. The Bluegrass Album Band and the tour were Rice's original idea, Allen said, and together they've appeared on The Nashville Network.
Also along for the tour is J.D. Crowe, an outstanding banjo player. And Jerry Douglas, a dobro player, may also be on the bill, Allen said.
Bluegrass music remains popular with Lawrence audiences, Allen said, and the tunes appeal to a surprisingly upper-crust audience.
"I find that the Lawrence audience follows some national statistics I've read that say bluegrass fans are 15 times more likely to make a high salary than country music fans," Allen said. "They're more likely to be better education and be better employed. I find a broad spectrum of people enjoy bluegrass music, but I find it exceptional the following it has among yuppies and an educated audience."