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Jaybirds fly in with bluegrass

With U.S. and B.C. members, the band gets a rare night out in Squamish



If you prefer your bluegrass to sound modern and not like museum pieces, mandolin player John Rieschman and the Jaybirds is the band for you.

That said, they don't ignore the classics, but they definitely are moving the style forward.

The bluegrass innovators, headed by Rieschman, have been together for the past 16 years.

"We're a bluegrass band, but we incorporate other elements. It's not just straight (Foggy Mountain Boys musicians) Flatt and Scruggs or Bill Monroe covers — and it's not covers of James Taylor, either — it's some original material and music from the old-time world, which pre-dates bluegrass," Rieschman says.

"We cover some songs that would be considered more singer-songwritery, but with bluegrass instrumentation.

"There's the peppy, banjo-oriented up-tempo bluegrass tunes, but there is also sensitive material, too, instrumental and vocals."

The Jaybirds have migrated together from afar for their concert. They perform at the Eagle Eye Theatre in Squamish on Thursday, Jan. 28, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25.

The band has been together for 16 years. Now a Vancouver resident, Rieschman originates from northern California, as does his guitarist Jim Nunally, who still lives there. Fiddle player Greg Spatz hails from Spokane, Wash.

"Relatively speaking it's close," says Rieschman.

"And after I moved to B.C., I got to know some of the bluegrass musicians and there was a band called Tumbleweed, which Tricia Gagnon was in... and I thought she be a great addition because she's a wonderful musician and a great bass player."

Rounding it out is banjo player Nick Hornbuckle, who lives on Vancouver Island.

What is clear from Rieschman's descriptions is that the Jaybirds are a group of friends who conveniently happened to perform together, too.

Their most recent album was a seasonal EP album, On a Winter's Night, which came out at the end of 2014, and are currently working their seventh album."The list of songs for it is growing. It the album comes out by the end of the year that is great, I don't want to feel rushed. We'll work out the material while we're on tour and the more we can perform it, the better, and then go in the studio," Rieschman says.

"Everybody in the band writes music."

In 1996, Rieschman won a Grammy as part of an all-star tribute album to bluegrass legend Monroe; he's been nominated for a Juno, too.

"A friend of mine, Todd Phillips, organized a CD just before Bill passed away. A lot of famous bluegrass guys were doing his songs and I was in the right place at the right time," he says.

John Rieschman and the Jaybirds are joined by Squamish band Runaway Wagon, featuring local teen musician Michael Kilby.

"He's super talented and he's going to join us for some of our songs," Rieschman says.

"It should be a nice night of music."


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