In today’s music world there’s a whole lot more to starting a band than merely getting together with four to five guys, hacking out some tunes, booking, and playing shows. Each band must strive to create their own sound, generate original material, and ultimately find a band name which catches the listeners’ attention. West Virginia-based band Circa Blue has accomplished just that with the release of their debut self-titled album.
Having formed in 2010 along the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, Circa Blue takes their name from the Latin origin of the word “circa” or “circus” – meaning “around, or about.” As their album clearly shows, Circa Blue is all about bluegrass, while claiming to be neither “completely traditional or completely newgrass.”
Band members Steve (guitar and vocals) and Dave Harris (bass and vocals), Ron Webb (mandolin and vocals), and Matt Hichman (banjo) are joined on this project by the wonderful resophonic sounds of Mike Auldridge, and solid fiddling of Chris Sexton, to create a quite interesting combination of ten tunes equally distributed between new originals and previously recorded material. With tunes ranging from a Johnny Cash cover of I Still Miss Someone to the dark minor chord timbre of Gillian Welch’s Annabelle, the song selection is likely to please a wide range of listeners with varied musical tastes.
The individual song-writing prowess of band members Steve Harris and Ron Webb are showcased on the album quite well. Steve’s laidback instrumental number Circa Minor is quite pleasing, and clearly showcases some fine picking while Ron’s two contributions Quiet Man and Previews serve as nice reflective pieces.
Circa Blue’s album also includes mandolin from original member Mike McDonald, who passed away unexpectedly in September 2011. He was able to record mandolin parts for two tunes on the album, Annabelle and Last Train from Poor Valley. Even though he is no longer with the band, his contributions will long be remembered.
Currently working with Make Welcome Entertainment, Circa Blue has recently performed at several musical venues within Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland ranging from picnics to large stages like Pickin’ in the Panhandle, the West Virginia State BBQ & Bluegrass Festival.