Dr. Banjo in the house

Hot Rize is in the midst of their fall reunion tour, their first since 1996 when Bryan Sutton was welcomed into the band on guitar. After a swing through the northwest over the weekend, they start up again on Wednesday in the northeast with a show at Boston’s Berklee College of Music on Wednesday.

Last month, the band released a new audio track (Diamond Joe) to help promote the tour. There is another as well, a remake of Wichita Lineman.

Wichita Lineman: [http://kidlogiclovesyou.com/clients/hotrize/Witchita%20Lineman.mp3]

We spoke with banjo picker Pete Wernick after the first few dates on the tour to get his reaction.

“I really like Hot Rize’s material, and a lot of it is well-seasoned from hundreds of times being played, so there’s a comfort and familiarity there of knowing ‘what works.’ But our goal is to make it very alive for our audiences now. We’ve all grown as musicians individually, and I think that shows. Tim’s in great voice. Bryan’s been with us since 2002 but this is our first real tour with him doing a string of concerts. It’s fun hearing what he does every night. We’re breaking in new material too, so that puts things a bit on the edge sometimes. We all have new suits, which is pretty cool too.

Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers, I have nothing to say about.”

You can find details on the remaining tour dates online.

Pete is also preparing for his annual banjo camps which are held near his home in Boulder, CO at the beginning of each year. January 2011’s sessions will be his 27th. As they are described in promotional materials:

Jan 3-8, 2011: Basic Skills. A friendly, “safe” situation for inexperienced and closet players. Includes: creating basic solos, worked-out and improvised; backup pointers and jamming etiquette; how to beat timing problems; practice tips and standard licks. All Pete’s camps include lots of jamming, with everyone participating!

Jan. 10-15, 2011: Intermediate. For pickers who can work out their own solos, and have jamming experience. Focus is on good timing and tone; creating ‘believable’ solos, improvising; practicing for maximum progress; clearing technical hurdles; gaining speed; knowing the neck; favorite licks; backup approaches and techniques.

Jan. 17-22, 2011: Advanced. For pickers who have played in performing bands, the emphasis is on “the pro sound”–timing, tone, ‘believability’; bringing out the best in each song, backup and lead; knowing the neck; and performance skills. Week includes a one-on-one session with Pete and a class performance Jan. 21 with Pete in support of the Banjo Camp Scholarship fund.

Full registration details can be found at www.DrBanjo.com.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.