Kevin Hale, winner of Podunk’s 2017 songwriter’s competition, returned to Podunk Bluegrass Festival again this year this time to judge the 2018 Telefunken Band Competition. His winning song from the year before, Angels from Appalachia, was one of the required tunes for the competition bands, and he says that it was total treat to hear his song played by four different and talented bands. However, it was the band Pretty Saro’s version of his tune that he says really nailed it. Kevin explains, “Maxfield sang with intense emotion in his voice, and the instrumentation was really exciting from the way the fiddle wove its way in and out of the tune to the mandolin’s clear, crisp chunking.” Pretty Saro won the contest, were fan favorites at the festival, and impressed Hale with their version of his tune.
Pretty Saro is a young group of musicians who all attend or have attended Berklee School of Music in Boston. Maxfield Andersen is on vocals and mandolin, Alex Formento on vocals and guitar, Devon Gardner on vocals and fiddle, and Joe Everett on vocals and bass. Maxfield says that his band liked Podunk’s contest format which allowed each band to play for thirty minutes rather than just perform one or two songs, giving Pretty Saro the chance to present a full picture of their band’s sound and abilities. He also said that it added pressure to the competition knowing that the songwriter for Angels from Appalachia was listening to their version of his song, and would give them feedback about their performance after the competition. Happily for them, the feedback was good!
All the band members in Pretty Saro are young, classically trained musicians who are acutely aware of bluegrass’s old traditional roots. Part of a of a new wave of college trained bluegrassers, Maxfield says that the band’s musical goal is to blend traditional styles with modern ideas of how to create unique and exciting music.
This is Pretty Saro’s first band competition and they plan to enter more in the 2019 festival season. They will start recording their first album next month entitled, The Art of Leaving. The album will include all original work inspired by the concept of leaving, a concept Maxfield says that he and his fellow songwriter Devon Gardner have explored and experienced, for better or worse. The band hopes that the new recording will be out in January some time. Till then, they will practice, practice, practice and play lots of gigs in the Boston area, specifically at The Burren and Club Passim, two of their favorite venues in town. Check them out on their Facebook page.
Nick Anderson, winner of Podunk’s 2018 songwriter’s competition, will hopefully return to the Podunk Bluegrass Festival next year to hear his winning song House on the Farm played by the four aspiring bluegrass bands in the 2019 Telefunken Band Competition. It must be a thrill to hear a song you have written performed by multiple bands in front of an enthusiastic bluegrass audience. We suspect that it also must be just as thrilling to win the band competition!