Bluegrass band Helen Highwater to rock Steamboat on Saturday night |

Bluegrass band Helen Highwater to rock Steamboat on Saturday night

Luke Graham

Helen Highwater plays at 9 p.m. Saturday at Carl's Tavern. The cost is $5.

— There's a beautiful thing about jamming. It's the orchard of old friends, new ones and just about every spectrum in between.

Jamming is part soul, all fun and can happen anywhere, bring anyone together and eventually lead to something like this.

Helen Highwater is a new group out of Nashville, Tenn., with some familiar friends.

The group — which plays at 9 p.m. Saturday at Carl's Tavern — brings together the accomplished David Grier on guitar, Missy Raines on bass, Mike Compton on mandolin and Shad Cobb on fiddle.

How'd they form? Jamming of course.

"We've all been friends for a long time," Raines said Thursday from California. "We have a lot of common interests. David called us for a particular gig last summer. We all thought it would be that one gig. But we had so much fun. That particular combination worked. It was a group that felt really great. We thought, 'Let's give it a shot and be a little bit more serious.'"

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Alone, each musician brings it. Grier was named an Artist of the Decade in 2000 by Guitar Player magazine and has been the International Bluegrass Music Association's Guitar Player of the Year three times. Raines is a seven-time IBMA Bass Player of the Year, Compton received a Grammy award for his work on the hit record "O Brother Where Art Thou" and Cobb has played fiddle for the who's who of twangy jams to outlaw country.

"We're all paying tribute deeply to bluegrass in this group," Raines said. "But we're not trying to be bluegrass."

It's evident in the group's sound.

Each musician is talented enough to hold his or her own, but the combination has equal parts twangy and uptempo bluegrass while maintaining a soulful sound.

Maybe the best way to describe the band comes from the name Helen Highwater. The character is the tough, whimsical goddess of string band music.

Between Grier and Raines, the guitar work is amazing. But Compton's throwback style on the mandolin and Cobb's powerful fiddle allow for a completely bluegrass sound that for some reason doesn't feel totally bluegrass.

It's rock. It's soul. It's — maybe more than anything — an awful lot of fun.

Raines said the group, with each member having other projects, plans to get serious about a record in the future.

For now, she concedes playing for a live crowd is pretty darn good, too.

"We wanted something that just said we mean business," she said, "but was also showing we weren't taking ourselves so seriously."

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email

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