Tuesday, February 10, 2004
With a set list that includes Stevie Wonder's "Boogie on, reggae woman," Bob Dylan's "All over now, baby blue" and The Beatles' "Everybody's got something to hide (except for me and my monkey)," Mary and Mars hardly seems like a bluegrass band.
But with a mandolin and an upright bass, the band even makes Burt Bacharach sound as if he came from rural Kentucky. The band's set list features originals, 1800s murder ballads, Motown tunes, bluegrass standards and '80s rock tunes, all played with a bluegrass sound.
"I think we are on the progressive side of bluegrass," band member Sharon Gilchrist said. "We're steeped in the tradition, but we fuse a lot of different styles."
The inspiration for their bluegrass fusion came from band member Josh Martin, she said. "He just seems to know tons of songs from all sorts of genres. Now we keep our ears open for any song that would translate well into bluegrass style."
Martin also brings a rarely heard Latin influence to the band. He goes to Mexico every year for a month to study with a 93-year-old violinist.
"(That sound) just shows up a little bit here and there," Gilchrist said.
The three-member band comprised of Gilchrist, Ben Wright and Martin, hails from Santa Fe, N.M. They equally divide the lead vocals and song-writing duties and, with Gilchrist and Martin playing upright bass and mandolin, the two trade instruments throughout their live shows.
Gilchrist has played in bands since she was 9. Her first band was a kids' bluegrass band called the "Blue Night Express." The band included her brother and sisters, Emily and Martie Erwin, who grew up to become part of the Dixie Chicks.
In college, she left bluegrass behind to play bass in rock bands and didn't touch the mandolin for five years.
The return to bluegrass came after she left Nashville, Tenn., for Santa Fe, a city she thought would be a secluded place to sneak away for a year and work on her music.
She met band mates Wright and Martin and never left.
The band is touring weeks ahead of a new live album recorded at Taos' Old Blinking Light Restaurant.
"It's a legendary old spot in Taos with a good-size dance floor," Gilchrist said. "A lot of locals hang out there."
The owners of O.B.L. recently started a record label to promote musicians who play there. This is Mary and Mars' second CD to come out on the label.