Even after years of getting on stage and playing dirty, from the gut, roadhouse blues with his violin, Lionel Young still catches people off guard.
Young walked away from a career as a classical violinist in the 1980s when he realized the true potential of the instrument.
¤ Lionel Young Band
¤ 10 p.m. today and Saturday
¤ The Tugboat Grill & Pub in Ski Time Square
"You can do anything you want with the violin," Young said. "Anything at all."
The playing style Young created is completely his. Sometimes, he plays his custom electric violin like a mandolin -- finger picking his way through a song. Sometimes, he plays it like an electric guitar, complete with distortion pedals and effects. And sometimes he just slides his bow across the string, playing his violin the way it's "supposed" to be played.
Young came to his musical style on his own, but after he was established, he quickly learned that he was part of a long American tradition that dates back to the early years of the New Orleans blues and jazz scene in the 1920s, '30s and '40s. He learned about musicians such as Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and Claude Williams, whose violin music was overpowered during the years by the more marketable sounds of horns and amplified guitars.
"I don't see myself as carrying a torch, but I still feel them around me. There's also something going on that's not just me," Young said. "I have to honor that. I have to let that in and let it be.
"But I'm still trying to have fun with what I'm doing."
Young will play in Steamboat Springs this weekend with a four-piece band. He promised if he gets a crowd, he will "keep them dancing until they can't move."