The grass isn't always green

Strings showcases three up-and-coming bluegrass bands

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— Scott Kessel, the drummer for the band Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem, is a Dumpster diver.

His recycled drum kit --hich he calls the "drumship enterprise" --s made from a cardboard box, cat food tins, a Danish butter tin he uses as cymbals and a suitcase that plays the role of bass drum.

"He tries and hits everything to see what it sounds like," said lead vocalist and fiddler Rani Arbo. "He also sits on a Cuban drum box my brother brought back from Peru, and he uses a giant water cooler jug as a rhythm instrument."

Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem will share the stage Tuesday night with two other bluegrass bands -- Hit and Run Bluegrass and The Lovell Sisters -- for Strings in the Mountains' second annual community bluegrass concert.

The members of Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem consider themselves a genre-crossing band. The have morphed from their bluegrass/folk/world roots to incorporate swing, old-time music, grooves and whatever new sounds they can add to their unique sound.

Three of the four band members are songwriters, and they play one-third original songs, one-third cover songs and one-third wacky adaptations of traditional stuff, Arbo said.

Traditional music consists of public domain songs, some of which are more than 200 years old.

"We draw from traditional sources because we are so inspired by all the life that is in those traditional songs that have been around for so long," Arbo said. "In the modern world, we are influenced by funk and bluegrass and contemporary music."

The band members add their own flair to the songs but don't draw tight boundaries.

"We try to be true to the original version by not turning it into a rock song and keep the spirit alive," Arbo said. "There is so much human life in them, and they feel really good to sing. It feels different than the song you wrote last week because it has a weight to it that I like."

Each of the Lovell Sisters, who also will play Tuesday night, began taking classical violin and piano lessons when they were 5. The sisters -- now 15, 16 and 19 years old -- were known for their blend of folk, country and contemporary acoustic music. Two years ago, they strayed from their classical roots to play bluegrass.

Hit and Run Bluegrass formed in 2002 playing a modern-authentic blend of bluegrass. Their success was immediate. The band won the 2002 RockyGrass competition in Lyons. Less than a year later, the band won the 2003 Telluride Bluegrass Festival contest. It also sold all 2,000 copies of its first CD in less than two months.

All three bands to play in Strings' mini bluegrass festival are part of Strings' Tuesdays in the Tent Series that has been developed for locals, said Betse Grassby, executive director of Strings in the Mountains.

"It gives us a chance to present some up-and-coming artists," she said.

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