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via Stephen Moller

Athens band brings bluegrass to Casa

Dance music will fill Casa Nueva Friday night. No, it’s not the contemporary electronic music that’s expected in most bars and clubs. It’s a night full of bluegrass — the Appalachian standard of dance music.

Athens own Sandy Tar String Band and Columbus’ The Relentless Mules will bring their original songs and takes on old time classics, all in the name of a good time.

The Sandy Tar String Band has been playing around Athens since 2012, said Jake Loew, banjo player and singer for the band. Bass player Aaron Smith, mandolin player Sean Fen, mandolin player Ameilia Thornton and MarkDoug Anderson on guitar round out the remainder of the band’s roster.

Loew said a large selection of music is at their disposal from original songs and covers of material that has been around for years.

One of those covers is the classic quick dance number “Cotton-Eye Joe,” featured on the Sandy Tar String Band’s release The Jackhammer Sessions.

“There is a wide variety of material to choose from when it comes to old-time and bluegrass,” he explained. “There are often multiple distinctly different versions of the same song.”

While a bar may seem odd at first for a band composed of non-electric instruments to be heard, Loew said Casa has always been able to make the band sound as intimate as it would in a smaller room.

“Playing acoustic music is sometimes difficult if a bar doesn’t have sound equipment,” Loew admitted. “We once ended up playing in a night club in Copenhagen called Sukkerbageren (Sugar Bakery). They didn’t have any microphones at all, and it smelled liked fish, so we stole their recycling.”

The Relentless Mules characterize its self as a live band, born out of “a weekly bluegrass jam in Columbus at Dick’s Den,” a bar in the city.

Stephen Moller, who plays resonator guitar for the five-piece band, said people still connect to bluegrass because it is a familiar sound for audiences to hear.

“It’s a time machine,” he said. “A modern bluegrass band can and will play a fair selection of the same songs and tune that grandpa’s bluegrass band played. … People feel connected to their roots when they listen to this music.”

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