Dry Branch Fire Squad | Szold Hall, Old Town School of Folk Music | Folk & Country | Chicago Reader
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Dry Branch Fire Squad 

When: Sun., Nov. 9, 8 p.m. 2014
Price: $25, $23 for members
Dry Branch Fire Squad started in 1976, too late for them to count as bluegrass pioneers, and at this point they’re far too old to get much notice as up-and-coming stars. Their most recent album, Echoes of the Mountains, came out in 2009. They’re neither living legends nor exciting newcomers, and they’re not promoting new product; the reason to see them is that they’re a polished, soulful, quietly inventive, and delightful live band. Multi-instrumentalist Ron Thomason, Dry Branch Fire Squad’s founder and leader, has run the group as an ever-changing cast of excellent musicians since he left Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys 40 years back, performing a smart mix of old-time, bluegrass, and country with the occasional left-field cover, such as a high-lonesome version of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me” with doo-wop harmonies. “Sam really liked bluegrass music, I’m told,” Thomason quipped during a 2013 rendition, “and wrote this song just for me.” He chats amiably onstage, alternating between self-deprecation and gentle ribbing aimed at his sidemen, and the band hews to bluegrass tradition by using a single microphone and having each member step forward to take a solo—a technique that gives their performances a homey zip. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect venue for the band than the Old Town School, or a more perfect band for the venue. —Noah Berlatsky

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