The M Shanghai String Band’s upstate CD release party

When the whole collective of musicians is playing, the M Shanghai String Band is similar to a small orchestra in size. Such was the case at their upstate CD release party, held at the Bearsville Theater in Bearsville, NY on Friday night (their other CD release party is taking place on April 7th at Joe’s Pub in NYC). Almost the whole gang was at the Bearsville Theater; Austin Hughes, Patty Hughes, Harrison Cannon, Glendon Jones, Richard Morris, Matt Schickele, John Shanchuk, Corin See, Dave Pollack, and Philippa Thompson. The only member not there was Rose Thomson. Joining the aforementioned musicians on mandolin for a few songs toward the end of the evening was Tommy Ramone, who is a friend of the M Shanghai String Band. Tommy is in a bluegrass band himself, called Uncle Monk , along with Claudia Tienan.

The sound the M Shanghai String Band produces with their mix of, well, stringed instruments, is unparelleled by any other band when it comes to warmth and richness of tone. There’s a certain magic that’s created when you combine a few guitars, two fiddles, a banjo, a mandolin, and a bass. The only non-stringed instrument in the band (unless you count the spoons, washboard, and saw) is the harmonica, but it fits in nicely with their sound, and adds another dimension to the music. The music itself is a rather unusual blend, and the band’s versatility is most impressive. Whether the song they’re playing is a spiritual, a happily rollicking country twinged tune, or a ballad, the M Shanghai String Band is at ease, and the sound they produce is always natural. Equal parts bluegrass, folk, swing, and country, with lesser proportions of a wide variety of influences, there’s just something perfectly pleasing about the band’s music. You know you’re rocking the crowd when an audience member in a wheelchair is dancing along in his chair! And the lounge at the Bearsville Theater was the perfect setting for the show. It’s a cozy place, with dim lighting, comfy chairs, and red drape curtains hanging behind the stage, and was a welcome location to host the hominess of the band. The feeling you get from a M Shanghai concert is that they enjoy playing together and would be creating music no matter what, but want to share the joy they get from doing so with everyone else. There’s a closeness among the band members that radiates into the audience and can be heard in the band’s music. (I’m sure with as many members as they have, when you’re driving to gigs stuffed into a minivan with each other and all the instruments, it definitely helps if you’re friends…) The musicians all share one mic and dance around each other with ease, one fading to the back as another steps forward to take a solo. Sure, they perform on stages, but they transcend that by bringing that back-porch feel with them wherever they play. In doing so, they help to keep a very special part of their musical inspiration thriving. The M Shanghai String Band is not only a vital part of keeping alive traditional American music, but is a vital part of keeping the spirit of traditional American culture alive as well. For their last song of the night (they were called back for three encores!!!), the band brought the house down with “Tic Tac Toe Chicken.” A few people started dancing along, then some of the musicians came down off the stage and danced as they played their instruments, before even more people started dancing! The rest of the crowd sang, stomped, and clapped along. A joyous gathering, like back in the old days. Back when there was no such thing as the “music business”, just music.

From The Air

Groundhog’s Day

Meteor Storm (my favorite song off the new album. Well, one of my favorites…)

The Sun Is Gone

Goodnight (Austin brought his little girl onstage during this song, and dedicated it to her)

Gallow’s Bird (Glendon has some really impressive solos during this one)

Tic Tac Toe Chicken

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