John Reischman & the Jaybirds and River City Playboys- Bluegrass @ SilverSkateFestival, 2023.02.19

It was late on Sunday afternoon, as I watched the local team blow another three-goal lead, that a tweet caught my eye- John Reischman & the Jaybirds were playing two sets a half-hour away from my trusty recliner. And the River City Playboys were also appearing! It takes a lot for me to change plans (I had no plans, which was the plan) on short notice, but a couple hours later I was in a white tent in Edmonton’s Hawrelak Park waiting for one of my favourite bluegrass bands to take the stage.

As they have countless times in my presence, John Reischman & the Jaybirds were excellent. The sound in the tent wasn’t the greatest, but if I cupped my ears just right all was good. I first saw the Jaybirds in 2001, and they are as good now as they were then. Comfortable with each other, they five members of the band weave around each other effortlessly, and Trisha Gagnon, John Reischman, and Patrick Sauber harmonize seamlessly. Nick Hornbuckle is one of my five favourite banjo players for many reasons, and Greg Spatz is just cool, calm precision. A great band, playing songs from throughout their 20+ years together.

The River City Playboys feature four of the best-known Edmonton-area bluegrass musicians- Marc Ladouceur, Byron Myhre, Curtis Appleton, and Matt Hotte- along with a bass player whose name I really have to learn. Such an impressive band, playing bluegrass the old-time way. Hotte has his vocal sound down, and he and Appleton sing so well together. The band look like they are having a great time on stage together, and yet have done the hard work to make their efforts musically memorable. Looking forward to seeing them again, soon.

A wonderful evening of bluegrass featuring two world-class bands, and I don’t write that lightly. Reischman & the Jaybirds are indisputably among the best in the business, and I’ll put the River City Playboys- hometown bias and bluegrass friends/acquaintances blinders aside- up against any band playing pre-1970’s, traditional bluegrass. And it is always great catching up with Bluegrass Pals like Jeannette, Kenny, Sheila, Anna, and Carolyn.

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