But it does happen and it happened this year when bluegrass quintet Run Boy Run (RBR) performed in January and again in February on syndicated public radio show “A Prairie Home Companion.”
To hear, for the first time, such a wonderfully tight and talented local band broadcasted on Garrison Keillor’s popular program was mind-blowing.
As upright bassist Jesse Allen explains, RBR’s five 20somethings met at UA and formed the band in 2009 but most of its “serious time as a band has happened since we were split between two cities.”
When asked where the band had been playing before heard by 4 million listeners on Keillor’s show twice, Allen says, “Frankly, we haven’t been.
“We didn’t play Tucson much because we were split between Tucson and Phoenix, and our Phoenix half was keeping us busy up there. It really wasn’t until we played the Tucson Folk Festival where we met Nowhere Man and Whiskey Girl that we started booking shows in Tucson; even our resident Sun Devil started falling in love with the Old Pueblo.”
The Old Pueblo is falling in love with RBR, as evinced by the packed back room at Plush for the band’s March 21 album release of So Sang the Whippoorwill. As Derek Ross of Nowhere Man and Whiskey Girl, that night’s show opener, said from the stage – “Run Boy Run is going to bluegrass your balls off.” And that they did.
The musicians played many of the songs featured on the album, which is comprised of 12 tracks, mostly penned by the members. It also includes three traditional songs and a cover of The Band’s “Get Up Jake.” Front and center are the sweet soaring harmonies by the gals – Grace, Jen and Bekah – surrounded by a beautiful coalescence of bass, fiddle, mandolin, guitar and cello. RBR’s musical aptitude shines through on this gorgeous release that is very technically clean – a result of hours and hours spent in the Jim Brady Recording Studios.
Fiddler Matt Rolland says, “The clarity is a testament to the fact that our co-producer and engineer, Jim, has great mics and knows how to use them well for acoustic instruments and voices. I’m proud to say there is no auto tune or pitch adjustment on the album; we wanted this to be clean and acoustic, like you’d hear in real life.
“We spent about 85 hours in the studio tracking, from November to March. We generally played songs all together until we got a take that we liked. Mixing and mastering took about a third of the time to track (about 35 hours).”
This attention to time, detail and arrangement inform their impressive chops. Those qualities landed the band a chance to open the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 2012. That was a result of winning the 2011 Telluride Band Contest – a competition with strict guidelines.
The musicians seem up to any challenge, even with all the crew working full time jobs, they make time to make it happen. Flipping through the band’s blog, this striking entry by Allen seems to sum up how the group functions on a deep level of friendship to create a breathtaking ensemble.
“There is one factor in all of our work putting together the tunes we play that I feel is more important than any other: trust. We trust each other, and we do what we can to make sure we honor that trust in one another. This trust allows us to take risks, to listen critically, and to speak freely. Because we trust each other, we can play with freedom, and produce something we can all be proud of. A creation is always precious to the creator, so being able to put your creation into the hands of people you trust is a magnificent thing.”
Run Boy Run perform locally this month at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., April 7 and at the Marana Bluegrass Festival on April 13 & 14. Details at RunBoyRunBand.com.