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A cold wind drives Open Road

By John Lupton, December 2002

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"I think the Johnson Mountain Boys came along at a time when people were getting away from that and trying to make it a more casual event at concerts, but I think (they) did a really good job at staying professional, and kind of make them stand out a little bit."

"We try to entertain people...We're not the hottest pickers on earth here, and we're still learning on our instruments and in our music, but I think the least that we can do is be professional and come with a sense of professionalism in our dress, in our business and in our approach to the music and our stage show, and I think that's something that, frankly, a lot of bands that are out now have kind of overlooked. I think it's a way to connect with the audience, and it just makes us feel good...we try to really dress for the people, and I think they really appreciate it as far as looking at it, and approaching it on a professional level. It means a lot to us, and I know it meant a lot to Mr. Monroe."

With an added tip of their Stetsons to the era of classic bluegrass, they also utilize a single-mike setup in their stage shows, harkening back to a time when limited space and resources made it a necessity, and to Folk, it still has certain advantages.

"When you set up all the separate mikes in a smaller hall, and you're not playing to a lot of people, it almost doesn't make sense to have separate mikes, because the single mike is more than enough sound reinforcement. And then, people really enjoy the whole choreography of seeing the band jump around and move around, and in terms of stepping up in the middle and taking a solo and stuff, it's helpful for the audience to kind of identify with what's going on and to see it visually. It's less demanding on an instrumentalist when there's a (separate) mike right in front of him, and it takes a lot more energy to play in front of a single mike. You've got to play harder, and you've got to play bigger, and some of those body movements and techniques really add to the general feel of the music...if you're stepping up to a single mike, you've really got to play hard, and people know that."

With Rounder's backing, "Cold Wind" gives Open Road the opportunity to travel down some side roads that don't necessarily bring bluegrass to mind, drawing on the likes of Hank Williams and Doug Kershaw.

"The material...is really diverse. It's not your typical bluegrass record, there's a lot of different feels in there. There's a lot of different flavors. I think one thing that we did different with this record, the material kind of drove this record into a little bit of a different direction, just in that some of the songs are a little off-beat, and I think people enjoy that mixture. We are traditionalists. We do love traditional bluegrass and we don't...try to do much other than that."

As author of 4 of the album's 13 tracks, Folk readily admits that he's not yet in the same league as heroes like Bill Monroe and Carter Stanley.

"When I'm at home, off the road, I really try to set aside time to finish ideas, and a lot of times, ideas come in a lot of different ways. I'm still learning about how to make a successful song. I'm still learning about the different ways that they come about. Sometimes it'll be a catch phrase, sometimes it'll be an experience, sometimes you'll get the melody first and write words to it. In terms of how I get to an idea, and finish it, there's not a method to it yet, because every time it comes in a different way."

Folk thinks the willingness of everyone connected with the band to work hard at what they love and believe in that will ultimately take Open Road to their final destination.

"When we get to go play things like (the) Delaware Valley (Festival), I don't attribute that at all to my successes or talents as a songwriter or as a musician or even as a band. I put a lot of weight behind the fact that you have to work hard for everything you get in life, and that's just another one of them."

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