“Screw it! Play anything! Just play it loud and fast.” Ethan James told this to Jeff Austin as he handed him his first mandolin. Little did he know it, but the Bluegrass Holes (started by Jeff and Ethan) would eventually lead to folk stardom through the Yonder Mountain String Band. Ethan is now an agent for the FBI. “I can’t tell you any more,” whispered Jeff through the phone’s car call system. He is driving through Chicago streets to get groceries, an hour ahead of our Mountain time zone.
Jeff has been home for 6 weeks, a long break from the creative whirlwind of touring. Three daughters are left waiting whenever their father leaves. This is an obvious pull away from the music life he has established, but just like always music seems to call. Over the past year Jeff has been experimenting with improvised live sets that explores the Grateful Dead’s vault of music. His live group of musicians consists of Jazz Guitarist – Mike Robinson, Bassist and Composer – Max Johnson, National Banjo Champion – Kyle Tutle . Jeff described them as being a dangerous group of individuals
I hear the blinker clicks of Jeff’s car over his speaker system. “I don’t listen to bluegrass when I’m home. I try to listen to all different types of music because we are trying to get really far out there man.” This new beginning is sparking a modern version of bluegrass that is comparable to Jazz with its deep delves into colorful improvisation. “ I want to create a new type of music where drums are irrelevant.” Jeff is trying to bring the strings forward with that loud and fast mentality.
Photo Gallery: Jeff Austin Band at the Top Hat Aug 17, 2016
Jeff tells me that he has been feeling the pull of Missoula as the concert date looms. The Top hat is a perfect venue to hold the groups high energy performance that will connect with the crowd on a personal level. Jeff’s persona fits middle age Missoula to a T. The young creative family at work. As I got off the phone with Jeff he told me, “This summer love of Missoula made its way to chicago, and we are coming.”