10 Musicians You’ve Probably Heard Play Live at Festivals and You Never Knew Their Name

Allie Kral

Aaron Redner plays fiddle and mandolin in Hot Buttered Rum and shared with us a list of ten musicians he thinks we should know more about. We at LIVE whole-heartedly agree with each selection and decided to spruce it up with some photos and links. Check out Redner’s words below and a new project he’s working on called Grateful Bluegrass Boys. Onto the list! – Editor

1. Tim Bluhm

Tim Bluhm

Hot Buttered Rum was lucky enough to go into the studio with Tim Bluhm who produced our Limbs Akimbo record. A couple of guys in our band are huge Tim Bluhm fanatics. I’m talking posters-on-the-wall, set lists signed, shirts with Tim’s silhouette. Tim is about 6′ 4″ and is a genuine gentle giant. He can expertly cast himself in different lights and his songwriting style requires commitment of character and vocal excellence. Tim can be scary. Tim can be angry. Tim can be nuanced. Tim can be the master of any female heart he desires. The irony here is that you might know Tim as Mr. Nicki Bluhm. Perhaps you are already aware of Nicki Bluhm and her group of Gramblers, in which Tim often plays and sings. Anybody who knows that band knows what a creative force everyone is, especially Tim who has produced and helped guide Nicki’s career to the dizzying heights it is now perched on. I am actually a little bit older than the 44-year old Tim, which amazes me — Not because he looks old but because he is definitely wise beyond his years and has an avuncular vibe to him. Any young, up-and-coming band would serve itself well to seek his advice and opinion. I love seeing Tim perform with Phil Lesh and Jackie Greene, who happens to be one of his best friends.

2. Bonnie Paine

Bonnie Paine

I’m pretty sure when you die and go to heaven, Saint Peter will be there accompanied by Bonnie Paine on her old-timey psychedelic washboard. He will check your sins while she sings the waiting room music you always dreamed of hearing. The first time you hear her voice you get a little bit of an electric shock. The haunting mixture of breath and sound and vibrato and deep soul resonate your core in a simple and organic way. Bonnie is another musician that never turns down a sit-in. She has an uncanny ear that has developed from growing up in a musical family and surrounding herself with musical mentors who have encouraged her along the way. If you have not heard the band Elephant Revival then you’re doing yourself wrong. They are truly one of the more innovative bands on the scene today and Bonnie is at the center. If you heard the band once you would immediately want to see them live. And once you see them live you would be struck by lightning when the glint in Bonnie’s eye hits your heart. She is the worthy recipient of a global crush and I am one of her biggest fans…Although not quite as rabid as my wife who sings along to every song!

3. Steve Adams

Steve Adams
The proprietor of one of the greatest mustaches on the jam-band scene today (when he decides to go that route), Steve Adams is the coolest bass player around. In no way does his “coolness” threaten you, but it does make you slightly worried about leaving your girlfriend and Steve together at the buffet table for too long. His silky groove is what makes ALO what it is. A band that knows how to find the right sounds for the right songs. People who know Steve know he is an excellent upright bass player as well as a steady electric playing machine. He has a strong Bluegrass feel which is not easy to come by. Many of his friends are some of the finest musicians in California and beyond. I have seen Steve sit-in as bass player for many other bands and every situation he’s in sounds so relaxed, comfortable and solid. It’s hard to find a bassist who doesn’t seek to show off their chops at least a few times a show. Steve can do it but only once in a while – he’s happy just hanging out on his side of the stage and just grooving. He’ll also grab the microphone on occasion to serenade his adoring fans which I love and wish he would do a little more.

4. Jeff Chimenti

Jeff Chimenti

As everyone knows, one of the most dangerous jobs in the world is that of the keyboard player of Grateful Dead. Luckily the keyboard player du jour is Sir Jams-a-lot…Jeff Chimenti! I am convinced he is indestructible and has nothing to worry about. One of the hardest things about writing a piece like this — As soon as I start on another artist I tell myself, “No, now THIS is the nicest person I’ve ever met!” We’ll stick with Jeff on this one. Every time I see him, whether it’s on stage or not, he is the most gracious person in the room. He has that shine one only gets after playing for thousands and thousands of people on a consistent basis. Total love reflected back at him consistently from his fans. He is also a very generous musician on stage as I have had the great fortune to discover. He can either be a phantom; filling in only the curtain backdrop of harmony; or take the reins and ride the bull till the horn sounds! As a huge fan of the Dead myself, my favorite keyboard player was Brent Mydland by a long-shot. That being said, it would’ve been great to hear Jeff in the mix with Jerry. I’ll bet they would’ve loved each other…seriously loved each other and brought out greatness in each other’s playing. Jeff totally deserves to be on that stage in Chicago for FARE THEE WELL with Trey and the living members of Grateful Dead. Bruce Hornsby has praised Jeff recently and I’m sure that praise is replicated. I expect nothing but beautiful keyboard sounds from both of them and I will be listening to the recordings with a big smile on my face somewhere high on a mountaintop.

5. Reed Mathis

Reed Mathis
The first time I saw Reed Mathis was in Lawrence, Kansas where I was going to school at the time. I think he was playing with Steve Kimock or Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Hard to remember because all I could fixate on was this crazy-ass bass player who played the thing like no one else I had ever seen. He looked like a grungy, sweaty, stinky genius. If I passed him on the street going into the venue I might’ve tossed him a quarter or two the way he was dressed. You could tell he was road weary and in the zone and digging deep and blowing minds. Reed’s parents are classical musicians and I’m sure that contributed greatly to his aural spectrum and exposed him to the sounds of many different instruments in the orchestra. That’s what he does with his bass come to think of it. His bass is an orchestra. No joke. It is also an electric guitar, and a shredding one at that… One of my favorite Reed Mathis- memories is at the great High Sierra Music Festival about eight years ago. He was sitting in with Tea Leaf Green and playing electric guitar and all I could think of was, “Wow! Josh Clark is tearing it up right now!! Then I saw that crazy bass player again and just hit myself in the head with my palm. If you really want to get mad at Reed for being so talented, have a listen to his Beethoven symphony transcriptions. Completely mind altering and totally funky. Reed is also incredibly hard-working. I’ve been on his tour bus and saw that he is always on the computer mixing something or practicing or corresponding with somebody in regards to music. Totally inspiring and an example of a musician these days who can patch work a career together with many interesting projects and come out the other side the amazing individual that he is. Long live Reed!

6. Nathan Moore

Nathan Moore

I am a firm believer that there is a fine line between a musician and a magician and the ultimate living example of how those lines are blurred is Nathan Moore. There are rare musicians whose aura is from another cosmic dimension and lifetime past (see ThaMuseMeant). I would love to have dinner with Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Nathan Moore. Oh where the conversation would go! Nathan could throw master classes about songwriting and effective delivery. He understands how to play to individual crowds whether it’s with the band Surprise Me Mr. Davis (many music aficionado’s favorite band although they rarely convene) or on a lower deck of Jam Cruise where he mans a place called “the Spot” where other musicians gather to showcase a new song or just listen to Nathan’s deep reservoir of songs. For aspiring songwriters, think about this…Nathan won the Telluride song writing contest and played a song he wrote THAT DAY! Look Ma — Nathan just made my ego disappear! Check out Nathan’s Landwhere he hosts his own radio show every Wednesday.

7. Allie Kral

Allie Kral

One thing this world needs more of these days is joy. Wherever you can experience it…Joy… sop it up, it can sometimes be hard to find.
That goes for joy in music as well. I have heard so many fantastic master-musicians who exude no joy whatsoever in their playing and I find myself bored. “Wow-wee, congratulations, you can play that diminished arpeggio at 175 beats-per-minute and rip Giant Steps by Coltrane in any key….but can you make your audience really feel? Are there genuine smiles and tears that come from your obvious ability to tap into the emotional infinite? One thing about Allie Kral is that you always leave her shows loving her more than when you got there. She exudes the joy I speak of to the highest degree. Any band I’ve ever seen her sit-in with comes alive when she hits the stage with a smile and a cowboy boot swagger whether it’s Moe, Hot Buttered Rum, or now Yonder Mountain String Band (where she is currently crushing it). Allie is always willing to jump into any situation with her fiddle and make new friends and fans in the process. She will be the first one to tell you that she’s always trying to learn more every day and it shows. From her earlier days in Cornmeal (out of Chicago) she developed the strongest road calluses one can earn and that toughness is apparent. Her strong background in classical music combined with the love of Bluegrass and improvising makes her quite a force in the musical landscape. As a fellow fiddler, I applaud all her success and wish her nothing but the stars!

8. Andy Goessling

Andy Goessling

I’m not sure that even if you were an avid Railroad Earth fan that you would automatically recognize Andy if you passed him on the street. He is such an unassuming guy and rarely the life of the party; unless that party is on a sold-out Red Rocks stage with two saxophones in his mouth, a banjo strapped to his side, a flute piping away, with some seriously mean flat picking on guitar that catches you off guard when you hear it. Oh yeah, he can also tear up the mandolin like it’s his first instrument and then put it away and look like your accountant bearing milquetoast news. One thing I love about Andy is that he is always willing to bring an instrument and sit in with you in any situation from a main stage festival set to a heady campfire. He is somebody who is obviously not in it for the fame and glory, he really just likes to play music with his friends of many years and is simply enjoying this magic carpet ride that Railroad Earth is currently enjoying. Andy might have the widest pallet of sound to choose from that I know of and he always makes brushstrokes with a sense of modesty and majesty. It must have taken thousands of hours of practice for him to excel at so many instruments and to play them all so effortlessly which is both wonderful and discouraging at the same time! Next time you see RRE, start a drinking game where everyone takes a shot when Andy picks up another instrument!

9. Bryan Horne

Bryan Horne
Bryan Horne is a man’s bass player. He is one of the most physical bassists I’ve ever played with and his fans love to watch his teeth chomp together to mirror every single note he plays. Legend has it that he had a rib removed in order to have a career playing the bass. When a shoe rack needs to be built from scratch on the tour bus on a hot and humid Nashville afternoon, Bryan is the man for the job. Need I say more? Bryan is also one of the kindest people you will ever meet and is always willing to lend that extra helping hand. That characteristic comes out in his playing as he is always listening to what you are playing and quick to musically acknowledge your phrasing at a high-level informed by years of studying jazz, fusion rock, and classic cello. He was also a championship water polo player in college and loves to swim to this day. Any time the van pulls over near a body of water, BCH (as his friends call him) will always be game for a quick dip, no matter how chilly. Perhaps that’s why his playing is so fluid and buoyant. Hot Buttered Rum’s dance groove starts with Bryan and when he’s happy, everybody’s happy! His chemistry with Lucas Carlton on drums has been scientifically proven to create chaos on the dance floor! I have seen him hang with the best of the best and if you don’t know BCH yet, it’s time you two should meet.

10. Lech Wierzynkski

Lech Wierzynkski

The first time I heard the California Honeydrops was at a campground in the Strawberry Music Festival near Yosemite a few years ago. A Dixieland jam was going down with some great sax and a powerful trumpet. As a crowd gathered around the musicians, the trumpet player put down his horn and opened his mouth. I was pretty far away so I couldn’t really see what was going on but I recognized immediately that I was hearing a voice that I’d be hearing for a long time. My gut instinct was right. First impressions really do mean a lot in music and many of my friends, who are committed music fans, speak highly of the Honeydrops and their commitment to creating a party vibe that’s connected as much to 50s swing and 60s blues as anything on modern radio. Lech is blessed with incredible range. He never sounds forced when singing in falsetto and I’m sure years of vocal training have helped create this singer who is setting the bar for beauty of sound and emotional expression. I read that he was born in Poland and listened to a lot of American records. He obviously digested them and now infuses that knowledge with a joie-de -vivre that is truly a pleasure to witness. You get the sense that he does not embarrass easily, and he pulls off stunts that would make a less confident man feel silly. There’s something about ending a gag with an authentic Louis Armstrong sounding trumpet solo to impress. There’s also a little bit of a white Sammy Davis Junior thing going on in Lech and I’d bet the two would’ve gotten along famously.