To honor 40 years as a band, Hot Rize had a big party back in their long-time home base of Boulder, CO - three sold-out shows at the famed Boulder Theater, and they invited along some very special guests . As one of the most respected and influential bands in bluegrass music, this brilliantly talented foursome - Pete Wernick (banjo), Tim O'Brien (vocals, mandolin, fiddle), Bryan Sutton (guitar), and Nick Forster (vocals, guitar, bass) - captured an incredible weekend of music. Having selected the best of those unforgettable performances, the venerable quartet curated one super-charged, 19-song set for this historic release: Hot Rize 40th Anniversary Bash.
Over the course of 68 minutes of music, their broad appreciation for soulfulness and their conscientious balance between traditional and experimental bluegrass - a Hot Rize hallmark since their inception - are on shining display. That warm and glistening, award-winning sound unlocked in every song by the lead vocals of O'Brien, complemented step for step in sibling-tight harmony from Forster with Wernick and Sutton joining in; their stringed instrumental prowess featuring flat-pick guitar kingpin, Sutton, is no less impressive. Tracing a line from the band's 1978 debut to their most recent release, When I'm Free, this collection of classics, fan favorites, and latest hits touches down on every significant entry on the Hot Rize timeline: From their signature nod to Bill Monroe with "Blue Night" and their ‘80s chart-topper, "Just Like You," through the iconic song-of-the-year "Colleen Malone" from their IBMA Entertainer of the Year run in 1990, up to several tracks from their latest record, including "Western Skies."
Think of this party as a living history; on "Huckling the Berries," diving back to those four-sets-a-night gigs in biker bars like the Colorado Coal Company, or even deeper for a tender tribute to the late Glen Campbell on "Wichita Lineman," a tune that inspired the band's beginning. There is "You Were On My Mind This Morning" from their latest album, and a few nuggets long associated with Hot Rize, like "Radio Boogie" and ""High on a Mountain." Whether it's their modern-day standard "Nellie Kane," adopted into the jamband circle by Phish, or covering the East L.A. roots ensemble, Los Lobos, on "Burn It Down," Hot Rize remains both the vanguard and torch-bearer of the evolving bluegrass story.
With measured amounts of old-time consciousness and forward-thinking daring, as in the Celtic-tinged instrumental "The High Road" or the new-age gospel "Your Light Leads Me On" and "I Am the Road," the delicate, almost telepathic onstage interplay between the quartet, uniting beautifully as one or equally supporting each solo, shimmers in the spotlight. Joining the celebration are special guests Sam Bush (mandolin), Jerry Douglas (dobro), and Stuart Duncan (fiddle) on songs hand-picked by the group to showcase their individual and collective virtuosity. Bush dazzles on "Out on the Ocean," while Douglas, owning the distinction of being the sole sideman ever on a Hot Rize studio recording, sets "Things in Life" alight. And on "Angelina Baker" there is Duncan whose masterful fiddle-flames smolder and singe.