February 4, 2006

The Waybacks

— Blues, Bluegrass and Beyond —

The Waybacks

his was a fabulous evening filled with great sounding music. The Waybacks deliver on all of their promises and then some. Each member excels as a soloist, and they harmonize together perfectly.

ossessed of dazzling instrumental chops and an absolute mastery of acoustic musical styles, The Waybacks have taken North America by storm in just over a year. Whether mesmerizing audiences at intimate venues or creating a sensation at major festivals, the band has brought its onstage alchemy to enthusiastic fans far and wide. Eclectic in both influences and approach, the band embraces multiple genres and puts its unique stamp on the lot. Waybacks music is wild, energetic and unpredictable. With their stellar musicianship and innate sense of adventure, they stand in great company with the few bands at the forefront of New American acoustic music

he Waybacks are a band from San Francisco's Mill Valley area made up of five musicians with very different backgrounds who somehow have gelled. From newgrass and western swing to jug band and gypsy jazz, from folk and fingerpicking to alt-country and improvisational excursions that defy categorization, Waybacks music is wild, energetic and unpredictable. At full tilt, they take on the force of an acoustic rock band. With their stellar musicianship and innate sense of adventure, they stand in good company with the few bands at the forefront of New American acoustic music. The success of the group's approach is evident in its broad appeal to audiences of all ages, shapes and tastes, whether they sit enraptured, stand drop-jawed at breathtaking flights of fancy, or just plain get up and dance. This is a populist band in the best sense of the term, one whose ardent fan base spreads the word like wildfire.

he music they make is hard to typify and it definitely isn't bluegrass, says guitarist Stevie Coyle — at least not the kind of bluegrass that the purists would recognise. Formed three years ago, the Waybacks have steadily gained a following who appreciate their ability as musicians and their breadth of repertoire. The experience of the band is "vastly deep" says Stevie. One point he's adamant on: The Waybacks are not bluegrass.

ote the absence of a banjo for one thing ... and the addition of drums, though Bill Munroe, who's considered the father of bluegrass, fronted lineups with drums and with a thumbpicker, he says. Purists and traditionalists are not welcoming, so terms such as newgrass and jamgrass are thrown in the group's general direction. "Crabgrass" is how some would describe them, says Stevie, the standup humor surfacing again. Jamgrass bands, according to the Coyle musical lexicon, are based on a Greatful Dead template and are into long jams, twenty to thirty minutes long. The Waybacks can do that, but it's not what they are solely about. In fact, Stevie points out, one of the advantages of the band's versatility is that they can do a variety of festivals and feel at home. Again, he's firm on not wanting to pigeonhole the band as simply hung up on hero musicianship.

James Nash ames Nash, on lead guitar, mandolin, and vocals, is a Nashville native who started playing the guitar at age 9 and studied with Nashville session regular Jerry Kimbrough throughout high school. At 18, he came to California to attend Stanford University, where he was soon snatched up by San Francisco-based Occam's Razor, an alternative melodic rock band. After squandering his youth playing the devil's music, James picked up mandolin and rediscovered his Southern roots (and righteousness) frequenting middle Tennessee bluegrass festivals with his father. In addition to his work with The Waybacks, James writes and performs his material solo, plays with Lane and the Badass Chicken Bones, and is occasionally found sitting in with an assortment of Bay Area bands.

Stevie Coyle tevie Coyle, rhythm & fingerstyle guitar and vocals, learned how to play the guitar by listening to old Ventures albums, and taught himself to fingerpick while touring the U.S. with The Royal Lichtenstein Circus. Once he shook some of the sawdust out of his shoes, he took gigs emceeing killer whale shows, playing with various acoustic bands and performing on stage and screen in the San Francisco bay area. You just might see him acting in national televison commercials. Stevie has also done stand-up comedy as one of The Reagan Brothers at The Improv and The Comedy Store in L.A., and is a former member of The Foremen as well as The Frontmen. His dry sense of humor kept us in stitches between songs.

Joe Kyle, Jr. oe Kyle, Jr on standup bass and vocals, developed a fascination with the sound of that instrument early in his life, thanks to his father's extensive collection of jazz records. After many years of misguided academic and career choices he finally bought his first double bass in 1990. Since then he has become an in-demand player, known throughout the San Francisco Bay area for his agility, adaptability and his propensity for slap bass and tragi-comic asides. Recent projects include performance and recording with The Hot Club of San Francisco, Trailer Park Rangers, and Bone Cootes and the Living Wrecks, to name but a few. His tendency to destroy instruments makes him a favorite among luthiers and repairmen

Chuck Hamilton huck Hamilton on drums & percussion is a native Montanan. Chuck has played everything from sacred orchestral music in Norwegian cathedrals to honky-tonk blues in at the Silver Dollar in Butte. Though he studied drums formally in high school and college, his real training was with the Lost Highway Band, touring throughout the upper Midwest and the Rockies in the late 70s. Chuck has also gigged with the swing group Live Wire Choir and blues-rockers Lucky Fingers out of Montana. Now residing in Seattle, Chuck has been playing jazz gigs with Jim Day and Clipper Anderson and has appeared with blues-meisters Kathy Hart, Guitar Slim, Steve Bailey, and Kimball Conant. Over the years, hes had a chance to perform with Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Norton Buffalo, and Lawrence Welk (not at the same time). Recent recording credits include several CDs with Fran McKendree (formerly of McKendree Spring). Chuck joined the Waybacks with hopes of getting to drive the tour bus.

arren Hood, the Wayback's most recently added full-fledged full time fiddler, hails from Austin, TX and comes with a pedigree ... his daddy was Champ Hood of Uncle Walt's Band, which for many years was a fixture on the Texas music scene. At 23, Warren's a seasoned musician himself. He plays super fiddle and mandolin, he has a great smooth voice, he writes tunes and songs and he's a great hang.

LL TOLD, The Waybacks is a band far greater than the sum of its parts — intrepid travelers following their muse, looking to chart new territory and bringing everyone along for the ride. This was a trip well worth taking !

Praises for their performances:

  • "The musical maelstrom known as the Waybacks blew in from San Francisco, sending up such a startling tornado of aggressively performed, high-spirited melodies as to remove all air from the room. Their inspirational combination of influences -- not to mention their recklessly brazen breakneck pace — exposed the band as virtuosos sharing a singular mind-set."
      The Washington Post

  • The Waybacks"The Waybacks play anything from blues to bluegrass and beyond and do it beautifully."
      Sharon Kennedy

  • "These guys can play like bandits."
      Billboard Magazine

  • "one of the most exciting, inventive and fun acoustic bands on the planet! — it's no wonder that these bay area favorites are catching fire across the country: they are stellar instrumentalists adept in multiple musical genres who have taken the acoustic string band to a whole new level."
      Kevin Russell, Freight Train Boogie

  • "... one way cool band ... tight, crisp, sophisticated music"
      Sing Out! Magazine

Link to their music clips:           or their web site:

Opening for The Waybacks tonight were our featured open mike performers:

  • Tom Gould
  • David Bailey
  • Austin Sandick
  • Rick Gould
  • Bob Mist
  • Barry Be
  • Kevin O'Donnell
  • Richard Barnhart
  • Claude Margouleff
  • Samuel P. Lazow
  • Little Toby Walker
  • Our host this evening was Ira Perlman. If you weren't here tonight, you missed yet another of the very best programs of the year ...