February 15, 2007

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Not afraid of the mandolin
Scalawag goes for hard-driving jam band rock
By Erica Febre efebre@hippopress.com

For someplace that’s easily identifiable as a “cover band city,” Manchester has quite a lot of original bands.

“Brown Eyed Girl” and “Mustang Sally” get more play time here on any given weekend than a kid at recess.

But Scalawag, a four-year-old original Americana rock and country bluegrass band based in Manchester, refuses to let the local cover band quota hinder their creativity.

“Musicians have always covered other musicians. It can be fun to play covers, but we don’t want to be a cover band. This city could be just as happy with the original scene, if there were more venues focused on good, original, live music,” said Peter Gustafson with Scalawag.

Scalawag is Gustafson on guitar, bass and vocals; Jeff Baumann on drums; Brian Richards on bass, banjo and vocals; and Liam Spain on guitar, harmonica and vocals.

“We’re a cross between a bluegrass and jam band. Think hard-driving, four-chord beats of old bluegrass tunes and then add guitar riffs and jams on top of that. We’re also not afraid to pull out a banjo or mandolin,” Richards said.

Scalawag has also coined their own genre, which they call “stomp.”

“Our drummer hits pretty hard. Stomp basically means that we’ve got a good drive, along the lines of The Rolling Stones and The Band. It’s that drive that’s the reason for calling it stomp,” Gustafson said.

Spain and Gustafson also lend their hand to the lap steel guitar. The lap steel uses a metal slider, called a steel. bymoving the steel along the strings, musican can change the pitch while plucking or picking the strings.

“It’s an easy way to bring something different to the music. The lap steel has got a whole different sound,” said Spain.

Scalawag plays about 70 percent original tunes and fills in the rest of a set with covers ranging from Chuck Berry to Bob Dylan. A Dylan favorite for the Scalawag gang is “Hurricane.” Spain says that most people won’t recognize it but those who do will really appreciate it.

“The older, more experienced folks are more likely to recognize some of the older stuff we’re playing. Our original songs are similar enough to the old bluegrass style that it’ll grasp the audience. The younger kids just find it as something to dance to,” Richards said.

Scalawag released a full-length, Wheel On Steel, in 2006, under Electrophonic Records, an independent label.

Wheel on steel
Who: Scalawag
When: Saturday, Feb. 17, at Penuche’s; Wednesday, Feb. 21, at Steppin’ Out Lounge; Thursday, Feb. 22, at the Shaskeen
Where: Penuche’s Ale House, 16 Bicentennial Sq., Concord; Steppin’ Out Lounge, 342 Lincoln St., Manchester; The Shaskeen, 909 Elm St., Manchester
For more information: To hear and download music samples, or for more show listings, go to scalawagmusic.com or myspace.com/scalawagmusic.