• author
    • Kate Laddish

    • January 18, 2018 in Columnists

    Bluegrass stalwarts The Special Consensus head west

    The discussion in bluegrass circles about strict adherence to the genre’s tradition verses allowing modern influences is ongoing and more than occasionally heated. Since forming in the Chicago area over 40 years ago, The Special Consensus has been serving up music that leaps past discussion right into being pulse-quickening bluegrass with a sound that harkens to the genre’s pioneers but with enough modern touches to appeal to a broad audience. This acoustic quartet wins fans with the clarity and energy of their singing and playing and a repertoire woven from a mix of traditionals, originals and bluegrass renditions of songs from other genres.

    The Special Consensus heads west for the rest of January, kicking off their West Coast tour at The Palms Playhouse in Winters tonight before playing a string of dates stretching from Oregon to Las Vegas.

    Bandleader, banjo player and singer Greg Cahill co-founded Special C and is the one constant in a cast of nearly 50 members over the years. It isn’t that Cahill can’t keep musicians in the band; it’s more that he and Special Consensus help foster and launch careers. Both Grammy-nominated alt country/Americana singer, songwriter and guitarist Robbie Fulks and country singer and bassist Dallas Wayne played in Special Consensus as young men.

    “I’ve been really fortunate to get a lot of great young musicians,” Cahill said, citing that as a reason for the band’s energy, “and it’s become somewhat of a farm team.”

    In addition to Cahill, the current line-up is Nick Dumas on mandolin and vocals, Dan Eubanks on bass and vocals and Rick Faris on guitar and vocals.

    Cahill has a passion for nurturing talent and broadening engagement in bluegrass. He served on the board of the International Bluegrass Music Association for 12 years and as its president for four, and won the organization’s Distinguished Achievement Award in 2011. Cahill has also been long involved in bringing bluegrass into the schools, and increasing involvement in the genre.

    But at the heart of it all is a dedication to a music that’s at once driving and soulful.

    Special Consensus’ accolades include a Best Bluegrass Album Grammy nomination for their 2012 release “Scratch Gravel Road” and two plum IBMA awards for their 2014 release “Country Boy: A Bluegrass Tribute To John Denver.”

    Their newest album, “Long I Ride,” the band’s eighteenth, is quintessentially Special C. The propulsive title song has the feel of a bluegrass classic, but was penned by band alum Robbie Fulks just a few years ago. Living up to their name, Special Consensus collaborated with additional musicians on this project including Alison Brown, Rob Ickes, Trey Hensley and members of Della Mae. “Fireball” from “Long I Ride” won the 2016 IBMA Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year Award.

    For more information about the band and West Coast tour, visit specialc.com and the venue’s websites.

    The Special Consensus’ January dates:

    Thursday, Jan. 18: The Palms Playhouse, Winters, Calif.
    Friday, Jan. 19: The Firehouse Arts Center, Pleasanton, Calif.
    Saturday, Jan. 20: Pistol River Friendship Hall, Pistol River, Ore.
    Sunday, Jan. 21: Barefoot Quales House Concert, Alameda, Calif.
    Tuesday, Jan. 23: Susan Rife House Concert, Morgan Hill, Calif.
    Wednesday, Jan. 24: Last Stage West, Atascadero, Calif.
    Thursday, Jan. 25: Naiditch House Concerts, Altadena, Calif.
    Friday, Jan. 26: San Diego Bluegrass Society at La Jolla Christian Fellowship Church, San Diego, Calif.
    Saturday, Jan. 27: Fiddlers Crossing, BeeKay Theater, Tehachapi, Calif.
    Sunday, Jan. 28: Southern Nevada Bluegrass Music Society, Cornish Pastry Co., Las Vegas, Nev.

    The Special Consensus is (from left) Nick Dumas, Dan Eubanks, Rick Faris and Greg Cahill (photo courtesy The Special Consensus)

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