Hot Rize was one of the groups that updated the traditional bluegrass sound with eclectic taste, superb musicianship, hipness, and a sense of humor. The group had a long run before it broke up in 1990, then reunited briefly for a tour in 1996 that is documented on the live recording So Long of a Journey. Bassist Nick Forster secretly captured the group’s set the evening of the group’s homecoming in Boulder, and the recording reflects an inspired performance. This, Forster says in the liner notes, is what the group sounded like on a good night. I saw the group when it played at the Cedar on the West Bank in Minneapolis that summer. The show included a terrific set in the guise of their swing band alter ego Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers.
Tim O’Brien was the heart of Hot Rize. His principal instrument is the mandolin, but he also plays guitar and fiddle. He is a superb singer and songwriter, still going strong in his various musical explorations. In the video above, Hot Rize performs “Walk the Way the Wind Blows” with O’Brien taking the vocal and Forster helping out on harmony. O’Brien also wrote the song; Kathy Mattea made it a hit. Charles Sawtelle on guitar (now deceased) and Pete Wernick on banjo rounded out the group. In the video, the ubiquitous Jerry Douglas appears on dobro. The quality of the video is a little lacking, but you’ll get the idea.
UPDATE: John Lawless writes:
Thanks for including the mention of Hot Rize. As someone who is both professionally and artistically involved in the bluegrass music business, I always find it a treat when someone from outside of our small community brings attention to our music.
I invite you to visit The Bluegrass Blog if you would be interested in following the news in and around bluegrass music. You might be especially interested in the two recent posts here and here about Hot Rize reuniting to appear at the