Growing up on a steady diet of country and bluegrass seems part of the culture in Kentucky — at least it was certainly part of mine. While my tastes for country are very particular, there is something uniquely special to bluegrass, a genre that blends rootsy Americana with an almost jazz-like sensibility that allows for freeform improvisation, while encouraging each musician to make every standard his own. It’s that ingenuity that inspires the juxtaposition between the nostalgic porch wisdom of the genre and the staunch individuality expected of each performer. The 23 String Band is no exception.
Speaking with mandolin player/vocalist Dave Howard was, per usual, a pleasure. Always looking forward, he notes, “The next set is always the best set. … We try to give a Carnegie Hall-caliber performance at every show, regardless of the venue or attendance. There’s usually a huddle and a pep talk as a group just before we go on, quite possibly some tequila.”
Of their newest record, he says, “‘23SB’ is the culmination of our development as a band. We began the recording process with the weight of knowing that this may be our swan song, so we included some of the most requested — the traditional songs — from our live repertoire, along with a handful of new original tunes.”
Howard clearly loves what they do, even if they’re hitting the pause button for a moment. He explains, “For the time being, we aren’t accepting any bookings or planning anything for The 23 String Band. The time has come for each of us to put our energies towards other interests outside of The 23 String Band. We will be celebrating our successes and the Belle of Louisville’s 100th birthday at Steamboat Days and the Centennial Festival of Riverboats on October 17 and 19. Then, at best, it will be a while before you hear from The 23 String Band. We will miss our fans as much as they will miss us, but we must keep moving forward knowing that best is always yet to come.”