PossumHaw is based in northwestern Vermont and formed in 2004. The foundation of PossumHaw's sound is the singing and songwriting of Colby Crehan. The band has worked together to develop a mature, thoughtful bluegrass sound through strong instrumentation and vocal harmonies from all members of the band.
Colby's songwriting originates in bluegrass and folk music. The stories and musical arrangements are compelling, and Colby's voice has a rare authenticity and natural quality that has been highly-praised.
PossumHaw seeks to create honest, original music inspired by the stories of real people, the way the first country music began.
Past performances include the Champlain Valley Folk Festival, SolarFest and throughout northern and central Vermont. Colby also is the female vocalist for the acclaimed Bluegrass Gospel Project.
Colby Crehan--lead vocals, guitar, piano
Ryan Crehan--banjo, vocals, harmonica
Charley Eiseman-lead guitar, vocals
Steve Waud--mandolin, vocals
Pat Melvin--upright bass, vocals
Fortune's Name (12 tracks, 10 originals)
Madtom--2007 (13 tracks, 12 original)
Split-Rail--2005 (12 tracks, 11 original)
Colby Crehan shines with PossumHaw
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By ART EDELSTEIN Arts Correspondent - Published: May 21, 2010 Sometimes it takes a couple of ...
By ART EDELSTEIN Arts Correspondent - Published: May 21, 2010
Sometimes it takes a couple of recordings for a band to reach a level of playing that puts it in a new category. This has happened with PossumHaw and its third CD, "Fortune's Name."
Here we have an album of mostly original songs by lead singer-songwriter Colby Crehan. Backing her is a much improved band.
Crehan is, in this writer's estimation, a shooting star in the world of bluegrass music. If her name sounds familiar, it should. She is also the female voice in the popular locally based Bluegrass Gospel Project, whose most recent recording was Crehan's debut with that popular ensemble.
But PossumHaw, which calls Burlington home, is Crehan's first band, one she and her husband Ryan helped create and it is in this context that she gets the full spotlight.
On the newest album Crehan is credited with composing nine of the 12 tracks. The band also includes Jimmie Rodgers' "Daybreak Blues," and "Poor Side of Town," the song that gave 1960s rocker Johnny Rivers a big hit. It was co-penned by Lou Adler. There is also the instrumental "Carabell" by mandolinist Stephen Waud.
But the heart of this album belongs to Crehan's music. Her songs are strong. They fit the bluegrass motif to a T and show off strong melodic and lyric abilities. From the gospel sounds of several tracks, where her band members add nice harmonies, Crehan's association with BGP is evident.
Crehan has also written a song that could be either a country or bluegrass hit. "The Road to Mora," track eight, is the tale of life in New Mexico, full of banditos and women waiting for their men to implode. If you need a reference soundscape, think "Pancho and Lefty" by the late Townes van Zant. This song is so well composed and sung by Crehan that she should be sending demo copies out to every major country and bluegrass band. Alison Kraus is coming to Vermont this summer and Crehan should make sure this multi-Grammy winner gets a copy.
While Crehan is clearly the "star" of PossumHaw, the other band members are growing as bluegrass musicians. When I last reviewed the band after its 2007 "Madtom" release I found the instrumentals somewhat limpid. There wasn't a lot of drive, and that is a bluegrass no-no. In that former iteration the band had no bass player and that section of the aural landscape was sorely missed. With bassist Pat Melvin that problem has been solved. Also, I thought the previous mandolinist was not suited to the task. In Waud, PossumHaw now has a full-fledged bluegrass mandolinist whose bubbling mandolin sound pops out of the fret board and fills a lot of space in the breaks.
Ryan Crehan on banjo isn't going to blow you away with dazzling licks but he's solid and also plays some fine harmonica. Charley Eiseman is the lead guitarist, and while facile on the fretboard, I'd like to hear more bluegrass licks and bottom end runs in his playing.
Bluegrass has always had a dedicated following, and in Vermont that has meant just a few bands to listen to. PossumHaw, with Colby Crehan starring, has now entered the top level of Green Mountain bluegrass bands. With great singing and songs, I think this band might consider applying to Merlefest, the nation's most prestigious bluegrass, festival so others can catch Crehan's rising star.
PossumHaw: Fortune's Name
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Local string band PossumHaw might seem in danger of becoming just a backup band for vocalist Colby C...Local string band PossumHaw might seem in danger of becoming just a backup band for vocalist Colby Crehan, a true rising star in Vermont. Yet the revamped ensemble generally manages to strike a balance between featuring the talents of its increasingly renowned front woman and the tasteful instrumental work. On their third effort, Fortune’s Name, PossumHaw deliver sterling arrangements that are polished to a shine. Some of the credit belongs to the man who worked the dials: veteran producer and engineer Colin McCaffrey. One of Vermont’s most prolific and experienced purveyors of quality acoustic music, he has a talent for achieving a crisp sound, and it really works for PossumHaw here.
The additions of ace mandolinist Stephen Waud and bassist Pat Melvin are a bonus. Unlike many bluegrass-style mandolin players, Waud doesn’t sound as if he’s trying to imitate another, more famous player. His chops don’t merely fit; they’re interesting. As for Melvin, he makes his presence known but never gets in the way, which is just about the highest compliment one can pay a bass player.
Banjo player and harmonicat Ryan Crehan — Colby’s husband — and guitarist-keyboardist Charley Eiseman manage to avoid many of the jamgrass-style leads that defined the band’s sound on earlier albums. This allows for a leaner and more focused approach to the tunes. But, as was the case with previous efforts, Colby Crehan shines like a diamond. She writes most of the songs, sings lead on every vocal number, and generally adds a velvety touch of class to the music.
Crehan also moonlights as the female lead vocalist for the Bluegrass Gospel Project, and it’s likely the time spent with that five-star outfit has made her singing even stronger and more self-assured. Whether it’s on a killer version of the Johnny Rivers’ ballad “Poor Side of Town” or on “The Cup,” one of her sassy originals, she digs in or soars at just the right moments. Listeners will be happy that Crehan is still driving this train, and also likely will be grateful for the changes PossumHaw have made to produce this fine collection of music.
PossumHaw will perform selections from Fortune’s Name this Friday, April 23, at the North End Studio in Burlington; and Saturday, April 24, at the WalkOver Gallery in Bristol. See calendar for details.
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I have yet to find an acceptable term for old-timey music played by a jam band. On their second CD, ...I have yet to find an acceptable term for old-timey music played by a jam band. On their second CD, Madtom, talented local group PossumHaw prove themselves capable of putting together authentic-sounding old-time string-band music, juxtaposed with jam-rock sensibilities. Perhaps we should call it “jam-timey”?
The group was one of only a few Vermont bands selected to play this year’s prestigious Champlain Valley Folk Festival, and they are part of Vermont’s new wave of exciting young acoustic musicians.
Primarily composed of two guitarists, a banjo picker and a mandolin player, PossumHaw features strings prominently in their sound. Despite the relatively traditional makeup of the band, the instrumental breaks are sometimes a bit too noodly for my taste — picture the lounge of a UVM dorm circa 1972, with six stoned guys jamming away to “Sugar Magnolia.” However, when Colby Crehan takes command, things snap right to it.
The guitarist-pianist has written nearly all the material here and capably sings lead on many tracks — even harmonizing with herself on the Gillian Welch-esque mood piece “Backpage Waltz.” Rounding out the singer’s compositions, husband and chief harmonizer Ryan Crehan does a solid job with the aforementioned banjo.
One of the CD’s outstanding features is that it demonstrates how well the band knows their genres: When a song is meant to sound high and lonesome or bluegrass bop, it delivers. That’s not to say that the band plays derivative music, as many of the PossumHaw originals — including the catchy “Stoneysides” and my current favorite, “Young Lynn” — feature compelling stories strengthened by riveting musical arrangements.
Madtom was recorded and mastered at Northern Track Recording in Wilmington, and the album’s overall sound is warm and alive. That said, a few minor flaws detract from the overall performance: Ryan Crehan’s banjo is at times diluted by too much “fingerpick scraping the string” — a symptom, perhaps, of miking the instrument too closely. Both lead guitarist Charley Eiseman and mandolinist Matt Kolan are fine pickers, and both could have been mixed louder at times to make their presence felt more forcefully, especially during the breaks.
Overall, the mix works well. In particular, the album’s second cut, “Come Up and Find Me,” makes you want to do just that. All in all, Madtom is a very enjoyable and well-played disc.
PossumHaw show off their jam-timey chops and celebrate the release of their new disc Wednesday, October 10, at Nectar’s, with local mountain-blues mavens The Eames Brothers.
A good bluegrass beginning
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"The band's lead singer Colby Crehan has one of the better voices in bluegrass/old-time music cir...
"The band's lead singer Colby Crehan has one of the better voices in bluegrass/old-time music circles. ...In all, this gives her singing the authenticity so often missing from traditional American music wannabees."
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America is witnessing the re-emergence of acoustic music, particularly the bowed, strummed and picke...America is witnessing the re-emergence of acoustic music, particularly the bowed, strummed and picked variety. Over the last few years, a new generation of musicians has embraced the instruments and sounds of post-war Appalachia and started producing fresh bluegrass albums for today's music fans. Burlington quartet PossumHaw is one such group. Their self-released debut, split-rail, attempts to bring old-time tradition to modern ears.
Bluegrass typically ranges from high-octane tunes suitable for Friday night table dancing to the smoother, gentler variety heard after church. Some of the genre's newcomers, such as Old Crow Medicine Show and Split Lip Rayfield, represent the rowdy end of the spectrum. PossumHaw, on the other hand, have more in common with bluegrass balladeer Alison Krauss. While some tracks on Split-rail (such as the energetic instrumental "Overhill") are barnstormers, most have a relaxed feel.
The buttery, sweet voice of lead singer Colby Crehan will probably make or break the album for listeners. Some will fall in love with her blanket-warm intimacy while others may find it cloying. Although the rest of the band provides adequate support, their performances aren't radically unique. It's obvious that Crehan's sensual, country-soul vocals are meant to be the centerpiece of PossumHaw's soothing sound.
Lyrically, split-rail echoes themes that could've been heard on the airwaves during the heyday of the Grand Ole Opry. "Come On In" tells the tale of a couple's steadfast love in the face of temptation, while "Fire of '89" educates listeners on the horrors of the Great Savannah Fire of 1889. No matter what decade it is, disasters make for a compelling narrative.
The real question is: Which one of today's bluegrass groups will recast this antique art form into a truly new mold? The Velvet Underground did that for rock and, more recently, Uncle Tupelo did it for country. While split-rail is an immensely enjoyable debut, it doesn't quite amount to a bluegrass revolution. It'll be interesting to see where they take it from here.
Typically 2- 1 hour sets of predominantly original material
There are no upcoming dates at this time.