The Hot Strings
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The Hot Strings


Band Americana Bluegrass


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The following was borrowed from one of our engineers, Brent Truitt. Brent owns and operates Monkey Finger Studio in Nashville, Tn. He is also the mandolin player for the Dixie Chicks:
I'm back in the studio working with David Grier on his new project. We are in the overdub stage at this point. This record will be a total departure from anything he's recorded in the past.

We're putting the finishing touches on a project for a fine young band, Pagosa Hot Strings from Colorado. Guitar great and New Grass Revival veteran, Pat Flynn is manning the helm as producer. Due to some scheduling issues, my friend and Pro Tools guru, Tim Roberts has been doing most of the engineering.
Pagosa Hot Strings consists of 4 great young pickers and composers with a very bright future in acoustic music. Good guys also.

Thanks for stopping by, Brent
- Brent Truitt

"Northern Rockies Folk Festival Rocks Hailey"

On Saturday the boys from Hot Strings equally impressed the gathered Folk Festival loyalists. For such young men, they were near virtuosos on their respective instruments, playing everything from Blue and Newgrass to Reggae and avant-garde rock and roll. - The Idaho Mountain Express August 10,2005

"Local boys hit the big time: Pagosa Hot Strings cut record in Nashville"

Two weeks ago, Pat Flynn, a respected record producer, prowled around the Monkeyfinger Recording Studio in Nashville listening intently to music being made in the next room. In that room, four young musicians from Pagosa Springs were spending their winter break from school doing anything but vacationing.

The musicians were a band of bluegrass pickers who have been entertaining music fans as the Pagosa Hot Strings since 1995, when they were 7, 9 and 11. Josiah Payne, now 21, plays mandolin. His brother Jared Payne, 19 plays guitar, and cousin Carson Park, 18 plays fiddle. Lech Usinowicz, 22 and the newest member, plays bass.

The Payne brothers along with Usinowicz are students at Fort Lewis College. Carson Park is a senior at Pagosa Springs High School. They have just returned from Nashville where they were laying down the tracks for their forthcoming record, due out by the summer. The Payne brothers and Park visited the Herald offices Tuesday to talk about their work.

Flynn, their producer, once played guitar for the 1970s and '80s bluegrass band New Grass Revival, a band that featured Sam Bush, John Cowan and Bela Fleck. Brent Truitt, owner of Monkeyfinger, engineered the recording. Truitt is a Grammy winner and his studio has seen Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and more.

Recording in Nashville marks a splendid opportunity for band members, but they have already seen their share of success. The boys, along with former bass player Dan Park, Carson Park's father, won the band contest at Rockygrass in 1998 and at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in 1999. Carson Park won the Colorado State Fiddle Championship in 1998. Josiah Payne won the Colorado State Mandolin Championship that same year, and then won the National Mandolin Championship in 2000.

While most elementary and middle school kids are listening to whatever MTV or commercial radio is pushing, these kids where listening to and playing bluegrass.

"We played the talent shows in elementary school and I don't think other kids appreciated it. Back then, it seemed like we were good for our age" Carson Park said.

After releasing two CD's with Dan Park on bass, they recruited Usinowicz from classical music training at Fort Lewis College. The older Park moved from the bass player/manager role to manager.

Now that they had recorded locally, the band felt it was time to record under the guidance of a respected producer and engineer. Enter Flynn and Truitt.

"What I learned going to Nashville was its great being able to have the privilege to work with Pat" Josiah Payne said. "He hears stuff we can't hear, which is a great thing to have in a producer. He made it to where we put out our best work."

Jared Payne said the recording was "Indescribable. They give their input, take our input into consideration and compile it into the best thing they can do for us."

The new CD is composed mostly of original music written by the band and by Dan Park, along with a Peter Framton and Pure Prairie League cover. The CD is referred to by the band for now as "uncharted," much like the music they play.

"You can't classify our songs into any genre" Josiah Payne concluded. "Newgrass is the best classification, but we incorporate rock and roll, jazz, reggae, and classical. But it's all bluegrass instruments."

Pagosa Hot Strings will play at the Fort Lewis College Concert Hall on Jan. 21. The band will donate the proceeds of the concert to UNICEF for the orphans of the tsunami.

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and program director of KDUR. Reach him at 247-7628.

- Durango Herald

"Review of"

Review appears on, CD Baby, Borders, Barnes and Nobles.

These four young men from southern Colorado have put together a fine
collection of acoustic and vocal material. The members are Carson Park,
fiddle, Jared Payne, guitar, Josiah Payne, mandolin and Lech Usinowicz,

Carson, Jared and Josiah have been playing together for ten years. The
oldest of the three in his early 2os. Lech joined the group in 2004 and
is their peer in every sense of the word.

Cut #1 is their rendition of Peter Framptons' "Do You Feel" with
impressive interplay between the fiddle and mandolin. 2) "Fire on Devil
Mountain" was pened by Josiah and rings loud and clear as an old time
fiddle tune brought to life in the twenty first century.

It's evident that these gentleman have been influenced by many
generations of acoustic music. They incorporate their musical taste with
the ease of seasoned veterans and the enthusiasm of new recruits. Their
website refers to them as Newgrass/Blue Grass but what sticks in this
listeners mind is Progressive Grass.

Their tasty arrangements, vocal harmonies and overall abilities are
heard on all 13 cuts of this CD. Some, naturally, stand out. Carsons
vocal on cut # 4 "I'll be here" shows that the fiddle isn't the only
instrument he's gifted with. Cut # 5, Josiah Paynes "I'll be here"
outstanding, especially Jareds guitar work along with the vocal

Being one of those who has a plastic statue of Clarence White on my
dashboard, I was touched by Jareds and Josiahs rendition of Soldiers
Joy, cut # 8. Dropped D tuning and Clarence all the way until, they
added their own twist, then returning at the end to the masters touch.
Thank you guys.

The disc is their first to be recorded at Monkey Finger Studio in
Nashville. Pat Flynn producer, recorded by Brent Truitt and Tim Roberts,
mixed and mastered by Tim Roberts.

As well performed as this material is, there is one thing I would like
to Address. Constructive criticism so to speak. I felt the percussive
merits a well played mandolin rhythm offers to this style of music were
kept a bit low in the mix. I'm not talking blow grandpa off the tractor
chops but I would like to have heard Josiahs rhythm a little hotter in
the mix.

Pat Flynn has this to say of these young men in the liner notes. " Being
around them helped me remember what it was like to begin the journey;
the fear and wonder, the completely transcendent feeling of being swept
up by a new song, a newly learned chord or figure. To feel, through the
music, that sense of mission, of destiny even, to KNOW who you are and
where you belong. So to those with 'ears to hear,' welcome to the Hot
Strings new CD, to their place in the world. They have a lot to tell you
and to play for you."

Amen Pat, this is music that should be heard by all lovers of acoustic
instrumentation. Music gleaned from the past and played by todays

R W Stewart
- Joe Ross reviews (November 2005)

"Durango Bluegrass Meltdown"

The Pagosa Hot Strings reprised their Friday night performance to a full house Saturday at the Diamond Circle with their youthful technical skill. Led by national mandolin champion, 17-year-old Josiah Payne, the band is a family affair including brother Jared, 15, on guitar, and cousin Carson Park, 14, playing fiddle with Carson’s father, Dan Park, on bass. They opened with an up-tempo piece called "Klondike or Bust" which was followed by "The Narrows" and then a two-beat shuffle song entitled "Treasure Hunt." Brothers Jared and Josh Payne performed a super instrumental piece, "Grey Eagle," which featured their superb technical and improvisational abilities. The crowd loved it.

- Durango Herald April 9 2001

""On The Edge" Highlight Review"

Meaculpa Music, No Number
[May 2006 Issue Bluegrass Unlimited] “On The Edge” Highlight Review

How does one carbon date the origins of newgrass music? Did it begin with Sam Bush and the New Grass Revival, or with the Country Gentlemen, or as Bush himself has said, "Blame the Osborne Brothers-it ain't no spring chicken." It has a history, stylistic divisions, and subdivisions, and offers plenty of grist for milling arguments about "What is newgrass anyway?"

One possible answer: The Coloradobased Hot Strings is newgrass music, as solidly downthemiddle as the Johnson Mountain Boys were bluegrass. By its very nature, newgrass music blends various styles with bluegrass, tends to take more chances, and breaks all sorts of bluegrass rules. Thus, I can't really agree with Hot Strings' press materials when they say that HS "pushes the envelope." When "pushing the envelope" is virtually required of a newgrass band, you're not really pushing it anymore, but instead residing in a huge envelope.

But within the big newgrass envelope, HS are one of the best things to come along in a decade. Collectively, the band can boast firstplace victories in the Colorado State Fiddle and Mandolin Championships, the National Mandolin Championship, the Rockygrass and Telluride bluegrass band contests, and membership in the San Juan Symphony. Josiah Payne (mandolin), Jared Payne (guitar), Carson Park (fiddle), and Lech Usinowicz (bass) know how to play, and they sing well, too, though the CD fails to identify who sings what.
The hallmarks of newgrass music are all here-the range of influences including jazz, a tad of reggae, a healthy dollop of Celtic and rock, ambitious arrangements, shifting meters, a program made up mainly of original songs, extended instrumental passages (aka jamming), and particularly on tunes like "Spirit Of The Night" and "I'll Be Here," that exploratory, questing ambience that infused the New Grass Revival's ethos. The instrumental, "March Of The Ents" (what's an Ent?), is a highlight of the album that hits all these marks.

And speaking of NGR, "Uncharted" was produced by Pat Flynn, the guitarist/singer/composer who was part of arguably the ultimate newgrass group, the Bush, Cowan, Fleck, and Flynn incarnation of New Grass Revival.
"Uncharted" is an exceptional album in a field that tends to attract plenty of players whose desires outpace their abilities. Hot Strings lives up to the name and then some. (Hot Strings, 262 Simmons Pl., Pagosa Springs, CO 81147,

- Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine

"Uncharted, CD Review"

The Hot Strings have been wowing audiences at Bluegrass and Folk Festivals in and around the Four Corners area for about ten years, and this summer will be no different. This young group of pickers has created quite a buzz of late and with the release of their newest album, "Uncharted," it seems like the sky is the limit for these young men from Pagosa Springs, Colorado. This summer they can be found playing at numerous festivals and concerts and are a must-see for anyone who lives in the Four Corners or loves to listen to bluegrass music.
The Hot Strings are Carson Park (fiddle), Lech Usinowicz (bass), and brothers Josiah (mandolin) and Jared Payne (guitar). Father, mentor and now band manager Dan Park played bass for the band until 2004. The story of Hot Strings as a band is one of perseverance and growth as both musicians and as people. Their first "paying" gig was playing for tips at the bus stop for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Five years later they were the first act at Telluride. Their individual musicianship is quite impressive; Josiah was crowned the 1998 Colorado State Mandolin Champion at age 14, and then in 200 went on to win the National Mandolin Championship. Carson's fiddle playing earned him the Colorado State Fiddle Champion in 1998 at age 16. The bad is considered the host band at the Four Corners Folk Festival in Pagosa Springs and they will open that festival this year for the tenth consecutive year.
"Uncharted" shows that the Hot Strings have matured as musicians. "There are a lot of differences between "Window of Opportunity" (200) and "Uncharted," says Josiah Payne. "We have grown a lot as musicians over the past few years and the original work on this album shows that progress." "Uncharted" has a lively feel and showcases the diverse talents of this young group. Their inspiration in playing music comes from many genres that include bluegrass, reggae and even a touch of jazz. These sounds are blended into a style completely their own. It is obvious that the past decade of playing together has coalesced into a tight, vibrant sound.
The album contains many instrumentals that possess a story or thought behind the song names. "Lots of their instrumentals start out as melodies," Says Dan Park. "We usually don't get to naming them until they've played themselves out." One such instrumental, "March of the Ents," takes its name from the J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. When listening to the tune, you can imagine living trees marching forward to destroy Isengard.
Another Instrumental, "Fire on Devil Mountain," pays homage to the fire that took place there in 2003. It starts our as a sweet, light sounding melody thanks in part to Josiah Payne's fine mandolin picking. When listening to the opening of this song, you can almost envision a small fire dancing across a hillside, and when Park's fiddle chimes in it acts like wind gently fanning this small fire. Jared Payne and Usinowicz jump, and the song, like forest fires often do in these parts, starts to quickly gain strength.
"Uncharted" also contains some original lyrics written by members of the band and also by Dan Park. "Writing lyrics for these guys has always depended on where they are in their lives," he says. Josiah Payne adds that "much of the inspiration for our songs come from personal experiences." One song that exemplifies this is "Wind, Rain, and Fire." It is a positive song that seems to address the long road the Hot Strings has traveled and continues to travel. It contains an inspirational chorus that was written by Josiah Payne and some very motivational lyrics provided by Dan Park. In the lyrics, Dan Park provides us with words to ponder, such as, "It doesn't matter how much you know it's all in how you follow through."
The song's chorus sums up the essence of this band: "I need to fly far away to where I just don't know, I'm gonna climb higher and higher until I reach my goal. Wind, rain, or fire baby won't stop me if I go." The Hot Strings are a band on the rise, and if you find yourself at any area festivals this summer chances are they'll be there, too.
- Inside Outside Magazine (June/July 2005)

"Band To Watch Column"

JUNE, 2006

Twenty strings snap, crackle and pop under their nimble, fast-flying fingers as an almost palpable electricity is discharged into the rarified high country air. The quartet is burning with youthful enthusiasm, playing with a ferocious intensity and unbridled imagination—traversing various genres and the sound barrier with heart and soul. This is the band formerly known as Pagosa Hot Strings (a play on their picturesque southwestern Colorado hometown, Pagosa Springs and its renown hot springs)—seasoned veterans, yet one of the youngest groups on the circuit. Having recently dropped the geographical reference from their name, the band is now known simply, powerfully and descriptively as “Hot Strings.”

Founding members of the group, brothers Josiah Payne (mandolin) and Jared Payne (guitar), and cousin Carson Park (fiddle), have been coaxing fire out of their instruments for over a decade now since they first started playing together at ages 11, 9 and 7, respectively. Their buddy, classically trained bassist, Lech Usinowicz, jumped on board the hard-picking juggernaut two years ago. “Yeah, I’m the old man in the bunch at the ripe old age of 23,” Lech chuckles at the thought of being a “father figure.”

“He’s still a kid though,” Jared adds encouragingly as the band laughs in hearty agreement before launching into one of their signature tunes, a bluegrassized version of Peter Frampton’s classic rock anthem, “Do You Feel?” “Carson even busts out the wah pedal when we play that one live,” Lech explains, almost salivating at the thought of using such high tech gadgetry. “We’re still working on getting a talk box like Frampton used on the original cut.”

Hot Strings’ first paying gig was playing at the 1996 Telluride Bluegrass Festival—for tips at the bus stop. “At the time, Jared was playing a Yamaha with one of those cheap [chipboard] cases,” Josiah recalls the momentous occasion. “We had a guitar case full of tip money. Jared tried to put his guitar on top of all those dollar bills and close the case, but ended up breaking it because it was a cheesy case full of too much money.”

Four years later, almost to the day, Hot Strings was opening that prestigious event. “The stage [at Telluride] was probably three to four times bigger than any stage we’d ever been on,” Carson recalls, with vestiges of that adrenalin rush still plainly in evidence. “It was a great experience that really got the ball rolling for us.”

The ball has indeed been rolling ever since. Hot Strings copped the 1997 RockyGrass Bluegrass Band contest and then captured the same honor at Telluride in 1999. The band leapt to the front of the growing roster of artists from Colorado known for their boldness and intrepid musical spirits. “I think it’s the lack of oxygen that causes that,” Jared quips.

“Yeah, the high altitude tends to mess with your brain a little bit,” Carson concurs, grinning.

Josiah, Jared and Carson also finished high school—an experience that annoyingly interfered with their musical aspirations. “School has always been an issue,” Carson admits. “As soon as we picked up our instruments, school, instead of being a learning device, became like a little bug that crawled up on your neck and wouldn’t leave you alone.”

As the old man, Lech pursued a music degree at Fort Lewis College and played bass in the San Juan Symphony. “I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing playing with these guys,” Lech smiles. “If you had told me two years ago I’d be playing bluegrass and checking out agents so we could just hit the road and do this for a living, I would have thought you were crazy.”

The group also found time to wax four CD’s, the most recent of which, Uncharted, was released in the spring of 2005 with New Grass Revival legend, Pat Flynn, sitting in the producer’s chair. “Being around [Hot Strings],” Pat astutely observed, “helped me remember what it was like to begin the journey; the fear and wonder, the completely transcendent feeling of being swept up by a new song, a newly learned chord or figure.”

Uncharted is riddled with such new tunes such as “Ghost of the Leopard,” “March of the Ents” and “Times Like These.“ “A lot of our songs represent things we like to do outdoors,” Jared states, unveiling the mystery behind some of the titles and the group’s passion for mountain biking, hiking, skiing and rock climbing. “’Times Like These’ is about snowboarding. We love to go fly fishing so we have a song about the mossback fish which everyone wants to catch because it’s the hugest. But no one can because it either breaks off the line or is just too sneaky to bite a fake fly. We’re mountain men.”

“Who needs nightclubs when you’ve got a peak to climb or a steam to fish?” Lech asks.

More information on Hot Strings can be found at Bands wishing to appear in “Band to Watch” should send their most recent CD, band photo and promo materials to Dave Higgs, PO Box 4369, Clarksburg, WV 26302-4369.

- Bluegrass Now Magazine


Times Like These-EP 1998
Window of Opportunity-EP 2000
Uncharted-EP 2005




The Hot Strings wow their audiences with a high energy eclectic approach. Elements of Jazz, Bluegrass, Irish, Raggae, and Newgrass shine through; they own their own sound. In fact 99% of what the Hot Strings play is all original!
The Hot Strings third CD release,"Uncharted", was released in April of 2005 This project was produced by Patt Flynn, former member of Newgrass supergroup "Newgrass Revival." Recorded in Nashville at Monkey Finger Studio by Engineers Brent Truitt,(Dixie Chicks), and Tim Roberts.
The band has been together for eleven years despite the eldest member at 23 years old. Their first "paying gig" was playing for tips, at the bus stop, at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival(1996). Four years later they opened that festival.
The Band has played many of the more prestigious Festivals in the west including the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Rockygrass Bluegrass Festival, Walnut Valley Festival,(Winfield), the Four Corners Folk Festival and will be appering at the International Bluegrass Festival in Guthrie, OK this year. Josiah was the 1998 Colorado State champion at age 14, and won the National Mandolin championship in 2000 at age 16. Carson was crowned Colorado state fiddle champion in 1998 at age 12!
The Hot Strings are considered the host band at the Four Corners Folk Festival, and they will open that festival for the thirteenth consecutive year in 2008.