Red Haired Strangers
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Red Haired Strangers


Band Americana Acoustic


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"Praise from Caffe Lena"

“The Red Haired Strangers are our kind of music. They’re upbeat, fun and entertaining.”
- None

"Praise from First Night Saratoga"

"You can't leave this session in a bad mood."

- None

"Praise from the Linda Norris Auditorium"

“The Red Haired Strangers appearance on Performance Place was at once a laid back affair AND a rollicking good time! The music and conversation was so engaging I forgot we were live on the air. Their songs are strong and the musicianship was top notch. They made some great radio.”

- Howard Glassman - Manager

"Lucky Number"

Lucky number
Roots Music Festival gives you 7 bands for $7 this weekend

By GREG HAYMES, Staff writer
First published: Thursday, October 11, 2007

Imagine seven bands and seven hours of music for just seven bucks. Then do it all over again with different bands the next night. It's a great deal for any music fans, and obviously these bands aren't playing for the money.

The Roots Music Festival at Red Square on Friday and Saturday nights is an act love -- love of music.

Organized and presented by the members of country blues band the Red Haired Strangers (who will host and perform at both evenings' festivities), the Roots Music Festival is a great sampler for music fans whose preferences run toward the more organic sounds of music-making rather than the often soulless high-tech digital sounds of today.

The fest actually began as just another gig for the Red Haired Strangers and a couple of like-minded bands. But as the Strangers' Ryan Dunham explains, "From there, I thought, 'Well, what are the common elements here? And how can we build upon them? "The common elements were an appreciation and respect for the music, as well as a sense of purpose and community.

"As far as 'roots' goes, another meaning of 'root' would be the source, and in this case, I think the source is the blues," says Dunham. "Some of us add a twang to it and call it country blues. Some of us add a folk element. Some of us play with the rhythm and the tempo until it becomes bluegrass or rockabilly."

Friday's lineup at Red Square includes the folk 'n' blues of Courtney Blackwell, the blues of MotherJudge, the hillbilly sounds of Big Frank and the Bargain Bingers, the jug band stylings of the Ramblin Jug Stompers, the bluegrass of the Mike McMann Band and the country twang of the Sidewinders.

Saturday's roster of talent includes the newgrass of Happy Balky and the Good Livin', alt-country singer-songwriter Dana Monteith, the bluegrass jazz of Wiley Dobbs, the Americana sounds of Mark Jones and Friends, the new folk of Palatypus and the revved up rockabilly of Slick Fitty.

"This summer I saw two different local bands and they both did the same cover tune, 'Blues Stay Away from Me,' " Dunham recalls. "And I thought, 'It's really just the presentation that's different. But either way you slice it, the music is fantastic.' So why don't we try to put this all together and give people almost like a buffet of music, if you will?

"If you want another analogy, we're all drawing from the same palette, but what we create is pretty individual, but still beautiful."
While the festival's musicians may share common musical roots, the end results are quite varied, and Dunham has no problem with that at all.

"I wanted the festival to be pretty eclectic," declares Dunham. "I have no problem going from straight blues to rockabilly to country to you-name-it. I think that when you do something like that you're showing a certain degree of respect for your audience, that you think they're open-minded enough to be able to handle all of that. And that's how I see the audience that would be coming down to Red Square for this festival."

- Times Union

""Blues, Folk from Unsung Guitar Great""

Comments from Walter E. Little, reviewing the Peter Case show at Valentine's - Oct. 20, 2007

"Local American roots music band the Red Haired Strangers opened with spirited bluegrass, rockabilly and country songs."

- Times Union

"Don't Be Afraid of These Strangers"

The Red Haired Strangers, a six-man ensemble known for their “American Roots” sound, are familiar faces around the area.

The group has been playing local venues for five years, and their talents and sounds have been heard in other states, including Vermont and Massachusetts.

“We try to blur the lines between different styles of music,” said Ryan Dunham, the group’s harmonica player, co-songwriter and vocalist.

John Rice, the group’s banjo player and guitarist, serves as the other co-songwriter and vocalist.

The styles of music the group - named subtly as a Willie Nelson nod and not-so-subtly for Dunham’s and Rice’s bright red hair - are a mix of country, blues, folk and bluegrass.

The musicians play a wide variety of instruments, from the fiddle to the dobro, and have a collection of up-tempo jams and slow ballads. They also like to mix the occasional cover in, depending on their audience.

“We definitely change what we’re playing to cater to the room,” said Chris Scharl, the group’s drummer.

Mike McLean, who plays upright bass, agreed, saying that the band tends to include more covers when they are playing to a bar crowd, and anticipate doing so when they play the Lark Tavern in Albany on Nov. 7.

The group’s original members, Dunham and Rice, have been playing together for more than 15 years and started together as a country blues duo, playing acoustic guitar and harmonica.

They met the rest of the Red Haired Strangers - Joe Gumpper, McLean, Scharl, and Rick Morse - through side projects. Now the group consistently books a few gigs a month.

On Sunday, they will perform at Caffe Lena, where concertgoers can expect a performance rich with a wide variety of music, good musicianship, a little humor and a few interesting solos.

McLean promises the songs will be eclectic, and those who appreciate a wide variety of sound are sure to enjoy it.

- Glens Falls Post Star

"Here's a Recipe for Enjoyment"

Original crafted music that is classic Americana, grown locally. 1 part juke joint, 1 part honky-tonk, 1 part front porch and 1 part roadhouse - The Red Haired Strangers are just plain pleasing, but anything but plain.

Even if you don’t like bluegrass, I defy you to keep still. Their music is designed for clapping, toe-tapping and hoe-downing. The content hits all factions of the country songwriter party: original words set to driving melodies complete with evocative images of wandering, trains, sin and love lost.

For 15 years they have distilled their product, but only in the past couple has it come out of the backwoods (hidden like a moonshiners secret still) to the forefront of the region’s consciousness. I can’t say at this point I’m the first to recommend them to a mass audience, but if I’m the first to recommend them to you, then it’s worth telling you to get on the train.

The Red Haired Strangers don’t want to leave without you, but they will if you ignore the ‘all-aboard’ call.

- Saratoga Today

"Familiarity Instill Confidence in Band"

At age 16, Ryan Dunham went to see Brooklyn folk singer Dave Van Ronk at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, with friend and musical partner John Rice. At the time, he'd just picked up the harmonica.

"It was an amazing experience," Dunham said, sitting in a bar in Schenectady. "He was playing Mississippi John Hurt songs, telling all sorts of great stories."

Fast-forward some 20-odd years later to last month, when Dunham and Rice's current roots band, the Red Haired Strangers, played its first show ever on the very same stage that's played host to everyone from Bob Dylan to Arlo Guthrie. The experience was a "feather in our caps," according to drummer Chris Scharl, and one that the band's members won't soon forget.

"To play on the same stage where we saw [Van Ronk] a few feet away was just fantastic," Dunham said.

"It was a great atmosphere to play in, and it was funny how we all thought afterwards it was a magical evening," Scharl added. "We knew that it was going to be a lot of fun, but I don't think we knew that we were going to play quite as solidly together as we did."

With a second album (and first with a full band), "The Hilltown Sessions," set for release sometime this fall, the Red Haired Strangers are gearing up for the future. They'll be performing at Tess' Lark Tavern along with Matt Durfee and the Rattling Baddlies Saturday night.

The members of the Red Haired Strangers -- Dunham, Rice on guitar, Scharl, fiddler Joe Gumpper, pedal steel player Rick Morse and new stand-up bassist Mike McLean -- may have only just formed the band in 2005, but their history goes back almost 15 years. In Dunham and Rice's case, their collaboration began in high school.

Tracing their history

"Like most teenagers, we started with everything from classic rock to slow blues jams, and then worked our way into more of a kind of country-blues type of thing," Dunham said. "And then from there we went our separate ways for a while. John moved to San Francisco, and by the time he came back, the both of us ended up joining a bluegrass band."

That band, Wiley Dobbs, also featuring Gumpper and Scharl, kicked off a fascination with bluegrass that can still be heard throughout the Red Haired Strangers' eclectic songs. Eventually, the four, along with Morse, teamed up again in Iowa 80 with former Ominous Seapods singer Dana Montieth, but not before Rice and Dunham recorded the first self-titled Red Haired Strangers album as an acoustic duo in 2003. When it came time to recruit a full band to flesh out the sound, the two didn't have to look very far, signing on the rest of Iowa 80, minus Montieth.

"We enjoyed playing his music and playing with him, but I think we felt the need to do our own thing once again and play our own music," Dunham said. "And John had some songs, and I was starting to write some songs again, and we just put it all together."

After a few delays, including a computer crash that wiped out large parts of the ProTools-recorded album, "The Hilltown Sessions" is finally ready to be self-released. The album covers much of the musicians' long history together -- songs such as "Foot of the Bed" and "Wagging Tongues" have been around for close to 13 or 14 years, and it will be the first time these songs have been on a record.

"It's also the first time you're sort of hearing it as a full band, too," Scharl said. "Before it was always duo, and now you've got all these instruments, and they're a little bit different now. They have a different feel to it."

With McLean's addition through a Craigslist ad in April of this year, the band is looking to the future, with gigs booked at Revolution Hall in Troy on Nov. 24 and the Bread and Jam Cafe on Dec. 4. But with all six members working full-time jobs, it can be difficult to get everyone together for rehearsals, recording sesions and shows.

"But at the end of the day, it's all worth it," Dunham added. - Schenectady Gazette


Self-Titled - 2003 - Featuring the Acoustic Duo

New CD - Featuring the full band -Release Date - Nov 7, 2009



The Red Haired Strangers have been playing together for the past 15 years, forging original music that contains hints of delta blues, country, bluegrass and americana influences. Along the way, they've expanded to include not only guitar and harmonica, but also fiddle, drums, dobro and pedal steel guitar. Their music consists of original words set to driving melodies complete with evocative images of wandering, trains, sin and love lost. Their repertoire also includes finger picking, slide and 12 bar blues, old fiddle tunes, bluegrass breakdowns and country stompers, as well as, tasteful toe tapping covers from the world of roots music. They move effortlessly across genres to present good American upbeat acoustic based music, with a nod to the past, while they head towards the future.

- WAMC - 90.3 - Performance Place
- WSPN 91.1 - Soiree with Arthur
- WRPI - 91.5 - Bluegrass Show - Live Performances
- CRUMBS. NET - Live on the Internet