The Bluegrass Bandits
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The Bluegrass Bandits

Victor, Idaho, United States

Victor, Idaho, United States
Band Folk Acoustic

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"New Bluegrass Bandits steal stage at Silver Dollar"

By Aaron Davis


Jackson Hole, Wyo.-I was walking toward my campground after a great night of music at this past summer’s Targhee Bluegrass Festival when I heard a group of pickers jamming. I wandered over to check it out and found, lo and behold, Jackson Hole folk.

They sounded great - working over fiddle tunes and passing breaks around the 10-person circle. About 50 people stood by, silently listening, but offering a holler every now and again.

Of course they didn’t know it then, but the Jackson players in the group eventually became the valley’s new bluegrass quintet, the Bluegrass Bandits. The Bandits feature Tim Farris on mandolin, guitarist Jeremy Cohen, Max Ludington on banjo, Dave McCann on bass and fiddler Kathy McCann. All five members sing.

After playing and working together for a while, the ensemble is organized, rehearsed and ready to share its act.

“There’s no ego involved when playing with these guys,” said Farris. “We just enjoy playing music. That’s what I like about bluegrass in general – you have all these world-class players that could be total rock stars with their talent, but…the genre is not over-exposed.”

You have probably heard some, if not all, of these players over the years. I have been consistently impressed by their natural talent and their drive to get better. Farris, for instance, began playing mandolin just a year and a half ago and has spent time teaching himself through books and DVDs.

“After a year of wood-shedding, he started sitting in with Two Dollar Bill each week at the Alpenhof Bistro,” said fellow musician Justin Smith. “In a very short time this picker has become the go-to mando guy. He kind of has a Sam Bush thing going on.”
Cohen is certainly one of the better guitar players in town. Whether he’s working on a Black Stripes song or a traditional bluegrass number, he’s got an ear for melody. Ludington is a walking, talking, plucking bluegrass encyclopedia, and the McCanns have been around for years, playing everything from western swing and cowboy music to holiday tunes and bluegrass.

“Dave and Kathy are really good at harmony singing,” Cohen said, “and Kathy especially has been a good vocal coach for the rest of us.”

Farris added, “I feel real fortunate to be playing with Dave and Kathy. They can sit in on anything, and have a knack for picking up songs.”

In addition to traditional numbers – like “Whiskey Before Breakfast” and “Red-Haired Boy” – the Bandits also play a couple of Yonder Mountain String Band songs and a handful of originals by Farris, who likes writing in a similar jam-grass style.
“My songs aren’t as compact as traditional tunes, with more of a newgrass feel to them,” said Ferris. “The format is similar, but I like to leave room for players to stretch out a bit with more improvisation. The best things happen when you let go a little bit and let the music oscillate.”

The Bluegrass Bandits play their second gig 7:30-11 p.m. on Tuesday at the Silver Dollar Bar in the Wort Hotel, half a block off the Town Square on West Broadway. There’s never a cover at the Silver Dollar; call 733-2190.

- Planet Jackson Hole


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Max Ludington (banjo) and Jeremy Cohen (guitar) had been jamming bluegrass tunes together for a few years when they met Tim Farris (mandolin) at a casual picking session of local Jackson string musicians. The three hung out and played bluegrass tunes together pretty often over the next several months, and the desire to put together a full bluegrass band grew. Tim knew Dave and Kathy McCann (bass and fiddle), two of the Jackson area's most well-respected and sought-after musicians, from another band he was in, and got them to find time in their busy gigging schedule to come to town for a jam session at Tim's birthday party. One by one the musicians arrived, and by the time Max arrived with his banjo and the band played a couple of tunes, all the musicians were very excited to be making music together. Less excited were Jackson Police, who showed up to enforce local noise ordinances. The officers were, however, nice enough to let the band play one more song before calling it quits for the night. The band played at Jackson's Hootenanny, a weekly showcase for local and traveling acoustic musicians, several times over the following months and their high-energy fiddle tune renditions and vocal numbers. The members are all involved in one or more other musical projects, but get together to work on new material at every opportunity.