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Thursday, Jan. 12, 2006 01:09 am

String Band reties the knot

Allen Street String Band reunites this Saturday at ALUUC

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Allen Street String Band
Members of the Allen Street String Band, for many years the unofficial keepers of the old-time-music flame in central Illinois, are having a reunion, and you’re invited. The combo was originally formed sometime around 1981 with Bill Rintz on fiddle, Dave Landreth on banjo, and Ed Hawkes on guitar. All were accomplished players of the public-domain songs called old-time music — not bluegrass, mind you, but a precursor of that modern invention by at least 50 years and often by centuries. After settling on a name (in addition to the one they kept, they also tried “Lincoln Log Rollers” and “Lincoln Log Rounders”), the group quickly became known as one of the Midwest’s go-to bands for old-time traditional music done right. From 1983 to 1995 the group was a staple of the music festival at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo. They also performed at the Illinois State Fair (not the beer tents), the Old State Capitol, and folk festivals throughout the Midwest, and they were favorites at contra and square dances. The folk and old-time music tradition is based on the generational passing of songs through listening and learning. The band members respected this tradition and sought out folk musicians Ivan Dodge of Waverly, the Rev. Jim Howie of Donnellson, and Floras Lamb of Springfield, plus others in southern Illinois, to learn songs from them. As the trio continued learning and performing various songs of days gone by for fun and profit, an assortment of area musicians joined in the melodic frolicking. The band’s lineup, which varied from gig to gig, depending on member availability, has included Dale C. Evans on hammered dulcimer, Martha Tyner on standup bass, and Steve Staley on English concertina. Chicago fiddlers Chirps Smith and Joe Samojedny became regular fill-ins after founding fiddler Rintz sustained a stroke in 1995. The original members and most of the players who worked with Allen Street through the years are planning on participating in the reunion, celebrating the legacy of one of central Illinois’ most enjoyable, long-lasting, and vital bands.
The Allen Street String Band and special guests perform during a Prairie Grapevine Folklore Society concert at the Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregration, 745 Woodside Rd., at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14. Adult admission is $6; tickets for students and seniors cost $4, and admission for society members is $5.

I’m not kidding: If you haven’t seen Thornhill the band and heard Tina Thornhill the singer/songwriter, you are missing out, big-time. An unsung heroine of the Springfield music scene, she is good but doesn’t play out very often. Do yourself a favor and head to Café Kanichi-Wa (1117 S. Grand Ave. E., 217-544-3500), around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14, to see Thornhill the group, fronted by Thornhill the singer/songwriter. The band’s new CD, Center of Town, is not yet available, but demand it anyway.
Blue Monday attendees, prepare yourself for a great shock. After 20 years of paying one measly buck to hear some of the finest blues being played in America today, you’ll be asked to fork over twice as much money to join the weekly gathering of the Illinois Central Blues Club. As ICBC president Steve Truesdale so eloquently put it in the January/February newsletter, it’s still “less than the cost of a Big Mac.” That’s not to compare the quality of Mickey D’s with extraordinary blues music, but it does put things in perspective.
Here’s wishing Sally Weisenburg good fortune in her quest at the 2006 International Blues Challenge, Jan. 26-28, in Memphis. This is the 22nd year the IBC has searched nationally through a battle-of-the-bands-type contest to find worthy artists needing a little extra help to break into the big time. Sally, we’re not worthy, we’re not worthy.
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