Nationally acclaimed bluegrass and country musician Keith Little and The LittleBand — featuring Michael Wicher, Josh Tharp, Luke Abbott and Steve Swan — will bring a roots-based mix of bluegrass, country, gospel and acoustic blues to The Palms Playhouse at 8 p.m. Friday, July 12. Tickets are $20.
A leading name in California bluegrass circles, Little has won national standing in the bluegrass and country music scenes through his decades of contributing banjo, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, vocals and original songs to a musical who’s who, including Peter Rowen Bluegrass Band, Dolly Parton (notably on her Grammy-winning albums “The Grass Is Blue” and “Little Sparrow”), Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, The Chieftains (including their Grammy-winning “Another Country”), seminal California bluegrass band Vern & Ray, Rose Maddox, Vern Williams Band, David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, The Country Gentlemen, Claire Lynch and Laurie Lewis.
Through his role of invaluable band member and sideman, Little’s musical contributions are known more widely than is his name. Little has earned a very devoted fan base among audiences as well as his fellow musicians, even though only a handful of the 60-plus albums to which he has contributed list him as the lead or solo artist.
When he plays, Little leans athletically into his instrument on solos, with his left hand flying up and down the fingerboard. Given the number of instruments at his disposal, Little frequently switches from, say, banjo to guitar to mandolin and back during the course of a show — and, when a song calls for it, casually changes instruments midstream.
Little’s ability to capture the “high lonesome sound” of bluegrass vocals is apparent in his lead singing, and his ability to blend vocally with other singers so that his tenor harmony adds a rich tang to the sound that enhances the lead vocal.
With the five-piece LittleBand, Little (guitar, vocals) brings together a combination of veteran musicians and relative up-and-comers to create a rich sound with music pulled from multiple traditions.
Wicher on dobro and vocals contributes a rich tone and lyrical phrasing. Tharp brings a bright-sounding banjo and rich harmony vocals. Victory Music said of fiddler and vocalist Abbott’s 2010 solo album “Luke’s music completely blindsided me. He’s got a great, crackly voice and is a monster picker.”
Bassist and vocalist Swan — who grew up in Davis and Sacramento and has played with High Country, Frank Wakefield, David Nelson (of New Riders of The Purple Sage) — anchors the sound with a full sound and steady beat.
Little says this new quintet plays rich acoustic music drawn from traditional and contemporary sources, with members contributing sterling instrumental chops and to the vibrant vocal harmony. There is real sustenance in excellent music and, says Little, “this group can really serve it up.”
Tickets for the show at The Palms Playhouse, 13 Main St. in Winters, are available at Armadillo Music in Davis, Watermelon Music in Woodland, Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters and at the door if not sold out. For more information, visit palmsplayhouse.com.