Hardly a Town at All
Alaska's Rural Delivery bluegrass band has just released it's first CD on Tank Farm Records. The CD features 12 songs recorded in the studio, followed by 6 bonus tracks recorded live on February 27, 2007 at the College Coffeehouse in Fairbanks. Rural Delivery's blend of traditional bluegrass, alternative country, and hillbilly jazz has proved to be a winning mixture for the band, which seeks to be a bluegrass band that is not limited to a strict bluegrass repertoire. Siniscalchi's bluesy harmonica, not a traditional bluegrass instrument, helps give Rural Delivery a distinctive sound that sets the band apart. Menser's Scruggs-style banjo keeps the band firmly rooted in traditional bluegrass. Graves' plaintive harmony vocals blend well with the other band members. Bragonier's Grisman-esque mandolin solos push the band to the jazzier edges of bluegrass. Brown's two original songs bring a fresh sound to the band as well. All five members sing both lead and harmony, providing lots of vocal variety. Rural Delivery is Ben Bragonier on mandolin and vocals, Suzanne Graves on guitar and vocals, Tye Menser on banjo and vocals, Jeff Siniscalchi on mandolin, harmonica, and vocals, and Ken Brown on bass, dobro, and vocals. Bragonier, Graves, and Brown are all primary teachers with the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District in Fairbanks. Until recently, Menser was a public defender in Fairbanks (now living in Olympia, Washington), and Siniscalchi keeps the new hospital on Fort Wainwright physically running. Rural Delivery started as a duo with just Brown and Bragonier back at the end of 2004, then gradually added members and went through a few personnel changes before the current line-up featured on the CD. Over the last several years, Rural Delivery has performed at the Fairbanks Winter and Summer Folk Fests, the Anchorage Folk Festival, the Anderson Blugrass Festival, the Hunter Creek Bluegrass Festival, and many public and private events in Fairbanks. Recorded on a Boss 1600-CD recorder, "Hardly a Town at All" is not a perfect album, nor was it intended to be. Rather than focus on studio perfection, the band tried to capture the "live" feel and emotion that comes across on stage when the band performs publicly. The CD takes it's title from a line in one of two original songs written by Brown that are featured on the CD. The cover photo was taken by Bragonier's wife Carrie, and Bragonier, a talented graphic artist, designed the CD cover and booklet. Rural Delivery plans to tour the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia/Yukon festivals during 2008. Review from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Two Local Bands Show Alaskans Know Bluegrass by David A. James After reviewing Joe Page's CD, he writes: 'The band Rural Delivery plays in a more conventional mode on 'Hardly a Town at All'. Though perhaps less polished, this quintet has the rugged authenticity that fans of traditional music crave. The playing is solid, the material covers lots of bases while maintaining a unified sound, and the approach is pure back porch. The group handily tackles standards like 'Sitting on Top of the World' and 'How Mountain Girls Can Love' as well as plenty of lesser-known tunes. A handful of instrumentals show just how well these folks can play. And bassist Ken Brown's original, 'Fools Rush In (Where Fools Have Been Before)' has all the elements of a great country song: a well-worn cliche turned slightly askew, an artful blend of humor and heartbreak, and hooks that stick in your brain long after the song has faded out. Both of these releases can stand proudly alongside anything being produced by national bluegrass acts, proving that we needn't look any further than our collective backyard for some great music.'