String quintet Wood Belly stretches newgrass into “grassicana”

JACKSON, Wyo. — Newgrass quintet Wood Belly rolls in from Colorado’s Front Range this weekend for a two-night run at the Silver Dollar Showroom. On the heels of crowd-sourcing over twenty-eight thousand dollars to fund and promote the band’s third album, there’s a lot of momentum churning for the musical collective that features Chris Weist (mandolin), Tom Knowlton (guitar), Chris Zink (dobro), Aaron McCloskey (banjo) and Taylor Shuck (bass).

Formed in 2015, Wood Belly broke into the national scene with a first-place finish at the 2018 Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition, and released their debut album Solid Ground in the same stride. Before long they had received an IBMA Band of the Year nomination while returning to Telluride’s main stage and growing a following along the way. The quintet further developed their sound with a sophomore outing, Man on the Radio, released in early 2020. The thirteen-track collection was captured with the guidance of Grammy-winning producer Sally Van Meter and engineer Aaron Youngberg and features special guest fiddler Jeremy Garrett of The Infamous Stringdusters on several tracks.

Vocals and tight harmonies are a significant part of the Wood Belly sound. With all five members contributing a unique voice as well as writing chops, stretching out into different branches of string music, aka “grassicana,” has been the norm. A given set is likely to offer a hard-driving bluegrass song, a multi-layered instrumental, a pop-oriented hook-laden tune, and a poetic waltz.

Rather than rest on their laurels during the pandemic, the group focused on writing new material. As 2021 offers more stage opportunities and the chance to support a new release, the band is feeling their oats.

A message via the band’s Kickstarter campaign: “It’s been a tumultuous year for the world and musicians alike, but Wood Belly has never felt stronger. The stagnation of live music has left us with no other choice but to hunker down and create music that resonates with our truest selves. We can’t wait to share this collection of songs with the world. This album defines a pivotal moment in our band’s lineage and we want you to be a part of it!”

Wood Belly, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Silver Dollar Showroom. Free with limited seating. WortHotel.com.

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