A live show by Hot Rize was always something to get excited about, especially the part of the show where the traditional bluegrass quartet morphed into their humorous alter egos, Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers. This disc, recorded live in 1996, is also something to get excited about, even though Red and his boys never show up. Instead, Hot Rize stayed in their suits and baked a tasty set of bluegrass biscuits. Tim O'Brien, Nick Forster, Charles Sawtelle, and Pete Wernick were all perfectly competent players, but their songs set them apart from their peers. In addition to great covers such as longtime favorites "High on a Mountain" and "Radio Boogie," the foursome displayed their strength as writers. Wernick's "Just Like You" is one of the set's highlights, with strong vocal harmonies, though Wernick's banjo often sounds as if it's going through some type of effect pedal. Forster's "Shadows in My Room" is another strong performance, particularly from O'Brien's lead vocal. The band performs one tune by guitarist Sawtelle, an instrumental called "The Butcher's Dog," where his picking is more straight-ahead and less idiosyncratic than his soloing on other songs. The band also performs three songs by frontman O'Brien, whose banter between songs shows how casual Hot Rize was, especially in front of their hometown crowd in Boulder, CO. So casual, in fact, that they asked for and honored a request from the audience, a quick run-though of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." Also so casual that at the end of the show O'Brien remarks, "Oh, you're still here? We just came back to get our stuff."
So Long of a Journey: Live at the Bouder Theater
So Long of a Journey: Live at the Bouder Theater Review
by Scott Cooper