The original intention of the Graveblankets was to perform pop songs with bluegrass instrumentation, which included mandolin, guitar, violin, upright bass, and male and female vocals. Once the group got going, however, drummer Chris Arduser (also a member of the Bears) shifted the direction of the band slightly to incorporate whatever style of music suited his fancy at a particular time. Arduser has described the range of their sound as going from loud, obnoxious, alcohol-fueled, audience-baiting rock to genteel, coffeeshop folk. It was during 1991 when Arduser, then a member of the Psychodots, was writing his own songs. His friends and future bandmates Bridget Otto and George Cunningham coerced Arduser into fronting his own group. Cunningham had previously been a member of the Warsaw Falcons, playing lead guitar, and became the only other full-time member of the Graveblankets. Otto became a part-time vocalist, while Arduser hunted down other bandmates. Arduser recruited on-again-off-again bass player Bob Nyswonger, also a member of the Bears, to record with the band, as well as Karen Addie on violin and Mike Radovsky on drums. Since most everyone was busy with other bands and full-time jobs, Nyswonger, Addie, and Radovsky also contributed part-time to the project. Together, the lineup recorded the group's ten-song self-titled debut for Cincinnati label Sacred Moment Monument and Recording Co. in 1995. Catching the ears of local radio stations, the band recorded a live on-the-air version of "Haul That Carcass" from the self-titled debut for the WNKU compilation 89.7 FM WNKU Presents Natural Alternatives. It was at the beginning of 1996 when the Graveblankets began working on Arduser's intense Nashville Project, which would take four years to complete. The band would sporadically drive to Nashville on their free weekends to complete the epic. In 1997, the Graveblankets recorded another Cincinnati-produced CD for the Moronstrosity imprint titled Apple Plum Blood Pudding. It hit store shelves by November, and the band held a release party at Cincinnati's Top Cats on the 16th. They also performed on WNKU's show Exit 89 on the 20th. Between the release of their second and third album, Cunningham had to undergo heart surgery. In the meantime, Arduser signed a recording contract with the independent Nashville label Whistler's Music/i.v. Records at the beginning of 1998. With the deal, the Graveblankets were under the impression that the imprint would shop their music releases around to other indie and major record labels. After the signing, in mid-1998, the group darted back to Cincinnati studios Beat Parlor and Covington's Backstage to record the 12-song CD Western Medicine. The band held their release party at York Street International Café in Newport, KY. Despite the deal that Arduser and company had inked with Nashville label Whistler's Music/i.v. Records earlier in the year, Western Medicine had no affiliation with the imprint. In the latter part of the year, the group donated their Western Medicine cut "Jealous of Your Throne" to the Pepsi Jammin' on Main CD Sampler '98. Following the release of Western Medicine, Cunningham began to work on a solo CD and started a new band called the Flammables. The Graveblankets reconvened in the spring of 1999 to record a new song called "Mr. Backbone" for their second appearance on the Pepsi compilation Pepsi Jammin' on Main Sampler '99. Later on in the year, the band contributed the track "Gamblin' Man" to a holiday album titled Shades of Blue II. At the beginning of 2000, the material that was to comprise the Nashville Project was salvaged. Whistler's Music/i.v. Records had failed in their mission to get the Graveblankets' name out, and a relationship ceased between the band and the imprint. Since the project had been ongoing, it represented a large variety of sounds performed by a rotating roster of performers, including vocalists Otto and Laura Chenault, who were now gone. By 2001, the band was preparing to release their fifth full-length album and playing one-night shows in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. They also opened for such acts as Over the Rhine, Wes Cunningham, Adrian Belew, and Pat Dinizio.
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