The Champlain Valley of Vermont
abounds with wonderful local music groups, and in this new section
on the Community Network, we're going to try to eventually explore
them all. Exactly were to start wasn't an easy choice, for
we here at the network enjoy all types of music, from the fine
classical pieces done by the Vermont
Symphony Orchestra, to the funky tunes of the Hurdy
Beyond the fine music performed
by skilled musicians on tapes and CDs, there is a quality in live
performance that brings a much larger dimension to the
experience. The interaction of the performers with
themselves and with the audience multiplies the enjoyment many
times. We confess a particular fondness for "old
time" music, spanning the 19th century tunes of the Civil War
up through the development of uniquely American styles like Appalachian
tunes and in particular a genre simply known as Bluegrass.
And we've practically become groupies for a local bunch calling
themselves Snake Mountain Bluegrass. In addition to vocal,
instrumental, and original songwriting talent, these four have a
great sense of humor, and constantly keep us on the edge of our
seat wondering what friendly barb will come next from one to the
difference between a banjo and a Chevrolet?"
tune a Chevrolet..."
Here's our read on each of them
as individuals, and bear in mind these are our observations, not
necessarily their own self-images.
co-founder of the band, has a fine Irish tenor voice and
plays the banjo most of the time - unless he picks up the
6-string guitar for a tune or two - where he shows a fine
talent on that instrument, as well. He's obviously
the target of the banjo jokes, but takes it well.
All of the group are talented songwriters, and Mike's
beautiful rendition of his original composition, The
Road, is a soulful lament in the classical
tradition of haunting lyrics not soon forgotten. It
is one of our personal
In Mike's other life, he
is the owner of Connor Homes, and has gained a national
reputation for designing and building Colonial Reproductions
in his new facility at the former Standard Register
plant. He pioneered the technique of panelizing the
walls, where they can be then be shipped all over the U.S.
for erection by local construction crews.
He's a huge talent, both on
and off the stage.
Humphrey, also a co-founder, is the Energizer Bunny of
the group. His robust vocal style, coupled with a
high-octane acoustic 6-string guitar, pushes the audience
to toe-tapping in synch with the music. When he
breaks for a fast flat-picked guitar lead, the stage
shakes and the toe-tapping turns into a room-wide rumble
accompanied by cheers of approval from the crowd.
Rumors are that Mike Connor re-wrote one of Gregg's
original compositions, to make it more suitable for young
audiences, revealing a rowdy side to Gregg's persona, as
In his other life, he's a
teacher at Middlebury College, with a long and successful
career in education.
We've never seen him
without a hat, leading us to suspect he's secretly a
redhead on top.
Provin is the Renaissance Man in the bunch, a
generally quiet sort with a wry and subtle wit and an
incredible talent on the mandolin, 6-string guitar, and
National Steel - for which his original composition, Lemonade,
is always a show stopper. If you try to match wits
with him on the stage, you'll lose every time. He's
a master of the one-line comeback.
On the mandolin, his
speed is nothing short of astonishing. A skilled
Luthier, he's not against building his own guitar in a
shape hitherto unknown to mankind, and we're wondering if
there's anything he can't do.
In his other life, he's a
talented graphic artist, who also designs the covers and
such for the group's CDs.
plays bass, but no ordinary bass. His hand-made
upright electric may look like a big stick with strings,
but it has one of the best sounds we've ever heard from
any bass instrument. He's the perennially quiet one
in the bunch, scarcely noticed unless he stops playing
momentarily, in which case there is sudden emptiness when
one notices that the very foundation of the music has
He doesn't often take a
lead, but when he does, a fine voice comes out with a
style that reflects his interest in other genres as
well. His Bluegrass rendition of Mr. Spaceman
proves that all "old time" tunes don't necessarily
have to be about the girl that walked out on you.
Much of the group's great
presence in live performance is due to Mike's other life
as an acoustical technician and owner of Union Street
Sound in Brandon, Vermont, a recording studio where the group's
CDs are produced. He's responsible for the excellent
audio gear on the stage which brings out the best in all
Snake Mountain Bluegrass
is one of the more multi-talented groups to be found anywhere, and
can be found playing assorted gigs all around the valley.
of the best places to catch them is in the Briggs
Carriage Bookstore, upstairs in the Ball and Chain Cafe,
where they perform every 6 weeks or so. You can check the events
section of the bookstore's web site to find out when they'll next
appear, or just to learn about of a lot of other nice stuff that
goes on there upstairs, as well.
If you have arrived here from outside the Network,
you may visit our home page by clicking HERE.
Otherwise, you may close
this browser window when finished.