Left to right: Bob Evoniuk, Jeff Jones and Glenn Freese are the Ashland-based Foxfire Trio. - Photo by Bob Pennell

Foxfire Trio goes 'beyond bluegrass'

String enthusiasts Bob Evoniuk, Jeff Jones and Glenn Freese of Foxfire Trio play what they call "beyond bluegrass" — music that evokes memories of that first wave of acoustic bluegrass and rock played by David Grisman, Darol Anger and Mike Marshall, among others.

"It's a way of playing bluegrass that is hip, not hick," says Dobro player Evoniuk. "It's music from any genre and without any boundaries."

The trio lends its acoustic, bluegrass style and three-part harmonies to such songs as The Rolling Stones' "No Expectations," Van Morrison's "Moondance" and "Brown Eyed Girl," Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" and Willie Dixon's "29 Ways."

"Though we do them a little more upbeat than bluesy," Jones says. "It's fun for us. We grew up on these songs."

Foxfire Trio will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, at The Playwright Public House, 258 A St., Ashland. There is no cover for the show. Call 541-488-9128.

"Friday night we'll debut a Poco song we've been working on called 'Keep On Time,' and we do a song called 'Barton Hollow' by The Civil Wars (a Grammy Award-winning duo) and the Allman Brothers' 'Blue Sky.' We also do a gospel-style version of Jimmy Cliff's 'Rivers of Babylon,' and a version of 'Lonely Days and Lonely Nights' by the Bee Gees," Jones says.

"We approach music with the idea that we can do almost anything with songs. We hear a song that we like and sit down and give it a shot. We work a chorus, work a verse and add some instrumental breaks to make it our own.

"Then we let it sit and see if it surfaces again," Jones adds. "Sometimes it's hard to tell at first. It's certainly experimental. So are our performances. We like to see what the audience thinks. When you strip a song down, people hear it in a whole new way."

Jones says it's the mandolin that is the percussive instrument in bluegrass.

"It's like the snare drum. You get that afterbeat," he says. "The rhythm is created by playing the one and three beat on guitar and the two and four beat on mandolin. That's how bluegrass gets its bouncy sound."

Evoniuk, Jones and Freese hail from Foxfire — a progressive bluegrass quintet that formed in 1984 and also featured Larry Buliach on banjo and bassist and songwriter Leonard Sutton.

Jones and Evoniuk bowed out of Foxfire in 1996, after Sutton died in a motorcycle accident. Freese and Buliach reformed with three new members and continued to record and tour before disbanding in 1998.

Jones and Freese began playing with Rogue Valley bluegrass ensemble Siskiyou Summit around 2000. Evoniuk joined about five years ago. He'd been working with Americana bands Borderline and One Horse Shy.

"Tom Obrich had managed Foxfire," Jones says. "In 2011, he asked the three of us if we'd play at one of his house parties. We thought it was a great idea to perform as a trio, and it turned out to be just like falling off a log. That's when Foxfire Trio formed."

"There's a musical nimbleness that is afforded a trio," Evoniuk says. "The simpler format leaves room for the harmonies to stand out."

Each member of Foxfire Trio is a strong singer and can sing any part.

"If Glenn sings lead, I can switch to baritone and Bob can switch to tenor," Jones says. "We sing baritone and tenor lines above and below the lead vocals to get that three-part mix."

"We've been playing together so long that there's a familial connection between us," Evoniuk says. "We don't have to think about a song too much. It just comes to us intuitively. Playing a three- or four-minute song together is like taking a magic carpet ride. It's cool."

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