String band Hot Buttered Rum tours the country in a bus powered by alternative fuel. - Madison House Publicity

Riding an acoustic starship

Music critics write that Hot Buttered Rum's new live album, "Live in the Northeast," makes listeners recall the bluegrass fusion recorded by artists such as Jerry Garcia, Vassar Clements, David Grisman and Peter Rowan.

"That's a huge compliment for us," says Aaron Redner, fiddle and mandolin player with the group.

"Those artists were interesting to follow because they played an exploratory combination of psychedelic rock and bluegrass," Redner says. "We're a continuation of that movement. We call our music progressive Americana. It's everything from the blues to jazz to bluegrass to psychedelic rock."

Hot Buttered Rum will perform at 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2, at the Mobius, 281 Fourth St., Ashland.

Like the Grateful Dead, whom fans followed around the country, HBR also is trying to build a community of people who are interested in what they are doing, Redner says.

"We like the Northwest because it's close to the Bay Area (the band's home base), and because we've been making a lot of friends while touring there," he says.

HBR's members were brought together by mutual friends five years ago. After performing about 180 dates a year together, the band members feel they're at a point where things are starting to happen for them.

The band's live performances at festivals such as Bonnaroo, High Sierra, Telluride and others have allowed them to share the stage with artists such as Phil Lesh, Bela Fleck, Mike Marshall and Rowan. Marshal and Rowan worked with HBR on its last studio album, "Well Oiled Machine."

"Rowan has been a big mentor for us," says Redner. "He sang one of the songs on 'Well Oiled Machine.'" The album was produced by Marshal and recorded by Dave Dennison of Garcia and Grisman fame.

"He did two of our albums at his studio in Fairfax, Calif.," Redner says. "It was a magical experience, he's truly knowledgeable, very helpful."

HBR's new album features original tunes by the band, along with covers of "Cumberland Blues" by the Grateful Dead and "Feel Like Dancin' " by Leo Sayer. It was engineered by Josh Osmond.

HBR performs without drums, channeling its music through traditional instruments — along with the occasional flute and accordion — and amplifying it with electrical pick-ups and microphones.

"The new CD best represents us," Redner says. "And our fans are happy, and that makes us happy.

"Our next album will probably include a drummer. I'm curious to see what a percussionist would do with our institution right now."

Tickets to the show are $14. See themobius.com or call 488-8894.

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