Crowning achievements and the Devil Makes Three
“The television is always on and it says, ‘Save the world but drop the bomb.'”
Keen observers of society’s foibles, attributes, achievements and contradictions, the Devil Makes Three is coming back to town. And it’s been a while. The last visit crescendoed with a swinging hootenanny in the Tahoe Biltmore, and before that security couldn’t stop the overflow from spilling into every Truckee River Amphitheater aperture. This time it will be midweek madness in the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room Wednesday, April 27.
“The crowd up there (in Tahoe) is just amazing,” slide or fleshy digit guitar and tenor banjo picker Pete Bernhard said. “It was just out of control.”
The Devil Makes Three are the Lyle Lovett of bluegrass. Lovett’s a country player, but his concise, clever songwriting trumps pigeonholes, appealing to every music aficionado.
“It’s like western swing and swing jazz with a lot of blues,” Bernhard said. “Our music is more blues-based than country-based, actually. Our country is blues-based but these things kind of meld together.”
Rather than jammy solos, the trio makes singalong mantras.
Cooper McBean plays guitar and banjo, and Lucia Turino is on upright bass. They all grew up in Vermont, but lived for a while in Davis. The band coalesced in 2002 in Santa Cruz. The members have supported themselves full time with the band since 2006 and have four albums, three studio versions, the most recent the toe-tapping “Do Wrong Right,” its first in four years. A second live album will be recorded on this tour during two shows in Petaluma’s North Mystic Theatre & Dance Hall.
Bernhard said he met McBean when they were in eighth or ninth grade.
“We were into folk, fingerpicking blues that at the time was very uncool,” he said. “Obviously when you are in high school, nobody thinks that stuff is cool. That’s one of the reasons we started playing with each other. Both of us had this dorky interest in this kind of music.”
Bernhard and McBean listened to really old blues records by players like the Rev. Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt, and they would try to figure out the songs.
Bernhard, who writes the majority of the Devil Makes Three tunes, said he is a fan of songwriters Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Bob Dylan, Hank Williams and a couple of other blues pioneers, Lead Belly and Robert Johnson.
McBean, too, strives to craft exceptional verse, and “Car Wreck,” the final track on last album, would make Hank Senior smile and shed a tear.
McBean went to Olympia, Wash., and Bernhard to Nashville, but they both landed later in Santa Cruz, where Turino attended college. The Green Mountain Staters decided to search for musical gold in California, learning along the way to keep the doors open during the journey because “the world is a car and you’re the crash-test dummy.”