Sunday, June 30, 2013

Canyon Johnson Lights up the Bistro

Canyon Johnson is a San Francisco Bay Bluegrass band that plays all over. Tonight, they brought their tight, smooth and pleasing blend of singing and picking to the Bistro in downtown Hayward, California.

The Bistro features nightly music of various kinds, often Blues or Rock, but this warm Sunday it was Bluegrass, traditional -- in the style of Bluegrass legend Bill Monroe. Several of his legendary compositions were brought to life in the cozy confines of the corner bar and music venue.

The band comprises six people normally, but tonight, fiddler Amy Scher couldn't make it, so the five went on without fiddle parts and Amy's voice. But you wouldn't have known it unless they had told you. Every musician was spot on the whole three sets.

There were many fine moments from banjo picker Bob Regent, who, at the left, kept a serious expression most of the time. Eric Charles sang and strummed his handsome bluegrass mandolin. Jeff Caton played his guitar both as a strumming accompaniment and took many vocal and guitar leads. I am guessing that some of those mandolin and guitar solos might have been fiddle parts under normal conditions, but the guys acquitted themselves well. Jim Duber pounded out the necessary backbone of Bluegrass music on his bass--barefoot!

Bassist Jim Duber, often hidden behind the band
At the center of it all, tall, beautiful Patti (PJ) Finney sang many powerful leads and often accompanied Eric and Jeff. Her smile at those moments of three part harmony lit up the room.

You could tell from the way they played that Canyon Johnson know their stuff, and enjoy each other's company. When Patti, Eric and Jeff gathered together in front of the microphone, it felt like a moment in a roadhouse many years ago, when musicians, to amplify their traditional unamplified music, squeezed together in front of the sole microphone to project the sound.

The Bistro, a Hayward musical tradition, served up the usual nice mix of beers on tap, and the friendly crowd applauded enthusiastically.

The band plays often locally. See their website at for the details.

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