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In the spotlight: Truman's Ridge

Get to know local band Truman's Ridge

Truman's Ridge
Truman's Ridge

WHO ARE THEY?: Truman's Ridge, four-piece band playing traditional style bluegrass.
BOOK ’EM: or 815-603-1441
6:30 p.m. Nov. 20, Sycamore Baptist Church, Sycamore (benefit for the Hope Haven Shelter featuring several bands); 8:20 p.m. Dec. 1, The House Cafe, DeKalb (appearing with Red Tail Ring from Michigan performing at 7:30 p.m.)

How did the band get its name?

The original bass used in the band was named “Truman” because it was used in the jazz band that played for the Democratic National Convention during the presidential run of Harry S. Truman. Bruce’s father was raised on a farm at the foot of Crowley’s Ridge in Arkansas. We combined these to create the name Truman’s Ridge.

We searched for bands named Truman’s Ridge and found we were the only one using that name (or at least the first one). 

Who are the members and what instruments does each play?

Steve Sarver plays guitar and sings lead. Mark Fowler plays mandolin and fiddle and sings tenor harmony. Evan Flower plays the upright bass and sings baritone harmony. Bruce Wallace plays banjo, harmonica and fiddle. He also supplies the bass vocals.
Evan occasionally plays banjo while Bruce fills in on the bass.

What towns are each of your band members from?

Steve Sarver is from DeKalb. Bruce Wallace and Evan Flower are from Sycamore. Mark Fowler is from McHenry.

How did the band get started?

Bruce and Steve had been playing together in another bluegrass band for about three years. In 2008, they decided to branch out and start their own band with the goals of writing and recording, doing some touring, and just seeing what they could accomplish with their music. They met Mark in Springfield at a festival and really liked how he played mandolin. He agreed to be a part of the band. Evan joined in January after their original bass player had to retire for health reasons. 

Describe the music you play.

We play traditional-style bluegrass. Bluegrass has strong Midwestern roots. The first bluegrass recordings were done by Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys in the studio at the Wrigley Building in Chicago in the mid 1940s.

Traditional Bluegrass has the energy of early rockabilly/rock ’n’ roll, the harmonies of country gospel music and the instrumental breaks of a good jazz quartet.

The rock-solid beat of the guitar and bass complement the driving rhythm of the banjo and the compelling mandolin lead breaks.

We also feature fiddle and harmonica on some of our songs.

What makes your act different?

Truman’s Ridge is a four-piece band. We work our stage shows off a single vocal microphone. That means there is a lot of movement on stage. We dress in the more formal tradition of hats and ties, which makes our performances appropriate for all venues. 

Instrumentally, the band continues to show the influence of a Midwestern string band and Chicago jazz and blues in its interpretation of traditional bluegrass arrangements and in our original material. 

Truman’s Ridge harmonies are varied, at times reminiscent of the early brother bands (Louvin, Everly, Monroe) and at other times showing a strong country-gospel influence in the three- and four-part vocals. The lead vocals are always strong.

Truman’s Ridge offers an exciting blend of the familiar and the unique. This is Chicago-style bluegrass at its finest.

Who are your three biggest influences?

Bill Monroe, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Del McCoury.

Discuss the best concert you’ve ever seen.

We’ve seen a lot of great concerts. Recently, we watched Dailey and Vincent down at a festival in Pontiac. They came out fast, 20 minutes of song after song, then they changed up the show with different instrumentation and harmonies. 

They played a range of bluegrass styles. Their instrumentation was flawless and their harmonies were awesome. They sang through four key changes in one song and never missed a chord. Best 50 minutes we’ve seen in a long time.  

Why should people come see you (in 50 words or less)?

We offer the finest Chicago-style bluegrass. Single vocal mic, well-dressed, fast-paced. All the excitement and freshness of the early days of bluegrass.

What is the best thing about being a musician?

There is a synergy that occurs when the music is coming together. You can feel it. It is a beautiful, joyful thing. That and watching the little kids dance, they just can’t help but move!

Pick one:
Chuck Berry or Elvis Presley?

Chuck Berry

The Beatles or The Stones?
The Rolling Stones

Michael Jackson or Madonna?
Little Richard

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