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CONCERT REVIEW: Mile Twelve, South Holland Centre, Spalding

A passing of the mantle, a changing of the guard, a handover of office happened in Spalding on Friday night.

Five-piece bluegrass band from Boston, USA, Mile Twelve, entered the final weekend of their ten-day, UK tour with a concert at South Holland Centre that will go down as one of those "Where were you when..." occasions.

David Benedict (mandolin), New Zealand-born Catherine "BB" Bowness (banjo), Bronwyn Keith-Hynes (fiddle), New York City native Nate Sabat (double bass) and lead singer Evan Murphy (guitar) staked their claim to join bluegrass's hall of fame.

David Benedict (mandolin) Nate Sabat (double bass) and Evan Murphy (guitar) of Mile Twelve in concert at South Holland Centre, Spalding. Photo by kind permission of Stu Vincent, Blues & Roots Radio.
David Benedict (mandolin) Nate Sabat (double bass) and Evan Murphy (guitar) of Mile Twelve in concert at South Holland Centre, Spalding. Photo by kind permission of Stu Vincent, Blues & Roots Radio.

Such legends of the genre like Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss and Emmylou Harris all would have nodded in approval as Mile Twelve took their 200-plus audience through songs from their two albums, Onwards and City on a Hill, as well as a selection of carefully chosen covers that underlined their allegiance to the bluegrass "gospel".

Nate spoke of a theme running through songs on City on a Hill, an album not due for release until Friday, which the Spalding audience were treated to an exclusive preview of.

Down Where The Drunkards Roll, I'm Lost and I'll Never Find the Way, City That Drowned, Liberty, Where We Started, Jericho, Good Times Every Night, Barefoot in Jail, Journey's End and Innocent Again, all songs that Nate said were stories of "people going through tough times".

Fitted around them were more traditional numbers, Ace of Hearts, The Jack of Diamonds, Dylan's Guitar and, as Mile Twelve's encore, a bluegrass version of Elton John's 1972 song, Rocket Man.

Mile Twelve won their audience over by a combination of innocent charm, superb musicianship and starry-eyed curiosity summed up by Evan's confession that he wondered "who are these people in the UK that are wanting to hear bluegrass?"

The simple answer is this, people who recognise a good thing when they see it and who left South Holland Centre on Friday believing that, as Evan said, "original bluegrass music, written and played by young people, is very much alive.

Review by Winston Brown

. Before Mile Twelve's concert on Friday night, Spalding Today sat down with Evan Murphy to find out more about the five members of the bluegrass band and their journey together so far.

Evan said: "We're so excited about the new album because it feels like it's been a long time coming.

"Onwards was released in November 2017 and recording it was a bit funny because we had this sense of 'where you were' so it's frozen in a moment of time.

"Our band was still trying to find our early voice so, at times, it felt like we were making a varied bluegrass album.

"We feel lucky in that we've moved a lot and changed a lot since then and City on a Hill is a much more focused album, more cohesive, one where we're really finding our sound.

"Mile Twelve still stands by our original sound, having met through jamming sessions in Boston.

"But the idea of City on a Hill is referring back to Jesus Christ's Sermon on the Mount and a city that is highly functional and where people get along, working towards a common goal.

"Although the five of us in Mile Twelve aren't the kind of group that's trying to grind out any particular agenda, what's happening in the USA is some kind of dysfunction.

"We're toured Ireland for three weeks in 2017, but this UK tour has both met and exceeded our expectations, with a couple of sell-out crowds.

"We've been having such a great time and this kind of tour length is the ideal for us because no one goes crazy.

"I've been surprised by the bluegrass/Americana movement in the UK, although there's such a strong link between them.

"One of the things that makes the origins of bluegrass so interesting is the synergy between Irish, Scottish and English music, Appalachian sounds, roots, jazz and gospel, all influences that have fed into what bluegrass has become.

"People will definitely get a bit of a traditional bluegrass feel from us and there'll be a lot of stuff they'll find good about Mile Twelve."

"Mile Twelve is a bluegrass band so nobody wants it to turn into a totally Americana project, with no link to bluegrass.

"But at the same time, if it's just an American roots project, we lose a little bit of our identity, only part of which is bluegrass.


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