Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Clover and Rachel, October 9th, 2004

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Members of the trio Back At The Ranch aren’t running for political office. But they are on the campaign trail.The local roots music group has spent the past few weeks trying to generate a word-of-mouth buzz about their pet project, a concert series they call Oh, Brother, Where’s the Music? In an effort to bring roots music to area small towns they have put up posters, been guests on radio shows and have told everyone in their hometowns of Navasota, Rockdale and everywhere in between about the show on Thursday at the Brosig Auditorium.Last weekend, the group went a step further. Inspired by the grassroots political campaigns of the 1930s, Back At the Ranch members Clover Carroll, Rachel Carroll and Matthew Menke hopped aboard the bed of an old Ford truck to spread their musical propaganda. The trio played and sang their unique blend of folk, bluegrass and Western swing music as their parade of one circled around Washington Street in downtown Navasota. The spectacle drew a few people out of shops and cafes and provoked a couple of friendly honks and waves, but mostly it was for the band’s own entertainment.“We wanted to do this to bring attention to our concert but really it was just something fun to do,” said bass player Rachel Carroll. “That’s the neat thing about independent music — you can do whatever you want to do.”Husband and wife duo Rachel and Clover Carroll, who incorporate comedy into their live performances, began performing roots-based folk music together five years ago, with Clover picking on acoustic guitar and Rachel on a monstrous stand-up bass. The two moved to Austin, as many musicians do, to try to crack the competitive music scene there. After two years in Austin, Clover was laid off from his day job. Gigging in Austin didn’t quite pay the rent, so the Carrolls moved back home to Milam County and released their first album, Texas Routes, in July 2001. The duo has performed at festivals around the country including the Old Settlers Music Festival in Dripping Springs, The Walnut Valley Festival in Kansas and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.The Carrolls recently added ace fiddle player and Navasota resident Matthew Menke to the lineup and dubbed the trio Back At The Ranch.

Back At The Ranch's Clover Carroll (front), Rachel Carroll (back left) and Matthew Menke prepared for their show-on-the-road last Saturday in downtown Navasota to promote their performance this Saturday at Brosig Auditorium. The trio is planning additional performances in Conroe, Madisonville, Cameron, Buffalo and Hempstead in pursuit of small-town audiences.
With a new member and a new name, the Carrolls have a new project. As they wrap up production on a new album, the group is keeping busy with the Oh, Brother, Where’s the Music? concert series. The name is a play on the 2001 movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which featured a celebrated soundtrack that marked the beginning of a bluegrass/roots revival in popular music.Menke said the band hopes to expand the series, taking it to small towns throughout the area.“We are trying to take roots music to small towns,” he said. “There are a lot of people in small towns that don’t know where they can get this type of music or they do know but they just don’t want to drive to Austin or Houston for it.”Menke said shows are being planned in Navasota, Conroe, Madisonville, Cameron, Buffalo and Hempstead. Depending on its success, larger acts will join the lineup.“In small towns there really is a very limited amount of entertainment,” Menke said. “This is not just music it’s comedy and theater and little bit of everything. I think small town people are starving for that kind of entertainment.”


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