It is remarkable what context can do for a song: This past summer, Bend-based folk singer Travis Ehrenstrom released a heartfelt album, Remain A Mystery. In the sweltering heat of July and August, these songs—easygoing ditties led by Ehrenstrom's honeydew voice and backed by chirpy guitar chords—probably seemed as relaxing as an afternoon nap in a hammock. Now, a few months later, as temperatures have dipped below freezing, the songs seem more like cozy wool blanket, a comforting reminder about what is elementally important.
On Saturday, Dec. 21 at The Belfry in Sisters and Dec. 28 at The Hideaway Tavern in Bend, the Holiday Bluegrass Jamboree brings together some of the best guitar, mandolin and fiddle players in the region, including Ehrenstrom covering Joni Mitchell songs; not just once, but twice, and on each occasion topped off with a rare performance from The Bond St. Bluegrass All-Stars, a regional super group comprised of members from Pitchfork Revolution, Moon Mountain Ramblers and Blackstrap.
The lineup is as varied as bluegrass music itself, moving from Ehrenstrom's sweet-tenored songs to the get-up-and-go of Wild Rye, a Celtic string quartet (two fiddles, one cello and a steel guitar).
"We do an instrumental version of 'Carol of the Bells' with 'God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen' thrown in," explains Kat Hilst, who plays with Wild Rye and Hilst and Coffey. "It combines the melodies to make a very rich and full sound. We also do 'Soul Cake'—a traditional song done by Peter Paul & Mary, and more recently by Sting. We all sing on this song and add our own Celtic twist to the instrumental sections."
In holiday spirit, each event doubles as a charity function supporting the Kiwanis Food Bank in Sisters and the Lyons Relief Fund to help flood victims in Colorado.