The Crystal Creek Boys, or some of them, anyway.
By HAP MANSFIELD
The Crystal Creek Boys, who will appear at the Gray Horse Saloon on Thursday with Austin’s Shotgun Party, are really ambassadors of goodwill for San Marcos. They love the city and the Hill Country even more than they love their whiskey, and that’s saying something. It all started on Lisa Lane.
Band founder Matt Lochman explains, “The band was started by my brother Nick and I. When we were growing up in San Marcos, we used to dig for quartz crystals in a recharge ditch across the street from our house on Lisa Lane. We called the ditch ‘Crystal Creek.’ We would mine the crystals and take them around the neighborhood in our Radio Flyer, and sell them for a dime so we could buy candy at what was then Geese (currently Sunny’s.)”
The Lochmans regard those halcyon days so highly that they named the band after them, more or less.
“Now that we’ve grown, the creek has become a symbol to us of beauty lost, childhood, and the importance of remembering what once was,” Lochman said. “We believe that the future is built on the past, and nowadays the ‘record’ of a field of wildflowers or a ditch that feeds our aquifers all too often gets buried under a subdivision of houses without so much as a thought as to what lies beneath. This is where we get our name, The Crystal Creek Boys, so that somewhere the memory of a drainage ditch and the dreams of some youngsters will be recorded.”
The band plays a rowdy bunch of cow-punk bluegrass that goes in through your ears and travels like lightning down to your feet to set your toes a-tappin.’ While the band always plays a solid set, its membership is more of a carousel of musicians with the Lochmans at the center. The band contains or has contained the likes of Elegant John (Lap Steel), Johnny Awesome (uke),Danny Smith (gut bucket), Aaron Covington (doghouse bass), Vincent Saucedo (stand-up bass), Jason Spencer (bass canoe), Mike McKee (bass violin), Justin Johnson (guitar), Mary Waters (fiddle), Dean Soblik (harmonica, spoons, jaw harp), Austin Reeves (washboard), Ian Lee (guitar/fiddle/mandolin) and Carl Deal (washboard). Mary Van Zandt is currently their “token girl,” and she plays a mighty mean fiddle.
With this many musicians rotating through the music, it’s inevitable that the band is engulfed in a grab-bag of musical styles that all end up meeting harmoniously in that territory named for a Kentucky lawn. Somehow, the various combinations work and Lochman cites a heavenly reason for it.
“Members come from a variety of genres including punk, metal, blues, cabaret, folk, etc. Angels like bluegrass, and sometimes you’ll hear them singin’ along,” Lochman said, only slightly joking. Somewhere Bill Monroe is smiling about that.
The Crystal Creek Boys are famous for playing private shows for a fee of a bottle of whiskey, and Lochman notes their favorite brand when talking about their music.
“The themes of our songs come from the land we grew up on, the people we loved, the people we lost, the people we loved and lost and a healthy dose of our favorite soul medicine — Bouleit Frontier Whiskey,” Lochman said.
Like all bluegrass tunes, their songs are filled with the lilts of joy mixed with sorrow, and sadness mixed with celebration, that is so peculiar to the genre. There’s a magic to it that Lochman describes.
“It is simple yet tasteful, dissonant and melodic, it can be so fast your head spins and then you can find yourself dancing the most graceful, fulfilling waltz you’ve ever danced before,” Lochman said. “Bluegrass is challenging, but engaging, it is our heritage it is like the roots and trunk of a tree, it has given many styles of music a solid foundation on which they can flourish. This band gives us all a chance to write songs in a style that should never be forgotten or overlooked.”
The nationally acclaimed Shotgun Party, appearing with the Crystal Creek Boys, has a fan in Kinky Friedman, who said about the band and lead singer Parrot, “Best songs I’ve heard since Christ was a cowboy. An old rugged cross between Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen. Jenny Parrott has the purest most un-decaffeinated voice this side of Loretta Lynn.”
Said Lochman, “We are really looking forward to playing at Gray Horse Saloon with Shotgun Party. They are one of our favorite bands. Gray Horse is a big supporter of local music, its always free to get in and the crowd is always diverse. Whats not to like?”
Perhaps this era is riper for bluegrass than, say, the 1980s. It’s a music born from both hard times and that lively American jubilation for which we are so justifiably famous. It’s a flexible music, something that cannot be said of many genres outside of Jazz.
Lochman’s spirited disposition says it all.
“We want to write songs that a punk rocker and an 80-year-old can equally relate to,” Lochman said. “We’re ‘practicing” musicians — the way a doctor practices medicine, meaning we are constantly trying to perfect our craft, but we’ll never have all the answers. Our band goes by the mantra, ‘If you don’t have girls dancin’ you don’t have nothin’.'”
You will most certainly see girls dancing at the Gray Horse Saloon on Thursday. In fact, you’ll probably be dancing, too.
The Crystal Creek Boys at Tantra.Email | Print