Volume 16, Issue 30 - July 24 - July 30, 2008

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The Versatile Justin Trawick at Stan and Joe’s

Trawick’s a folk-rock bandleader able to bring the funk as well as the folk.

Previewed by Rob Goszkowski

These are strange days indeed when a folk-rock bandleader can say with a straight face that he’s able to bring the funk as well as the folk. Justin Trawick is that bandleader.

“I did a bluegrass opening for Cowboy Mouth; in August we’re going to be opening for KC & the Sunshine Band,” says Trawick, smiling incredulously. “And we’re a folk-rock group! Opening for a disco band from the ‘70s!”

Naptown night owls can find out just what his broad-reaching appeal is about Friday, August 1, at Stan & Joe’s.

Trawick has been a regular part of the Chesapeake Country scene since linking up with local company Cornfed Productions last summer.

The capital city has been a fruitful environment for Trawick to sow the seeds of his career. “Annapolis people are really cool,” says Trawick on his website’s blog. “They’re very supportive of original live music.”

Trawick’s singing style is part of his appeal. It’s conversational, sung almost as if he just thought of what he’s going to say next. Sometimes the lyrics spill forth at the end of a line, gathering momentum until they’re in double time to fit them into the beat. Call him a Jason Mraz for grown folks. and he’d likely accept it as accurate. Mraz and Trawick share a talent for clever lyrics that feature colorful delivery of everyday life themes whipped into high-energy songs.

Filling out the Sound

Of course, the 26-year-old can’t do it all himself. While recording his album How to Build a Life with a Lemonade Stand in the studio, Trawick utilized the services of various sidemen and women, including piano players and cellists. See the band live, and you’ll find a different cast. When Josh Himmelsbach plays the mandolin he infuses the energy of bluegrass music into his performance. Other times he’ll display his electric guitar chops with the occasional solo — always complimenting Trawick’s acoustic guitar playing.

Filling out the low end of the band is the full, rich sound of Jean Finstad’s upright bass playing. “I grew up listening to G. Love and The Special Sauce, which is why I’ve just gotta have an upright bass player,” explains Trawick. Will Reinhardt’s makes up the rest of the rhythm section, and his lively drumming keeps the pep in the band’s step.

They Like It Live

It’s live performance Trawick revels in to showcase his talents. A lighthearted hip-hop medley can lead to spontaneous audience participation. The last time the band was in town, a young woman came up to the stage for an impromptu and surprisingly accurate version of “Rapper’s Delight.”

“What makes live shows so much fun for us is that we’ve always got different musicians sitting in,” says Trawick. “That keeps the music fresh when you play as frequently as we do.”

The band’s catalogue of live material is deep, roughly 40 songs, but inevitably the more popular ones receive the bulk of the stage time. Not that he’s complaining.

“We have a ball playing live, even the tunes we play over and over, because one night we’ll do a particular song with a bluegrass edge and the next night we’ll do a funked-up version,” says Trawick. “It’s good for the group because we’ve got so many different lineups and instrumentation that we’ve got the ability to fit in a bunch of different genres.”

Way Back When

“I started writing very early on; I think it was eighth grade,” says Trawick. “In my experience a lot of musicians start by learning pop songs and then begin dabbling in their own writing. The thing is, I know very few cover songs.”

Trawick skipped that step when he picked up a guitar and made a beeline for songwriting — “even if it only involved a few simple chords back when I was a kid.” Of course, the radio had influence on the most creative of minds. “The radio had an impact on me,” admits Trawick. “DC 101 was and still is just a big rock station, and a lot of my sound comes from what I heard listening to it.”

As high school gave way to college, he refined his taste to bands like Counting Crows, Bob Snyder and Dave Mathews. Those influences are still there, but Trawick’s music is distinctly his own.

“I realized very early on that I wanted to be a musician. It’s progressed more and more into a lifestyle and a career path,” Trawick says. “But I’m still hesitant to call it a career — because once you call it a job it’s just not fun anymore.”

Hear Trawick’s music anytime at www.justintrawick.com and Fri. Aug. 1 at 10pm at Stan and Joe’s 37 West St., Annapolis: 410-263-1993.

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