Press-Republican

Out & About

December 5, 2013

Teaching an old bear new tracks in latest CD

PERU — Fine musicians emulate. Extraordinary musicians make it their own.

That’s just what Tom Venne (guitar) and Julie Venne Hogan (bass) and new bandmates Harry Ralph (fiddle) and Scott Hopkins (banjo) have accomplished on Beartracks’ latest release, “Makin’ New Tracks.” Check out the new band configuration and its homespun wall of sound Saturday evening at the Peru Community Church Fellowship at 13 Elm St. in Peru.

The 13-track disc includes bluegrass standards and two originals penned by the brother/sister duo.

The disc rips right off the bat with A.P. Carter’s “Foggy Mountain Top.” From that first track to the last, Venne and Hogan’s sibling harmonies are as fine as fancy maple syrup sliding between chocolate-chip waffles. Hopkins and Ralph’s instrumentation offers layers of bluegrass sound.

“Our first one with Junior (Barber) was ‘Makin’ Tracks’ (2004),” Hogan said. “We were making tracks as a bear but as music. Junior pretty much wants to retire and be out of the situation. He said we should find a couple more musicians, and he would be a guest occasionally in the summer if he was around. He’s in Florida now.”

Enter Hopkins with banjo and North Country roots.

“He’s from Altamont, near Albany area,” Hogan said. “My brother knew him. He played with him a few times way, way back in the past. He’s originally from Harkness. He’s excellent. He’s really amazing. He’s really good. We lucked out.”

Next, Ralph was recruited from across Lake Champlain.

“He’s really good, too,” Hogan said. “We’re really excited. We’ve know him a long time from seeing him on the bluegrass circuit. He was a guest on our last CD. We said wouldn’t it be great if Harry was interested in our band and wanted to play with us full time?”

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