Seizing the Hay with the Gregg Daigle Band

On a recent trip to hometown Albuquerque, I was lucky enough to catch a show featuring one of the southwest’s foremost pickers of all things stringed. Gregg Daigle is equally at home whether flatpicking an acoustic guitar, coaxing bluesy licks from an electric, navigating the tight fretboard spaces of a mandolin, or clawing the banjo. Full disclosure, Gregg was my guitar teacher in high school and college; that said, part of what makes him a great music instructor is the fact that he’s also a first-rate performer, as demonstrated on the Gregg Daigle Band’s latest album, Seize the Hay.

Gregg has honed his playing and songwriting chops in a variety of musical contexts — bluegrass, folk, rock, jazz — and Seize the Hay provides a vehicle for blending those elements into a tasty southwest musical stew. Daigle originally hails from Massachusetts, but tunes like “It’s a Wild Life (Out West) and “Going Up North” celebrate life lived in more wide open spaces. As a westerner who relocated to the crowded and fast-paced East Coast a few years ago, I can certainly empathize with the feeling. Americana standards like “Columbus Stockade Blues” and “Walking Boss” (the former featuring keyboardist Chris Plourde on vocals) remain true to their roots while being infused by the band’s energy and more contemporary influences; in the best tradition of groups like The Band and the Grateful Dead, the Gregg Daigle Band pays tribute to roots music history while leaving its own forward-looking imprint.

Instrumentals like “Twenty-Nine Wishes” and “River Dogs” provide ample opportunity for the band to stretch out — tastefully, it should be said (those seeking jam-band excess may apply elsewhere). The latter tune — composition, really — is a particular highlight of the album, merging a banjo-propelled Allman Brothers-approved groove with a Tony Rice Backwaters-era jazz-grass aesthetic.

If you happen to be passing through New Mexico, make sure to check out the Gregg Daigle Band’s gigging calendar and catch a show (and pick up a CD while you’re at it). You won’t be disappointed.

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