By Dan Rankin
It takes a very particular type of musician to hear a pop song on the radio, or a deep cut from a long-cherished CD and think, “I should play this, only, with a banjo!”
But, as singer and guitarist for the St. Marys quartet Corduroy Gordon Emily Lagace tells the Independent, it’s moments like that, and jolts of inspiration during band practice jam sessions, that have inspired the group’s unique set list, which includes covers of songs by artists ranging from the Barenaked Ladies and the White Stripes, to the Black Eyed Peas and Eminem – all hand-crafted into crowd-pleasing, genre-bending, twang-happy bluegrass numbers.
The group, who played Wednesday evening in the first of the St. Marys Museum’s month-long concert series “Melodies at the Museum,” formed about a year and a half ago when Emily and her husband Kevin kicked around the idea of forming a group with local journalist Chet Greason, following the demise of his previous group The Right Arms. “The three of us decided to get together and jam, to see if we had any common ground music-wise,” she said, adding that they had so much fun, with Chet and Emily singing and playing ukelele and guitar, respectively, and Kevin on banjo, that they decided to start a band.
“Our first really official gig we played was last summer out at the golf course,” she said. “Since then, we’ve been getting a little busier.”
Also in that time, to complete their sound, they added Kevin’s cousin Dan Bechard on upright bass. However, they do not have a drummer, or any immediate plans to go out and find one, she said. “We tried jamming with a drummer once, a friend of ours, and it was really neat to have the percussion, but we realized it took away from the feel of our band,” said Lagace. “It made it sound a lot more… conventional maybe? It took away what we felt was our own unique kind of sound.”
Without a drummer, Lagace said she’s developed a more percussive guitar playing style, while to help keep the beat they’ve also begun bringing a home-made “stomp box” on stage for Greason to use, along with what has been dubbed an “ugly stick.”
“It’s something his mom made for him,” Lagace said. “It’s literally a stick with a boot on the bottom and a bunch of bottle caps nailed onto it and a bucket head. It gets banged around so much, and had lost pieces. Just recently, this past week, Chet’s mom took it back and repaired it. Now it’s got an actual corduroy hat with the name ‘Gordon’ on it.”
Their next big gig will involve kickstarting next Saturday’s River Rock Music, Arts & Food Festival with an open mic session set to get underway at noon on Aug. 13. It will not only be Lagace’s first time performing at music festival, but also her first time in attendance at one.
A few performers already signed up for the open mic include Stevie T, Emma Liptrot, Jaron Camp, and Dave Ledgely, Lagace said. Mixed in with those performers, Corduroy Gordon will also play a few numbers, she added, including a pair of original songs – the group’s first – that they’re working on recording.