By Caleb Calhoun

Scotchie and the River Rats at Highland Brewing, Friday Evening

Now this is one I have been looking forward to for a while. I had the privilege of doing a short review for this album when it came out a month ago and have been literally counting down the days until the opportunity to hear them play these songs live in Asheville.

Not that I haven’t seen my share of The River Rats, but their new album, Family Dynamo, represents a massive step forward in the band’s evolution. It’s a record that has been quickly embraced by new and old fans alike.

“I think people, especially that have heard our work in the past, definitely noticed that it is more an eclectic album. They have taken note of the psychedelic side of it and that everyone has gotten more confident as musicians for this record,” Scotchie tells me.

“We played a festival in Abingdon, Va., and we had a whole crew up there that already had the CD. They had ordered it and wanted to hear it live and get it signed.”

That comes as no surprise to me. While The River Rats earlier work is outstanding, it can at times leak into a one-dimensionality that comes from being young and good at doing a certain thing. “Family Dynamo” is brave, in that they have built a solid fan base with a specific sound, but have chosen to push themselves in new directions regardless.

Darker and edgier than their previous work, and addressing themes that they have not measured before, it has the feel of local rockers all grown up. Mixing in samples, quotes and a certain amount of non-sequiter, it leaves the comfort of being a Southern rock band behind. There’s a stretching of legs and a sprint in a new direction, all without ignoring what got them here in the first place.

The show will be outdoors at The Meadow at Highland Brewing (in case of rain it will be moved inside, so you can make firm plans no matter the weather) and was chosen to be there for very specific reasons. Scotchie explains:

“We wanted to pick a place where we could keep it free. We have always loved playing outdoor festivals so whenever we have a hometown show we want to make it an event. With so much music in Asheville we want to make sure we stand out.”

I can’t think of a better venue to encompass their vibe. While they’re all about having a few drinks and enjoying yourself, the thing that comes through most when you see The River Rats live is their commitment to building a family through their fan base. With the show at a reasonable time, free and located at a family-friendly venue, this should feel like home for the few hours they’re on stage.

“It’s like a reunion,” Scotchie says. “It’s cool to see the people that drive from surrounding counties and the locals that have been following us from the beginning. It’s cool to see fans that have just gotten turned on to us in the last few months and to watch them all meet each other. I’ll be talking to someone and make sure they meet this couple or that family that has only been with us a few weeks. They are all such good people, it ties into the family aspect we are trying to push and we want to make sure that everyone meets everyone.”

With special guests Jack Mascri on guitar and Josh Cavinder on synthesizer, they also hope to bring a very special show to their hometown “fanmily.”

According to Scotchie the jams may be longer and the texture fuller than what you have heard from them in the past. Still, extra musicians on stage or not, their goal is to create an event for their favorite people in the world, we lucky Ash-Villains.

The last thing Scotchie says to me before we hang up really says it all.

“It’s a good reminder of where our home is, and why we are proud to call Asheville home.”

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues: A Tribute to Emmylou, Rosanne Cash and Lucinda

Saturday night local blues legend Peggy Ratusz will be joined by Ellen Trnka and Mare Carmody for a very special evening of classic, female-driven country music at Ambrose West. I can’t think of a more perfect place or more perfect people to make this happen.

Ratusz, who is an irreplaceable part of the music scene in Asheville for years, has done everything from headlining to collaborating. She has been a constant figure in the push for equal rights, equal pay and equal opportunities for female musicians. So it makes perfect sense that she would bring together a few of her friends to spend time covering some of the women who have helped pave the way in their profession.

Furthermore, Ambrose West, being built in an old church, should be the perfect venue both sound-quality and ambience-wise for this event. If strong independant women singing songs by strong independant women is your thing then you should be at this. If that isn’t your thing, then perhaps you need to be at this.

Pisgah Sunday Jam, Pisgah Brewing Company

Still going strong after all this time, this week’s jam will be hosted by Nicole Nicolopoulos (The Paper Crowns) and will feature more of WNC’s leading female musicians. With guest musicians Rachel Waterhouse (Sister Ivy), Eliza Hill (The River Rats), Maddie Schuler, Mira SpiritVoice, and Nancy Asch this should be one hell of a jam.

They will, as per usual, do several numbers before opening the stage up to you, me, and anyone else who wants to play with them. Full back-line is provided, and these women know how to jam so there is no reason to be shy.

Bring out your instrument, your voice, or your poetry and take a chance at playing with some of the best musicians in town. Bring a friend to broadcast it on Facebook Live. And bring cash because Pisgah doesn’t take credit cards.

Caleb Calhoun went to Baptist Bible College in Clark Summit, PA and now writes about drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll. He likes wearing dresses, using Oxford commas and then not using them just to tick you off. He has a mermaid named Gonzo and trouble keeping girlfriends. You can reach him at caleb.calhoun@gmail.com

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