Country crowdpleasers: Band Beargrass launches CD of local faves

Camille Hattrup, Kendall Heustis, and Alane and Shayne Watkins are the members of Beargrass.
Camille Hattrup, Kendall Heustis, and Alane and Shayne Watkins are the members of Beargrass.

By MICHELLE SCHMIDT INLAND360.COM

Two things are typically true of Beargrass fans: They enjoy live traditional country music and they aren’t afraid to move a little when they hear it played.

In fact, that’s why Beargrass is releasing their third album, “Basic Elements of Love,” comprised primarily of crowd-favorite covers. The album debuts Saturday, May 10 at a CD release party in Clarkston.

Beargrass isn’t the only local group out there performing traditional country music, but they are among the few groups whose song set is largely determined by their audience.

“That’s what sets us apart,” said Alane Watkins, who is on vocals and guitar. “We’re live. We can really play to the crowd.”

That means if you are at one of their concerts, you can ask for any traditional country song and that’s what you’ll hear. This is largely thanks to Shayne Watkins, Alane’s husband, who leads with guitar and mandolin.

“Shayne is steeped in traditional country music. When he gets a music request, he’ll think about it a second. Then he’ll say ‘We’re in the key of C’ and we’re on. We’re tight enough and know each other well enough that we just go with it,” Alane Watkins said.

And when fans get to hear their favorite songs Beargrass-style, it’s not uncommon for some dancing to break out.

“We encourage people to dance,” she said. “That’s what music is for.”

Their latest album was created because fans kept requesting recorded copies of the cover songs that Beargrass regularly performs. In addition to the covers, there are two original songs, along with a parody of “Margaritaville,” retitled “Metamucilville.” It is, not surprisingly, a humorous song about aging.

Beargrass takes a couple different forms. Shayne and Alane Watkins have appeared as a bluegrass and folk duo since 2006 and travel throughout the Northwest. They recently won the Cowboy Idol Contest at the Columbia River Cowboy Gathering.

But the full four-person band, which includes Kendall Heustis on drums and Camille Hattrup on bass guitar, is the “meat and potatoes” of the group, Alane Watkins said. The full group formed in 2010 and performs at fairs, festivals and events throughout the region. They’re regular performers at the Clarkston Moose Lodge, where dozens of couples dance to their music.

“We play the kind of songs that people like to hear,” she said, adding that’s what the band — and their new album — is all about. If you go What: Beargrass CD release party When: 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, May 10 Where: Clarkston Moose Lodge ballroom, 814 Sixth St. in Clarkston Cost: $5. The CD is available for purchase for $10 at the release party, at www.beargrassband.com for $10 plus shipping or digitally on cdbaby.com.

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