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Smokin' bluegrass 

Known for their monthly dances, the Smokin’ Contra Band releases their first album, Slim Pickins.

The band, made up of Amy Lounder (fiddle, vocals), Ben Sichel (guitar, vocals), Jason Dionne (percussion, vocals), Dave Ron (mandolin, vocals) and Graham Kerr (double bass, fingertaps), normally plays for contra dances---a style where dancers line up parallel to each other and execute dance steps as instructed by a caller, with a live band to keep the beat.

"There's lots of simple, sort-of-familiar moves people learn in middle school ---do si do and circle to the left, swing your partner, very simple stuff," Sichel explains of what goes on at Smokin' Contra's dances at St. Matthias Church.

Lounder, the band's fiddler, started the band three years ago, but when mandolin player Ron joined the group, he had something else in mind. "He had a secret plan to get us into bluegrass," says Lounder, with a quick laugh. The band was game, and their luck held out when Glenn Meisner, veteran CBC producer, walked by Smokin' Contra busking bluegrass at the Farmers' Market and offered to help record the band's first CD (review on page 43).

Lounder assures us Thursday's CD release is only the beginning for Smokin' Contra Band. "We're just beginning to get a handle on how to make this music together. There's so much there that creatively, we're just starting to write our own material and exploring what our sound is going to be."

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