When Warren Haynes asks you to be his backing band, you know you’re doing something right.
ChessBoxer is a bluegrass trio, featuring Matt Menefee on banjo, Ross Holmes on violin and the recent addition of Royal Masat on upright bass. The group were recently announced as the Ashes & Dust band, supporting Haynes on tour this fall as they perform live cuts from Haynes’ recent Ashes & Dust Americana record.
Of course, before there were ashes and dust, there was the soulfully intense music of ChessBoxer. In addition to opening for Haynes, the trio will be performing opening sets for a majority of the tour. The timing is too perfect, as the trio is releasing their EP, Apollo, on September 25th. If you haven’t heard any of ChessBoxer’s original music, Apollo will simply blow you away.
The album opens with the lightly plucked intro of “Calon Lan”, whisking the listener into a dreamlike state. Violin and bass are slowly added to the mix, accentuating a powerful melody line from the lead banjo. By trading leads, ChessBoxer adeptly manages to weave eloquent musicianship with its three members. The song is all-too emotional, tugging on the strings of both their instruments and our hearts.
The only crime here is that this EP is only four songs long. With the upbeat “The Devil and Sally Jones”, the pensive “Bacon”, and the heavy-hitting “I Can’t Tell My Secret Weapon”, Apollo leaves you wanting more. All four of these tracks are stand-outs, worthy of their own articles. “Bacon” in particular dives into some dissonant chaotic depths, before coming back to a sweet bluegrass reality.
All in all, Apollo is absolutely worth the listen. It’s a showcase of three enormously talented musicians playing raw, stripped-down bluegrass music. No vocals necessary, the instruments speak volumes. When these guys come to town, do yourself a favor and listen up.
Check out their cover of “Fitzpleasure” by Alt-J, below:
Warren Haynes & ChessBoxer Tour Dates
Sep. 24 – LC Pavilion – Columbus, OH
Sep. 25 – The Pageant – St. Louis, MO
Sep. 26 – Riviera Theatre – Chicago, IL
Sep. 29 – Fillmore – Detroit, MI
Sep. 30 – Stage AE – Pittsburgh, PA
Oct. 1 – Capitol Theatre – Port Chester, NY
Oct. 2 – Tower Theatre – Philadelphia, PA
Oct. 3 – State Theatre – Portland, ME
Oct. 6 – Orpheum Theatre – Boston, MA
Oct. 7 – The Space – Westbury, NY
Oct. 8 – Warner Theatre – Washington, DC
Oct. 9 – Tivoli Theatre – Chattanooga, TN
Oct. 10 – Tabernacle – Atlanta, GA
Oct. 13 – Ryman Auditorium – Nashville, TN
Oct. 17 – Cask + Drum Festival – Avondale, AL
Oct. 18 – American Roots Festival – Raleigh, NC
Oct. 19 – Greenfield Lake Amphitheater – Wilmington, NC
Oct. 20 – Charleston Music Hall – Charleston, SC
Oct. 22 – Fillmore – Miami, FL
Oct. 23 – Jannus Live – St. Petersburg, FL
Oct. 24 – Plaza Live – Orlando, FL
Oct. 28 – The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
Nov. 28 – Ogden Theatre – Denver, CO
Nov. 29 – Belly Up – Aspen, CO
Dec. 1 – Roseland Theater – Portland, OR
Dec. 2 – Moore Theatre – Seattle, WA
Dec. 4 – The Masonic – San Francisco, CA
Dec. 5 – Observatory North Park – San Diego, CA