Music among friends

Hot Buttered Rum lives for songs. Songs to sing in the shower. Songs to crank up. Songs to listen to through your earbuds while you wait in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

At the heart of the San Francisco-based group is an enduring camaraderie between five friends. The idea for a band that plays a fusion of bluegrass, hoedown and roadhouse rock was sparked while they were on a backpacking trip in the High Sierra region of California.

The band's three songwriters — Aaron Redner, Nat Keefe and Erik Yates — spin tales about good times, bad times and the roads in between. They belt them out in three-part harmonies and play accompaniment on acoustic instruments. A solid rhythm section formed by bassist Bryan Horne and percussionist Lucas Carlton rounds out what they call "high-altitude California bluegrass."

Hot Buttered Rum will perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20, at the Unitarian Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland. Advance tickets cost $20 and can be purchased online at and by calling 541-535-3562. Tickets will cost $22 at the door, $10 for ages 12 through 17. Kids 11 and younger get in free.

The "high-altitude bluegrass" captured on Hot Buttered Rum's first studio album, "In These Parts," found the band enjoying success on stages at the Newport Folk Festival, Bonnaroo, Grey Fox, High Sierra, Wakarusa and Telluride bluegrass festivals.

Along the way, the group rubbed elbows with Phil Lesh, Bela Fleck, Nickel Creek's Chris Thile and others. In 2006, acoustic pioneer Mike Marshall produced Hot Buttered Rum's second studio album, "Well-Oiled Machine," and captured the sound of a hard-touring band charting its course along the highways and byways of American music.

Steve Berlin of Los Lobos and West Coast rocker Tim Bluhm also have produced albums for the band, each guiding Hot Buttered Rum toward the next step in its evolution — a sound that has found its way through pop, folk and bluegrass and added a few electric pickups along the way.

The band's newest album, "Live in the Sierra," recorded on tour, was released in late 2012.

Hot Buttered Rum doesn't tour like other bands. Conscious of the consequences of its actions relating to the health of the planet, the band holds itself accountable to the environment. The band travels in a passenger bus that has been converted to run on vegetable oil and biodiesel. The band also partners with green-minded businesses to lessen the ecological footprint of its tours. Even their merchandise is produced from recycled materials.

In 2006, Rock the Earth recognized the band's contributions to sustainability by nominating them for a "Defender of the Earth" award, placing them alongside other leaders of the green music movement such as Neil Young and Bonnie Raitt.

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