David Peterson & 1946 exhibit unabashed bluegrass in straightforward unapologetic manners. They’re bluegrass with a capital B. Earmarked by airtight vocal harmonies, lyrics of substance, and highwire taut musicianship, they entertain without the need of technological gizmos.
They bring it, buddy. Like Bill Monroe with Jimmy Martin diving alongside to piledrive a song into a microphone, when David Peterson & 1946 take to record or the stage, they back up and then they push, hard. Peterson chose 1946 as his band’s name as not only an homage to Monroe’s most famous lineup of Bluegrass Boys, which gelled in 1946; Peterson selected the name as a way to brand his band with an uncompromising descriptive.
Take Peterson. As if hardwired with an amp inside his burly frame, Peterson’s atomic voice projects to reach not simply the back row. He sings as if he’s trying to be heard down the block and around the corner. Oh, the power of his God-gifted pipes. And yet his voice can cradle subtlety of a ballad as well as any hard-driving bluegrass rambler he so chooses to tackle.
Peterson’s 1946 earn high marks on the bluegrass scale. Gabe Dettinger leans in and lays on the banjo much as his heroes did. When he wants speed, he’s Richard Petty behind the wheel. When he desires delicate touches on banjo, he’s a master thespian wowing from a theatrical stage.
Reed Stutz straps on the mandolin much as Mike Tyson dominated the boxing ring. Oh, he can lay back and fill in when needed. And he can throw a punch that’s laced with knockout notes in flurries of jabs to one’s music-loving noggin.
Dettinger sings baritone and Stutz hangs high on tenor. They augment Peterson’s lead on Sunday morning pew-pounding gospel stirrers as well as heart-palpitating ballads and Evel Knievel daredevil speedsters. All the while, they hang tight to principles of bluegrass as established by Bill Monroe.
With an upright bass in hand, Nate Stephens bounds their bluegrass to maintain steady rolling paces as set forth by David Peterson & 1946. He’s not flashy. Doesn’t need to be. With Peterson in the lead, they’re troubadours looking to entertain the lights out of those who adore bluegrass.
Established in 1999, David Peterson & 1946 forged an unforgiving route dead center within the bluegrass realm. Others belonged within the vanguard of progressive whatever. Peterson budged nary a notch. He looked and sounded authentically bluegrass then as now. While many embrace trends, Peterson exudes simple excellence in the unmitigated shade of blue.
And it works. For instance, David Peterson & 1946 have played on the Grand Ole Opry. They played the Ryman Auditorium, Lincoln Center, and 40 dates on Country Music Hall of Fame member’s Brooks & Dunn’s Neon Circus and Wild West Show Tour in 2003.
But be sure to know that David Peterson & 1946 do not parlay boot scootin’ bluegrass. When cradling a bluegrass tune, they treat it like a loving mama would her swaddling babe, as if nothing else matters. A hallowed thing, bluegrass, particularly when curated and graced by the exquisite talents of David Peterson & 1946.
By Tom Netherland