Walden Dahl Comes Clean
One of the most interesting bands in the HD would certainly be All Washed Up, a bluegrass-tinged quartet headed up by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Walden Dahl, which also features Chris Urmston on Keyboards, Steve Anderson on fiddle and mandolin, and either John Plotnik, Rodger Philips, or Dave Richardson on banjo. The ensemble, which has been together for about four years now, plays a crowd-pleasing fusion of vintage country, bluegrass, and classic rock that has earned the group a loyal following all over Southern California. Dahl says their music reflects the California roots of the members of the group, and the interesting—and almost subversive approach, from a traditional bluegrass standpoint, at least—sprang from the group’s desire to play music that is complex and challenging, as well as fresh, fun and yet familiar for the audience. Listeners can look forward to different rhythms and chord progressions than they might normally expect from a bluegrass group, as well as intricate harmonies, as they perform their unique blend of Americana music— songs we all grew up listening to. Their playlist includes their own interpretations of familiar tunes by The Mamas and Papas, the Hollies, The Rolling Stones, and the Eagles, as well as standards by Merle Haggard, Bill Monroe, and Marty Robbins. Dahl is quick to credit Anderson and Urmston for their uncanny ability to suss out tricky harmonies as one of the secrets to their great sound.
Dahl reflects on how he came to the idea of a semi-acoustic band that features rich harmonies and melodies, as well as the twist of having a piano in the group, and reminds us that even Bill Monroe—the father of modern bluegrass—had an accordion player in his band for a while, which is something a lot of people might not know. He says his hope is that by changing up and challenging old paradigms, he will appeal to a broader audience who might otherwise not give the genre a chance. In a way, All Washed Up is doing an interesting reversal of Bob Dylan’s introduction of an electric guitar in the mid-1960s, by playing these rock songs in a semi-acoustic manner, where, rather than plugging into amps, they mic their fiddles, mandolins, guitars and banjos, and they are meeting with nearly universal positive buzz for their novel approach. Coincidentally, Dahl noted that the song they receive the strongest response for is their soaring, passionate version of Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”
All Washed Up has been delighting audiences all over Southern California for years now, and are worth seeking out because they are fun to listen to— and that, after all, as Dahl reminds us, is what music should be about. You can find them at various local festivals, private parties, and every Tuesday evening at the splendid Vincent Hill Station in Acton, California.