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Good times, great music

Floating Crowbar lands at Bing, celebrating jigs, reels and about-to-be released debut album

Having a good time playing good music with good people. Those are three essentials for Floating Crowbar.

Playing traditional Irish dance music, this Spokane group has more than 120 songs in its repertoire.

It narrowed those down to 12 (including several medleys) for the new CD that will released at a show Saturday at the Bing Crosby Theater.

“Irish music has literally thousands of songs. It’s rich as far as the tunes to draw from,” said Don Thomsen, who plays mandolin, tenor banjo, whistles, flute and sings in Floating Crowbar.

Floating Crowbar, named after a traditional Irish number, was formed two-and-a-half years ago by Thomsen along with Rick Rubin on guitar and vocals; Morgan Anderson on fiddle and octave mandolin; and James Hunter (Celtic Nots) on bodhran, flute, whistles, uilleann pipes and vocals.

The quartet’s self-produced, self-released debut album was recorded in Hunter’s living room over a couple of days in December – thus the title, “Two Days In December” – and sent out to be professionally mastered.

It contains mostly traditional Irish dance songs plus a couple of ballads thrown into the mix.

“Our forte is Irish dance music – jigs and reels,” Thomsen said. “We made the album on a shoestring budget with live performances that we hopefully played with the enthusiasm we have for the music.”

He said the band might consider adding a couple of original tunes to future recordings.

Saturday’s concert is presented by Celtic Music Spokane, which also brings in touring acts.

Floating Crowbar plays a couple of times per month. The band is playing on St. Patrick’s Day at Hill’s Restaurant, in addition to a KYRS Thin Air Community Radio benefit there in March.

There are also plans to do some regional touring during the summer months, as the band has been picking up momentum recently, Thomsen said.

“There’s always been a reasonable number of people of Irish ancestry in the region, and what we do, people seem to like,” he said.

During an in-studio performance on KYRS, he added, “There was a family watching and this 6-year-old was standing in the doorway and pretty soon their feet were moving. This is dance music. If people are moving their feet, it’s working.”

All veteran musicians, the players in Floating Crowbar continue to challenge each other, while staying true to the tradition of Irish music.

“We push each other,” Thomsen said. “We’ll look at a song and say, ‘Can we do this? OK, can we do it this way?’ We’re musically stimulating each other in a good way.

“We’re focused on the traditional style where the rhythm is the guitar … and there are no electric instrumentals. It’s based on the essentials of acoustic sound, but that doesn’t mean we don’t push the envelope.

“We’ll add harmony, but do it tastefully. It’s little, subtle things.”