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Darton’s solo effort shows extra polish

Flashback to early 2008, a band of underdogs from Salt Lake City is unexpectedly on the rise.

They’ve toured internationally and shared big stages with big names. 

The glowing reviews from indie bloggers tell of Kid Theodore’s captivating stage show revolving around a sextet of good-looking young men rotating on sexy instruments – upright bass, trumpet, glockenspiel, etc. – three of them alternating frontman duties.

Together, they had the makings of a hit indie-rock boy band. But when things fell out of sync, Ryan Darton went Justin Timberlake.

Fast forward to now, and Darton is at the top of his game. Last month he released his debut full-length solo album. He’s leading his band on a national tour that brings him back to Spokane, where Kid Theodore was an adopted favorite in the local indie community in its heyday.

Fans familiar with Kid Theodore will no doubt take an instant liking to Darton’s first solo outing. “I Am a Moth” recalls the signature he left on Kid T.’s sound whenever he had his turn at steering the ship. The album is instantly catchy, throbbing with soul, oozing with passion, and sprawling with instrumental color.

One of the major differences between Kid T. and his solo album is in the production quality of “I Am A Moth,” Darton said.

“With Kid Theodore we all butt heads a little bit,” Darton said during a telephone interview. “(Kid Theodore co-frontman) Cole Barnson liked to play everything live as it was recorded. I’m more than happy to produce songs (with additional instrumentation) and that’s what took place on the album. I can do these songs as I think they should be done without compromise.”

The rhythmic propensity of washboard and hand claps on “Camel’s Back” is in direct contrast to the lilting strings on the album’s closer, a convincing cover of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” On the driving “Sing to Me Baby” the group-sung “ooos” and “oohs” trade off with fist-pumping horns until soothing the song to quiet halt.

From one song to the next it sounds as if it could have been a different cast of players with a different set of tools.

However, if you see Darton live, don’t expect the extra amenities. Except for washboard, the live show is essentially a no-frills rock ‘n’ roll affair with two guitars, bass and drums, allowing the songs to stand on their own merit, just as Darton envisioned in their infancy.

Blue Waters bluegrass

Long before the banjo became ironic and fashionable in the Northwest’s hipster circles, the Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival established a thriving home for bluegrass musicians outskirting town.

After more than 11 years, Blue Waters has become one of the largest bluegrass festivals in the Inland Northwest, drawing listeners to the shores of Medical Lake.

This year’s lineup features 12 bands, including a host of local talent, over the course of three days, highlighted by headliners multi-Grammy Award Winner Dirk Powell, International Bluegrass Music Association Emerging Artist of the Year winner The Josh Williams Band and The Quebe Sisters Band, which boasts three sisters singing vintage three-part harmonies and triple fiddle arrangements.

The Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival starts tonight and continues through Sunday at Waterfront Park in Medical Lake. Tickets are $50 for a weekend pass; $15 for tonight only; $30 for Saturday; $25 for Sunday; free for kids 11 and younger; $30 camping passes are available with the purchase of a weekend pass, available at www.bluewatersbluegrass.org.



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