published Friday, January 13th, 2012

Minnesota bluegrass/gospel quintet takes the stage at Barking Legs Thursday

Even with a dozen years and as many albums under their collective belts, the members of Minnesota-based bluegrass troupe Monroe Crossing still like each other.

That's a good thing, too, because like the first generation of bluegrass bands whose music brought them together, the members of Monroe Crossing spend their nights playing stage ballet around a single mike.

Having just one point of amplification isn't a gimmick, however, said mandolinist/fiddler/vocalist Matt Thompson.

"Instead of standing behind a wall of mikes, which doesn't allow much movement and may be boring to the audience, we're constantly moving in and out," he said. "We're told that people love that.

"We've gotten to where we're good at it, so we move in and out to get the volume to increase or decrease and get a nice blend."

Although they come from a variety of musical backgrounds, Thompson said the members of Monroe Crossing all share a mutual respect for the music of bluegrass family patriarch Bill Monroe. Their collective diversity doesn't go unexploited, however. The band's name, he said, is derived from the mixing of those influences in the cauldron of traditional bluegrass.

During their show Thursday at Barking Legs as part of a Southeast tour designed to escape the bitter Twin Cities winter, audiences will hear equal parts traditional bluegrass, original material, gospel and some unlikely covers, Thompson said. As usual, during the second half of their 90-minute show, the band will take requests from the audience.

Thompson said Monroe Crossing has learned how to please a wide variety of people after being weaned on an annual schedule of 140 shows, many in nontraditional venues where bluegrass is an uncommon occurrence.

"We make our own path," he said. "In order to succeed at that, we have to throw in some non-bluegrass material.

"That's why we do songs like 'My Girl' and 'Purple Rain.' Hopefully, they're entertained, and by the time we leave, they say, 'Wow, bluegrass is pretty cool.' We hear that a lot, that we've reached a new audience."

IF YOU GO

What: Monroe Crossing.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Barking Legs Theater, 1307 Dodds Ave.

Admission: $12 in advance; $15 at the door.

Phone: 624-5347.

Venue website: www.barkinglegs.org.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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