Music » Critics' Picks

The HillBenders

8 p.m. Thursday, December 16. Off Broadway, 3509 Lemp Avenue.

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The old-school, Bill Monroe-blessed, one-microphone style of bluegrass isn't for the faint of heart or the under-woodshedded. The young Springfield, Missouri, pickers in the HillBenders understand what it takes. The band has the cojones and chops to gather around a single mic and let it rip, bobbing and weaving and calling and responding all the way to competition wins at both the Telluride Bluegrass Festival and the National Single Microphone Championship. The HillBenders' bluegrass sound isn't loose and hippie; it's crisp and dazzling, aspiring to the tradition-bending (but not breaking) gold standard of J.D. Crowe & the New South. While the band has room to grow as a songwriting collective, its 2010 debut, Down to My Last Dollar, is packed with three-minute blasts of instrumental and vocal skill.

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