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Hot Rize – 40th Anniversary Bash


To honor their 40 years as a band, Hot Rize had a big party back in the band’s long-time home base of Boulder, three sold-out shows at the famed Boulder Theater, and they invited along some very special friends. As one of the most respected and influential bands in bluegrass music, this brilliantly talented foursome- Pete Wernick (banjo), Tim O’Brien (mandolin, fiddle), Bryan Sutton (guitar), and Nick Forster- captured an incredible weekend of music. Having selected the best of those unforgettable performances, the venerable quartet curated one super-charged, 19-song set for this historic release: Hot Rize 40th Anniversary Bash.

Over the course of 68 minutes of music, their broad appreciation for soulfulness and their conscientious balance between traditional and experimental bluegrass- a Hot Rize hallmark since their inception- are on shining display. That warm and glistening, award-winning sound unlocked in every song by the lead vocals of Tim O’Brien, complemented step for step in sibling-tight harmony from Forster with Wernick and Sutton joining in; their stringed instrumental prowess featuring flat-pick guitar kingpin, Sutton, is no less impressive. Tracing a line from the band’s 1978 self-titled debut to their most recent release, When I’m Free, this collection of classics, fan favorites, and latest hits touches down on every significant entry on the Hot Rize timeline: From their signature nod to Bill Monroe with “Blue Night” and their ‘80s chart-topper, “Just Like You,” through the iconic song-of-the-year “Colleen Malone” from their IBMA Entertainer of the Year run in 1990, up to several tracks from their latest record, including “Western Skies.”

For the recording and production of the 40th Bash, the group utilized the experienced crew of Forster’s long-running syndicated eTown radio show; one of those critical outside pursuits- like O’Brien’s Grammy winning solo work and songwriting, Sutton’s online instruction and session wizardry, or Wernick’s decades of music camps and development of the Wernick Method- that have sustained the band members’ ongoing individual creative careers. Yet within Hot Rize there has been a perpetual passion and investment spread equally among the four. It’s an elastic and a glue, allowing the sojourns outside the core to pay dividends in return; always with a home to make incredible music together. “Everyone in this band has worked seriously hard to make Hot Rize shine,” declares Wernick.

Naturally, then, it’s on the Boulder stage for three nights in January of 2018, to a sold-out crowd, that these four musicians and these 40 years unite as one; to not only honor each’s contributions, and of course those two decades with their guitarist, the late Charles Sawtelle, but also to further this amazing journey. With respect for the past, gratitude for the present, and ambition for the future, Wernick, the band’s founder, fittingly sums it up. “It’s a really deep feeling of fulfillment when the thing you love smiles back at you.”