By April Abernathy
For The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. — The music band Abl Gry stands out with a contemporary sound that smooths the rough edges of bluegrass and adds a country kick to the traditional American roots style.
It’s less free and folky and more recognizable to the occasional listener.
Also a little contemporary is the name — Abl Gry.
“It’s like a text with some of the letters missing,” said band member Danny Wert. “We also don’t have to worry about which way to spell gray. Also the guys are getting older (gray hair), but we can still cut it.”
The band will be among the musicians set to perform at the Anderson Bluegrass Festival on Saturday. Music runs from noon to 5 p.m. at Shadyside Park, 1112 Broadway. Set to appear are Mountain Laurel Acoustic Band, Jeremy Morris Harvest Road Band, Cumberland Gap, Lifeboat Quartet and Abl Gry. The festival is presented by the White River Folk and Bluegrass Club.
Wert, 53, plays mandolin for Abl Gry; however, his musical ability doesn’t stop there.
“I was exposed to the guitar in 1976 by a neighbor and friend,” he said. “He was in a garage band two years later and played bluegrass too.”
Wert also plays the bass and sings. He has recently been dabbling in playing the banjo. His range of instruments allows Wert to pick up and play in almost any jam band gathering, a common happening at bluegrass festivals.
“I went to my first bluegrass festival and noticed everyone was playing guitar and banjo so I wanted to do something different and decided to play the mandolin,” Wert said. “Now I can fit in and give services to other bands.”
Wert’s love of bluegrass music runs deep. He can throw out facts and history as if reading straight from a book.
“I love all music and listen to everything. The draw of bluegrass is that it’s a roots music,” he said. “It was all started by one guy — Bill Monroe. No other music genre in America can claim that it was started by a single person.”
Monroe, who died in 1996, was known in Indiana for his annual bluegrass festival in Beanblossom, Ind.
Bluegrass offers an emotional bond for player and listener.
“It’s exciting to see the way people react to it,” Wert said. “Making an extra dollar every now and then doesn’t hurt either.”
That emotional bond holds true for bandmate Tobe Woodrough.
“I just feel like I kind of connect with it. It’s one of those things you can go to, and it’s always there. It’s stress relief,” Woodrough, 30, said. “It’s something I can do with my dad so we can spend time together.
Woodrough started playing music at the age of 2.
“I picked up a fiddle,” he said. “I’m not sure I was really playing it or not.”
In Abl Gry, Woodrough plays the guitar and sings. He added that everyone in the group sings, including the remaining band members Brian Lappin on banjo and Rick Rigdon on bass.
The guys have been playing together for about a year and a half. They came together after a few jam sessions and just by knowing or knowing of each other. Many of the members play in another band out of Bloomington called Not Too Bad Bluegrass Band.
“Collectively we’ve all been playing for a long time,” Woodrough said. “Probably over 100 years of experience between us.”
Woodrough has a message for those who haven’t heard bluegrass before: “Everybody should listen to it. Everybody should play it. It’s what’s hot. It’s filled with different forms and genres. There’s something for everyone.