[COUNTRY] Caleb Klauder plays so often—and so often for free—that even longtime fans sometimes forget the extent of his résumé. The collegiate folk jams of Colobo packed houses through the late '90s, and Klauder's bluegrass ensemble soundtracked a Food Network trip through Portland in '02 (see "Flayed Alive," WW , April 24 2002). Most recently, Foghorn Stringband (which Klauder co-founded) traded Sunday evenings at the Moon&Sixpence for appearances at massive festivals—including a notable world music conference in Borneo three years ago.
"There were about eight- to 10,000 Malaysians," Klauder remembers. "Pretty epic. They had workshops that taught traditional dances, and, because we were the old-time band, I was like, 'I can do a couple dances.' I taught this square-dance where you twist through everybody and go through a little tunnel. People barely understood us, but they had these huge smiles, raging, dancing."
But Klauder's new (and second) album, Dangerous MEs&Poisonous YOUs, embraces a different sound. Not many artists can claim early country as modernization, but after years in a genre where invention's expressly forbidden, Klauder was excited about new opportunities. "If you look at it a certain way, old-time and bluegrass are just real old country. I just like singing songs, y'know? Old-time's about tunes. Country's about songs."
With seven originals and covers of such artists as Kitty Wells and Dolly Parton, the album sometimes veers honky-tonk or western swing (and regularly hints of old-time), but overall it's a respectful nod toward the legacy of Nashville. It's less a departure than an organic evolution of his muse—loving evocations of bygone idioms delivered with bristling energy and impeccable technique.
Klauder, 36, handpicked an Americana supergroup—the Wilders' Betse Ellis on fiddle, Amelia's Jesse Emerson on bass and Foghorn's Sammy Lind on guitar—for the album. And he's taking a pared-down version of the band to Denmark this February. "Foghorn's promoter [gave] our Scandinavian booking agent my CD," Klauder explains. "And he was like, 'Is there a Caleb Klauder band?'" He laughs, exclaiming, "There is now!"
Klauder celebrates the release of Dangerous MEs and Poisonous YOUs Friday, Nov. 16, at the Mission Theater. 9 pm. $10 advance, $12 day of show. 21+. Klauder also plays every Tuesday with Sammy Lind at Edgefield. 7 pm. Free. 21+.