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The Tremors: Mixing Jazz, Blues, and Percussion Till It’s Smooth As Butter

The Tremors
Ryan Dorgan, Star-Tribune

How best to describe the musical style of the group known as The Tremors: bluesy jazz, or jazzy blues?

It’s no doubt a topic of debate among audiences, but one thing’s for certain–their sound is not likely to be confused with other bands touring at present. Dale Bohren’s upright bass and Cory McDaniel’s guitar combine with a wide range of slap, clap, and other percussive effects that make them greater than the sum of their parts–or as one critic has described them, “Wyoming’s only two-piece trio.”

The Tremors are coming to Casper for the 20th annual Beartrap Summer Festival on August 2 and 3.

Singer/songwriter McDaniel says “I try to write blues songs, because it squashes me into a smaller format…forces me to simplify the creative output and frames the images with rough edges. And, with two pieces, we can actually perform the songs I write. The funny thing is, while they’re always based in the blues, they rarely turn out as traditional blues songs.”

That latter fact is especially in evidence on their newest album “Butter Zone,” whose omni-eclectic song list includes “She’s Actin’ Like Satan Again” (“All my love’s in vain / She’s actin’ like Satan again…”), the haunting authentic work-chant “Brokedown Engine,” and even a protest song ripped from the headlines: “Who Would Jesus Bomb?”

Another distinctive aspect of the Tremors’ stage presence is Bohren’s unique work-of-art solid-body bass. “I call it my Dali bass because it looks like a Dali painting of a cross,” he says. “The neck and the wings bolt on and off, so the whole instrument then fits nicely into a two-shotgun plastic mold-injected case so it can be checked as baggage on an airplane. It weighs 49 pounds, with the case.”

Bohren designed the surrealistic bass and it was created by a Montana violin maker in 1989. “It was a prototype, but it works so well I still use it,” he says. “The idea is that the instrument plays the same as my German-made Pollman bass. The neck is the same, and the string length is the same. But because the Dali bass is solid maple, as opposed to an acoustic instrument that’s much more fragile, I’m more comfortable taking the Dali onto planes or tight stages, like in bars.”

McDaniel and Bohren have played together for nearly 40 years, and Bohren’s musical background goes back even further. “It sounds crazy,” he says, “but our mother wouldn’t let us eat dinner until my five brothers and sisters sang the Doxology as grace. So sing we did. Praise the Lord and pass the gravy!”

The Bohrens will enjoy some inter-family jamming at Beartrap. Dale’s brother Spencer, in addition to his solo appearance, will be playing some songs with son Andre’s band Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes from New Orelans (at which point the band becomes known as The Whippersnappers), and all three Bohrens will open Sunday’s festival with a gospel set.

“Playing with Spencer is so easy it’s like a hot knife through butter,” Dale says. “But I think it would be that way for anybody because he’s such a solid musician. Anyway, he and I have been singing harmony all our lives. Since he tours all over the world, I only get to perform with Spencer from time to time. and that makes it so much more fun when the opportunity presents itself.

“Add my nephew Andre and it’s exponentially even more fun. Andre may even be the pick of the litter. Bottom line is, we’re going to have fun playing great music for a hometown crowd at a music festival we love. And it really doesn’t get much better than that.”

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