There are very few bands whose members stay together for more than ten years, let alone thirty. But the musicians of The Special Consensus have managed to stick together for an entire thirty-six years! That in itself is worth applauding; it means they’ve been around for longer than I’ve been alive.
The Special Consensus is a bluegrass quartet, made up of the mandolinist Rick Faris, the banjoist Greg Cahill, the guitarist Dustin Benson and the bassist David Thomas. They often sing in four-part harmony, and their longtime teamwork shows through how well they complement and accompany one another, making sure that they’re all in time with the others. They also harmonise with one another in the way that can only be done by people who practiced a lot with each other, although I’m not sure whether this is entirely a good thing since it makes all their songs sound similar. The fact that they mostly sing country/bluegrass music doesn’t help either.
But everyone at the Botanic Garden enjoyed the free concert regardless, and that’s what matters the most. I saw several couples dancing some country dance, some did the blues, and others even got together to do some line-dancing to the livelier songs. And I must admit I was very impressed by the virtuosic playing by Faris and Cahill, their fingers flying in that effortless musician-y way that makes all amateurs (like me) turn green-eyed with jealousy. But since I’m not a huge bluegrass or country music enthusiast, I couldn’t tell you which songs were played, except for “Turkey in the Straw”. Like I said, all the songs they performed sounded pretty similar. Genres of music, especially something as specific as bluegrass, tend to get pretty formulaic. But within the rigid structure contains infinite variation, so for those with good ears and a taste for bluegrass, pay attention, because you definitely won’t be disappointed by this group of musicians.