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Blind Owl Band has vision

Paul Smith’s College students swooped into Saranac Lake this last year

January 26, 2012
By CHRIS MORRIS - Staff Writer (cmorris@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

SARANAC LAKE - For newcomers to the Blind Owl Band - a hard-driving, heavily bearded, original string music quartet that's caught the ears of music aficionados from across the North Country - there are a few ways to tell the group's story.

For starters, there's the bit about how the band - which consists of Eric Munley (mandolin, vocals), Arthur Buezo (guitar, vocals), James Ford (banjo, vocals) and Christian Cardiello (bass) - got its name.

"We were at Paul Smith's College, and we just finished playing a song, when this bird slammed into a window," Munley said during a recent interview with the Enterprise. "It was a saw-whet owl. It got up and just stared at us for 45 seconds or so, then it took off. And one of the nicknames for a saw-whet is a 'blind owl.'"

There's also the story from one of the band's first public performances: an impromptu jam session on the sidewalk in front of the China Jade restaurant, immediately following the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival parade in 2011.

"The parade ended, and we said, 'Hey, let's bring our instruments outside,'" Ford said. "It's snowing out - 25 minutes we must have played. And all of a sudden, you couldn't get through the sidewalk. People are sticking around, people from the parade are coming over, and in the end, the cops came and told us that we couldn't do it. But that was the first time when it was like, 'Wow, we can do this.'"

Then there's the time when the band invited listeners from a show at the Waterhole to join them for an extended jam session at their apartment across the street.

Perhaps the best way to introduce the Blind Owl Band, though, is also the simplest: It's four guys who've formed a close bond over music.

This Saturday marks the official release of "Rabble Rousing," the band's debut album. The 13-track CD, recorded by Larry Dolan at Granary Studio in Morrisonville, will be on shelves soon at businesses throughout the Tri-Lakes.

Blind Owl's music can be loosely defined as bluegrass, although the band's members prefer the term "original string music." According to Munley, the bluegrass genre invokes certain rules and techniques that Blind Owl doesn't exactly follow.

The band's influences range from the expected - the Allman Brothers and Bob Dylan - to the unexpected: Cardiello is a fan of jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius, while Buezo is partial to classical and flamenco guitar. Some of the band members even credit their early stylings to another loud, local favorite: The Whompers.

And it all comes through on their album.

"The album introduces us to people that might not be able to see us otherwise," Munley said, explaining that the songs on the album might sound different when played live.

"The songs are still developing," he said. "They're like a foundation; they grow as the band grows."

And this band is still growing. The members range in age from 21 to 23, and they all agree that if they hadn't found each other here in the Adirondacks (they've all attended or are attending Paul Smith's College), they never would have considered a future in the music business.

"I didn't find my voice until last year," Buezo said. "I think we're all empowered by each other."

Saturday's album release party, scheduled to kick off at 9 p.m. at the Waterhole Upstairs Music Lounge, is a "pay what you want" show. Munley said the band has found itself in a little debt because of costs associated with producing a CD, but the group wants as many people to turn out for the concert as possible.

Munley said that after performing a bevy of shows across the North Country, hosting the album release party at the Waterhole - where the group first began playing out - makes sense.

"We're hoping people will come out and support us," Munley said. "If that means you want to pay five bucks, that's great. If you want to pay 20, even better. But even if you just want to stop by and listen to a few songs, that's fine."

So what should first-time Blind Owl listeners expect?

"The album is called 'Rabble Rousing' for a reason," Cardiello joked.

Munley said the "rabble rousers" emerge due to the "energy of the night" pushing the band to its limits both as musicians and humans.

Ford said that simply put, people can expect a whole lot of foot stomping and a "real good time."

 
 

 

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(Photo — Shaun Ondak Photography)

 
 
 
 

Fact Box

If you go ...

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What: Blind Owl Band's Album Release Romp

When: Saturday, Jan. 28 at 9 p.m.

Where: The Waterhole Upstairs Music Lounge

How much: A "pay what you want" show; donations over $10 get attendees a copy of the band's debut CD, "Rabble Rousing"

Upcoming dates: 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3 at Dewey Mountain in Saranac Lake for the Friday Night Ski Jam; 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5 at Whiteface Mountain for Super Bowl Sunday Pregame Party; 10 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7 at Grizzle T's; and 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9 at The Local Fringe Arts and Music Festival

Online: http://theblindowlband.com or the Blind Owl Band on Facebook