The Missoula Montana progressive bluegrass band, The Lil’ Smokies, made a scorching statement regarding their status as an “up and coming” acoustic band. They have definitively arrived. Their live show dazzled the Parlor Room crowd throughout their 17 song set. The repertoire was split between their self titled release and their most recent release, Changing Shades. The band has blossomed into a leading player in the territory that bands like the Infamous Stringdusters have long held court. The instrumentation throughout was jaw dropping. Throughout the evening, each member showed their chops as solos abounded. Scott Parker held the low end admirably on bass while Matt Cornette picked on banjo, propelling the tunes forward. Most recent additions to the Lil’ Smokies, Matt “Rev” Rieger on guitar and Jake Simpson on fiddle, were instrumental standouts. Each sang a tune of their own as well. But the focus of the show is lead vocalist and primary songwriter Andy Dunnigan. His dobro playing is astounding! His approach can be compared favorably to Andy Hall from the Infamous Stringdusters. Similar to Hall, Andy Dunnigan’s dobro leads the way in the band’s blazing sound.
The band has gone through some growing pains in personnel changes over their six year history. Their never ending touring is probably not for everyone’s lifestyle but the current lineup seems “all in”. The band has gathered critical acclaim along the way garnering “Best Band” awards in 2013 North West String Summit, as well as the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Competition in 2015. The International Bluegrass Music Awards named them their”Momentum Award for Best Band” in 2016.
The band’s set on this night seem to really hit it’s stride during the performances of the most recent Changing Shades material, specifically “The Gallery”, “Might As Well” and “In the City”. Every note was propulsively, frantically, energetically played. The solos were tight and energetic. No jam band ethos of noodling, really just full-on assault of their instruments. Jake Simpson wailed on his fiddle while Andy Dunnigan picked that dobro like a demon. Really, the band is exceptional in a live setting. The energy never flagged till the end of the set when the band played the ballad,” Need A Minute”. By then, the crowd definitely did.
If you’re lucky enough to be near a city on their never-ending tour or catch one of their many Festival season appearances, do yourself a favor. Catch these Lil’ Smokies live. They surely won’t be Lil’ for long but they will be a Smoking-Hot live experience