A lot of things have changed in 40 years. Keith Grimwood and Ezra Idlet have gone from starving young musicians playing small-time bars in Houston and writing songs about their fledgling marriages and ornery toddlers to full-fledged adults with grown kids, grandkids, mortgages and four Grammy nominations. The songs now look at life from a more mature perspective -- "the car's running and I can't find the keys" versus "the baby's got the car keys" -- and the instrument count has expanded from guitar and bass to banjo, bouzouki and violin.
What hasn't changed is the joy the two musicians find, create and deliver as Trout Fishing in America.
Trout Fishing in America
WHEN — 6:30 p.m. June 11
WHERE — Botanical Garden of the Ozarks in Fayetteville; Walton Arts Center in case of rain
COST — Free; reserve tickets at waltonartscenter.org/artosphere
INFO — 443-5600; troutmusic.com
"We're still evolving," says Grimwood, the bass player who has recently added violin to his skill set.
"It's been our blessing and our curse," agrees Ezra Idlet, who plays guitar, banjo and bouzouki. "We have never pigeonholed ourselves into one style of music. So we can experiment with lots of ways of approaching songs; we can do some blues, some swing, some reggae, some funk, some rock 'r' roll. We never get bored!"
Trout's latest CD, recorded live at the Epic Theater in Grand Prairie, Texas, illustrates the point perfectly. Among its 16 tracks are "Where's Your Mama?," a laughing lament about middle age; "When I Was a Dinosaur," a kids' classic; "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," where Idlet can strut his banjo stuff; "Proper Cup of Coffee," a favorite sing-along; and "The Strangest Times," which Grimwood says is his current favorite. "It's so good," he says. "It's got a driving beat, kids love it, adults love it, and there are a lot of real things in there."
That's one thing Grimwood and Idlet have decided this year, as the duo celebrates four decades as Trout Fishing in America. They are no longer going to separate their music into categories.
"We've isolated things long enough -- keeping the kids' songs over here, and the adult songs over there," Grimwood says. "It's all Trout music -- silly songs, serious songs, doesn't matter. That's the way we got here, and that's the way we're going out -- no time soon! I think that's our strength."
Idlet agrees, saying what he and Grimwood do "musically and vocally together is pretty special." And, he adds, the evolution of their expertise as musicians makes everything old new again. Popular right now in live shows is "Big Boys in Bad Shape," a song that the duo had almost forgotten.
"Over the years, a lot of songs get dropped, and a lot of good songs get left behind," Grimwood says. "So we've been going back and looking at them and reimagining them from the perspective of today -- and we've been finding some gems in there!"
"Plus we're finding new ways to perform them," adds Idlet. "'Big Boys in Bad Shape' is now on bouzouki, which I didn't play when we first recorded it. Lord, it's a whole different song! And there's an aggression to Keith's bass playing I've never heard before. When I first started playing with Keith, it was not uncommon for me to break three-four-five strings a night; that was the aggression I played with. But that's evolved over the years, too."
Trout Fishing in America makes a rare Northwest Arkansas appearance June 11, performing at the Botanical Garden of the Ozarks in Fayetteville as part of the Artosphere festival. But Grimwood and Idlet promise the end result of these walks down memory lane will be a CD that the two hope will capture their 40 years together. They also hope it will be done by Christmas. But with other recording projects in the Trout studio and a full road schedule, fans may have to wait awhile longer. And that's OK, because Grimwood and Idlet promise they're not done yet.
"Even if you haven't watched 'Game of Thrones,' you've most likely heard quite a bit of grousing over the last season. This is not our last season," Grimwood says, "and whenever that last season does happen, we hope you'll have no reason to complain."
NAN What's Up on 06/09/2019
Print Headline: 40 Years And Counting