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Eugene live favorites Alder Street release third full-length studio album

Eugene musician Jesse Lawton from longtime local favorite Alder Street loves bluegrass, but admits at this point the genre’s a bit of a museum piece. “We began as a bluegrass band. That’s our roots,” Lawton says. “We all fell in love playing bluegrass. It’s a beautiful genre.” But in a lot of ways bluegrass is limited, he says. 

That willingness to push the boundaries of bluegrass explains much of Alder Street’s sound. Lawton’s band performs Saturday, June 24, at The Bus Fair in Oakridge.

Alder Street recently celebrated its third full-length album, Where the Flowers Used to Be, recorded at Fluff & Gravy studios in Portland. The album is out soon on major streaming services and is now available at Alder Street shows on CD.

Though steeped in acoustic string band music, Alder Street flexes its rock ‘n’ roll tendencies on Flowers album opener “Quarantine,” an up-tempo, acoustic Led Zeppelin barnstormer that was written — as might be expected — in the early days of the pandemic. 

From “Quarantine,” the album bounces back and forth between Alder Street’s progressive bluegrass inclinations to Donna Jean Godchaux-era Grateful Dead-style slow burners like “Midwest Baby,” with Alder Street drummer Emily West on vocals.

Lawton plays mandolin and writes most of Alder Street’s music, though each member of the group contributes to the songwriting process. They all sometimes share vocal duties. Eugene music fans might remember the band as Alder Street All-Stars, but, over time, “All-Stars” was dropped for being too ostentatious, Lawton says.

Lawton, who grew up informed by FM radio and hard rock bands like AC/DC, formerly played in junkyard bluegrass-jazz band Conjugal Visitors, and West was in Douglas County Daughters, among other projects. 

Rounding out Alder Street’s lineup is Ian Royer on guitar, Chris Kelley on banjo, Aaron Nelson on bass and Jake Beckwith playing fiddle. In one of many instances of shared vocals, Beckwith sings the infectious sea-shanty-reminiscent “Slow Pirates,” his fiddle interludes reaching heights of Charlie Daniels-style arena country.

Some songs on Flowers have been part of the Alder Street repertoire for some time, while most were written and developed during the pandemic live music shutdown and only recently played live for audiences. That was a different process for the band, which typically sells out their local shows and often workshop new music on stage, Lawton says. 

“Everyone contributed things,” he continues. “There’s a couple we wrote jamming late at night. People come up with sketches on their own, here’s the lyrics, here’s the chord progression, and it just kind of turns into our thing,” he says, recalling Zoom-based jam sessions Alder Street played during lockdown.

While recording Flowers, Alder Street entered the studio with no particular theme or objective in mind, but a few seemed to emerge organically, he says.

Describing the tone of the record, Lawton adds, “There’s a sense of moving through life, aging” as well as reflecting on the past and looking toward the future, consistent with the period of introspection brought on by the pandemic. “Our songs keep evolving.”

Alder Street performs 3 pm Saturday, June 24, at The Bus Fair at Greenwaters Park in Oakridge; ticket prices vary. For more information go to The Bus Fair runs June 23-25 and showcases “skoolies” — buses that have been converted into living quarters. Where the Flowers Used to Be is out now on CD at Alder Street shows and soon available on major streaming services. For more information go to or search Alder Street on social media. 

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