Music

Four friends spark a musical fire

Midnight River Choir lights up the new year with Texas harmonies

By Ariana Kramer
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 1/8/20

This week I heard a great story about fortuitous beginnings. Four Texas acquaintances floated down the Guadalupe River one evening. They loved to sing, so they sang - making up harmonies as they were carried downstream.

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Music

Four friends spark a musical fire

Midnight River Choir lights up the new year with Texas harmonies

Posted

This week I heard a great story about fortuitous beginnings. Four Texas acquaintances floated down the Guadalupe River one evening. They loved to sing, so they sang - making up harmonies as they were carried downstream. One of them worked at a burger joint along the river, so they went there to eat the next morning.

While there, the group overheard a man talking about how he'd been camping along the river the night before and had heard a Midnight River Choir. The four, now friends, knew he was talking about them. It turned out that the four singers were also instrumentalists. The man's comment lit a fire under the drummer, bassist, guitarist and lead vocalist. They formed a band.

That was the story told to me by Bob Driver III, the bass player for the Midnight River Choir. Since first forming in 2008, the band has changed out a few members, added a keyboardist and has a regular touring schedule that takes the group across the U.S. as well as out of the country.

You can catch the Midnight River Choir Saturday (Jan. 11) starting at 9 p.m. at the Motherlode Saloon in Red River.

"It's one of our favorite stops. We've been playing there probably twice a year, and have gotten to know the staff there, the bartenders. They're all so good to us," Driver said as we chatted by phone about the Motherlode and the town of Red River.

"It feels like home. Everybody's nice to us. It's a comfortable place," Driver said.

That's nice, because when a band finds their comfort zone, you can be close to guaranteed they'll be playing at their best. And, the best for Midnight River Choir is a generous mix that's part Americana, part funk, part jam-band - and all good vibes. They've got grooves that will tug at your heartstrings and pull you out onto the dance floor in turns.

"We're all really good friends. We hang out when we're not playing music. We spend holidays together," Driver said.

His bandmates include the lead singer Eric Middleton, who also plays rhythm guitar, drummer George Talbert, lead guitarist Logun Timberlake and keyboardist Blake Bentley. The musicians also all sing harmonies. This is the first time that Timberlake has been on tour with the group.

Their Red River show comes right after the Midnight River Choir plays at the MusicFest in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Driver said this will be the band's 11th time at the festival. They also recently played in Ireland, and will be hitting the road in early 2020 to play in Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Illinois. The band regularly tours in Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

The Midnight River Choir has released three CDs "Freedom Wine" (2008), "Welcome to Delirium?" (2011) and "Fresh Air" (2014) as well as three singles. They are at work on a new CD set to hit the air waves in 2020.

Driver told me that the band's songwriting process is usually lyrics and chords first and musical arrangements second. Lately, the band has been going into the studio first to play around instrumentally. Then, they listen to what they've created and write lyrics to match. The band also makes a habit of playing out instead of rehearsing.

"We play two to three times a week no matter what. We love to get out and play for people," Driver said.

The live interaction between the audience and the musicians drives what the songs become for each show, so they're always fresh and inspired.

"We play every night by feel," Driver said. "We're kind of like a jam band, if you will. We play the songs but we play them differently."

The members of Midnight River Choir all live in the San Marcos area between Austin and San Antonio. The band started in Texas Hill Country, and has stayed in the vicinity ever since.

"We like to give a little bit of something to everybody," Driver said. "We call it Texas Groove."

Tickets for Saturday's show are $10. The Motherlode is located at 406 East Main Street in Red River, which is located along State Road 38 in northern Taos County (575) 754-6280. For more information, call (575) 754-6280 or visit midnightriverchoir.com.

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