Okie bluegrass outfit waits out gathering ban

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Bottom of the Barrel play a hybrid version of Americana and bluegrass they call funky and fun.

Kenneth Morrow recognizes his band’s responsibility for following in a fine line of Oklahoma born and bred music and musicians. He’s the doghouse bass player for Oklahoma City-based bluegrass and Americana quartet Bottom of the Barrel. His bandmates are co-founder Justin Modjeski on vocals/ lead guitar, multi-instrumentalist Kasey Dillion and banjo/ trumpeter Kinser Hennessee.

The energetic quartet were slated to play tonight at the Blue Bonnet Bar, 321 E. Main but are now waiting for social distancing to end and the joint to reopen.

“Oklahoma is a very musical state, it’s everything,” Morrow said. “When you do your research you start learning about music coming from here and just how much there is, especially roots music. Everything from Oklahoma influences our sound a lot. There’s all styles and variations that come out of this state. It is honestly beautiful art.”

Bottom of the Barrel is a relatively new band gaining a following fast. They had gigs booked solidly into the summer, reaching out now beyond central Oklahoma. Morrow described the kinds of live shows they play.

“We perform a little different variation,” he said. “We’ve been called city bluegrass. It’s funky and fun with a lot of energy. We used to only do three part vocal harmony. But our banjo player has been added to that and it’s pretty amazing.”

Morrow described his band mates.

“Kasey’s tall, plays fiddle and has a deep voice like Johnny Cash,” Morrow said. “Justin gets crazy on stage and likes to stomp around on his guitar solos and attracts a lot of people because he is a sight to be seen. Whenever Kinser picks up the trumpet, plays his banjo or goes into harmony, he’s something special. I do a lot of bass slapping, rockabilly style.”

Morrow has been in other projects and different genres but he’s digging Bottom of the Barrel.

“What I like about collaborating with these guys is that we’re not afraid to sing,” Morrow said. “Me and Justin have been in bands all our lives and everybody is either too afraid or too shy to do something. We’re pretty much all in it just to have fun, play some music and get crazy. We like to get wild and show our music.”

Morrow considers Modjeski his brother from knowing each other for so long. They played an entirely different style in the past.

“We grew up playing nothing but metal,” he said. “Death Metal, Math Metal, a lot of instrumental metal, then about twelve years ago I heard Bob Dylan’s rendition of ‘Wagon Wheel’ and fell in love.”

Hennessee’s trumpet appears when the band covers “Ring of Fire” and “Sweet Caroline” but they mostly play original music.

“Our songs are a lot of classic country about drinking, heartbreak, jail and drugs,” Morrow said. “Justin wrote a song about his daughter. Classic American roots, bluegrass, blues, rock n roll tunes that a lot of people can’t pinpoint what kind of music we play. We’re versatile with what we perform. There’s actually more energy in what we’re playing now then heavy metal. There’s also more feeling and soul to it. It’s just something we were all meant to do together. We’re like pieces of a puzzle fitting together in life and it’s crazy how well it works.”

Norman has played a key role in Bottom of the Barrel’s development both live performance and recorded.

“The Blue Bonnet Bar gave us our chance a little over a year ago,” Morrow said. “They’d never heard of us, we didn’t have any shows coming up and they gave us our first one. And ever since they’ve been booking us pretty much every month. We love Blue Bonnet, it’s our home bar. We love the people who own it and the guy who does sound. It’s amazing and the best dive bar in Oklahoma. What other juke box has only Oklahoma music on it?”

Bottom of the Barrel just released their first LP titled “Liquor and Shine” available on Spotify, Apple and other media outlets.

“Steve Boaz at Norman’s Breathing Rhythm Studios mastered and mixed the album,” Morrow said. “He is amazing. When I went to his studio I didn’t know what to expect. Steve knows his stuff and is also an amazing drummer.”

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