Payne is back for Hot String homecoming


Payne is back for Hot String homecoming

Josiah Payne should be a familiar name to anyone in Durango with a love of newgrass music.

Now living in Portland, Ore., the former resident of Pagosa Springs once was part of the Pagosa Hot Strings, who for years were regulars at the Durango Bluegrass Meltdown. In their day, the Hot Strings were quite the act; they were kids who played their instruments like seasoned adults, even playing well enough to take first place in Telluride’s prestigious band competition at the Bluegrass Festival in 1999. That’s when Payne was a teenager.

The mandolin player now keeps himself busy playing in numerous bands in the Pacific Northwest. But tonight, he’ll play The Summit with musical partner Michael Money. It’s the first time Payne has played in Durango in four years.

Portland remains a fruitful place for making music and meeting musicians, where informal parties often turn into jam sessions. Payne and Money’s friendship began at such a picking party.

“The great thing about being up here in Portland is the summers aren’t necessarily long, and for that reason, people are active,” Payne said last week from the Northwest. “If you’re a bluegrass musician, there’s always going to be an opportunity; you can guarantee yourself someone is having a jam somewhere.”

Although still very much a newgrass musician, Payne’s approach to making music takes on rock leanings. Portland’s offerings certainly are more varied than a steady diet of Colorado festival music.

“It’s been, if nothing else, extremely diverse, which is kind of nice and entertaining as a performer to be able to be exposed to lots of new and different kinds of music, and to play in different bands,” Payne said.

Payne and Money want to make this pairing into something more of an acoustic duo.

“We’re really excited to get out and play again, and we’re approaching music in a different way,” Payne said. “We’re keeping bluegrass roots because we come from that tradition, but we’re coming into it with a different attitude. It’s more rock-oriented.”

Playing together also allows Payne and Money to play different instruments. Payne, who normally favors the mandolin, also will play fiddle, guitar and, at times, a tenor banjo.

A recording also is on the horizon. Last month, the duo recorded a demo on a do-it-yourself budget, but they’re aiming for something bigger.

“One of the things we’re both excited about is getting the original music out there. We have an album’s worth of music ready to go,” Payne said.

The show also will be a reunion of sorts, with Payne’s brother and former Hot String bandmate, Jared Payne, sitting in on guitar for some of the night.

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at

Bryant’s Best

Today: Rock music with the Chills, 8:30 p.m., no cover, Billy Goat Saloon, 39848 U.S. Highway 160, Gem Village, 884-9155.
Today: Payne and Money play acoustic newgrass and rock, 9 p.m., no cover, The Summit. 600, Main Ave., 247-2324.

Payne is back for Hot String homecoming

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