Notes From the Road: Local Music for Your Nighttime Enjoyment

Spring is my favorite season to pull on a jean skirt and a pair of cowboy boots and do some stomping to some local bands. And while we occasionally get big name headliners in Montana’s Yellowstone Country, I’m just as happy to put back a cold one (or two or three) and get swung around by an American Legion member at any local bar to one of these Yellowstone Country rock stars:

Milton Menasco and the Big Fiasco

This band plays all over Yellowstone Country and Milton himself composed and recorded the soundtrack for the sports documentary, “Birdmen: The Original Dream of Flight,” which has become one of the most watched documentaries on Netflix.

These guys are so fun to listen to because while I always think they’re a country band, they in fact play a mix of reggae, country and rock, and while I don’t know what it’s called, I do know that I very much enjoy clapping my hands and swinging my hips whenever they get on stage. Plus, Milton has this really scrappy, scruffy voice that can sometimes make him sound like he’s a million years old and stayed up all night drinking bourbon and smoking cigarettes. Not that I advise that, but I think he sounds great.

Flatt Cheddar

If you’re not sure about bluegrass, these guys (and gal) will be the first to convert you. They start their sets out with high energy and usually keep the crowd on their feet way into the night. Though they do have a seemingly constant rotating cast of bandmates (they started out in college together so we can’t really fault them for that), their sound is consistently solid bluegrass, yet not old timey or dated.

The bonus? They play weddings. Can you imagine Aunt Rose and Uncle Jim boot stomping to these guys? It would put an ear-to-ear grin on Bill Munroe’s face.

The Kitchen Dwellers

Though they’re getting harder and harder to see in Yellowstone Country (perhaps because they were voted among the top 3 best bluegrass bands in a national survey sent out by Ninkasi Brewing Company and Northwest String Summit), these boys always, always know how to have a good time. They have a bit more of a traditional sound to them than many other bluegrass bands in Yellowstone Country, but whenever they play in town, I’m always happy to perch myself atop a bar stool and listen to what they’re laying down.

Jeni Fleming

There is nothing I love more than a clear female jazz/bluegrass crooner (think Alison Krauss and Union Station). But since Alison doesn’t make it out to Yellowstone Country all that often, at least we can thank our lucky stars that we have Jeni Fleming.

Known all over the northwest, Jeni combines so many elements in her performances; from jazz to country to bluegrass to bossa nova to rock and roll and back again, she’s so well rounded and her set lists make for a wonderfully flowing, if not incredibly surprising, show. She sings everything from Willie Nelson to Annie Lennox, and of course, a little Billie Holiday thrown in for good measure. And that’s not to mention the shows she does with Pinky and the Floyd, Bozeman’s exceptional Pink Floyd cover band.

Jeni and her band are simply awesome and a show with her as the headliner truly has something for everyone.

Who are your favorite artists in Yellowstone Country?