The Bee Eaters
3.5 stars (out of 5)
By Donald Teplyske
With no shortage of acoustiblue bands currently creating exceptional instrumental music,
one can be forgiven for having missed the release last fall of The Bee Eaters’ very enjoyable
Oddfellows Road. Thinking the band’s name is The Bee Laters is less forgivable, but I continue
to swear that ‘that’ is no way to make an ‘E’.
Based within but in no way limited by fiddle-traditions, The Bee Eaters are a California-
based outfit focused around siblings Tashina (fiddle) and Tristan (fiddle and cello) Clarridge.
Completing the trio is Simon Chrisman on hammered dulcimer while friend Wesley Corbett
contributes banjo. The band’s sound is augmented by Dominick Leslie’s mandolin on three
tracks including the atmospheric and aggressive “Dry Shasta, Wet Shasta.”
When listening to this generous, hour-long album, one is simultaneously soothed and challenged
by airy yet complex rhythms. The sounds are quite beautiful and feel completely natural, an
effect that the band appears to have deliberately worked toward. One instrumental interlude
flows easily into the next, all supported by a vision that is as real as it is elusive. If there is a fault
to the album, it is that not enough of the songs significantly distinguish themselves from those
that surround them.
Some months ago, I mused that “… on Queen of Yesterday the five-piece Houston Jones band
is tight and mostly laid back, bringing to mind to what a Tim O’Brien-fronted Bruce Hornsby
group might sound like.” In this context, The Bee Eaters sound very much like what an acoustic
Tim O’Brien-fronted Bruce Hornsby group might sound like notwithstanding the album’s only
vocal track, the Bruce Molsky-led rendition of “The Way It Is.” Mike Marshall contributes
mandolin to a single track, “Cumulus.”
The roots of The Bee Eaters music can certainly be found in bluegrass, but as prominent are the
elements of jazz, blues, chamber music, and all matter of intricate folk sounds they weave into
their repertoire. Sparse banjo notes punctuate an instrumental flow that is at turns gripping and
As someone who has heard precisely seventy-six too many acoustic renditions of Michael
Jackson songs, I was very surprised to find appreciation in The Bee Eaters’ cover of “Thriller.”
More than novelty, this playful rendition- built around the group’s instrumental strengths- is
naturally one of the more memorable tunes contained within Oddfellows Road.
Oddfellows Road is a mature release that serves as excellent introduction to The Bee Eaters. This
writer anticipates hearing more from this promising group.