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Washington County Line bandmates share a love for bluegrass

Steve Wood might be working out in his yard, but if he comes in the house and sees his guitar, he can't help but play a few songs. The next thing he knows, 45 minutes have passed and he has to force himself to go back outside.

Wood has kindred spirits in his bandmates. Daryl Smith drives an hour and 40 minutes each way for practices. Tom Hammond has a running joke that when he's jamming with people and they ask what time it is, he always says 8:30. He figures that's too early for anyone to head home.

Wood, Smith and Hammond, along with Sean Quinn and Ken Meyer, make up Washington County Line, a relatively new bluegrass band that's already found a strong following in the Capital District. The group's next gig is Tuesday, Aug. 3, at the town pavilion in Niskayuna.

At a recent rehearsal at Quinn's house in Schenectady that was punctuated by passionate strumming and picking, band members talked about the grip bluegrass has on them. Each came to the music at a different age, but they share this: They can't imagine their lives today without bluegrass. It's not just the music, it's the stories it tells and the people who make up the bluegrass scene, they said.

Meyer, the bass player, actually had no interest in bluegrass when a friend tried to persuade him to go to a festival some 20 years ago. Meyer had dabbled in music in high school, but it was rock 'n' roll, that sort of thing, he said.

But his friend was persistent. Finally, Meyer caved. And to his surprise, he loved the vibe at the festival.

"It was the people," he said. "There were a lot of good people. I was hooked."

Smith, the banjo player, also came to bluegrass through a festival. A banjo player since the 1970s, he went to a festival in Corinth and spent the weekend in a tent, just soaking up the music and the scene. People were playing at all hours all over the campground, he said, and they welcomed others with open arms.

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