The Blue Drifters are a bluegrass cover band that provides sophisticated arrangements of well-known Americana. Our repertoire includes, vintage and new country, top-40 1960s-70s hits, swing jazz, blues, Cajun and Irish. We have outstanding trio harmony vocals. Bassist John Borofka can be seen weekly at Twin Cities jazz venues such the Hell's Kitchen and Volstead's Emporium. Musical theater professional and old-time banjoist Chad Willow is a charismatic performer. Fiddler John Lane rounds out the quartet, a bluegrass and old-time virtuoso.
Steven Earl Howard, lead vocals, banjo/guitar has been Blue Drifters bandleader since 1990.
Hired these guys for a multi-generational Birthday Party - 100 guests aged 1-95 years old. Venue was Big Stone Mini Golf and Sculpture Garden in Minnetrista. Nice day, so we were outside, but with the barn for back-up in case of bad weather. A magical venue with the art and the putt-putt and the gardens and farm animals and the Blue Drifters truly put the event over the top. The guys are easy to work with, flexible, straightforward, great communication and deft at reading the crowd. We had a unique hillbilly/jazzy vibe going; retro meets hipster. Awesome. This was not their first rodeo - pros all around. I danced in the grass with my mom. I did not make tons of requests - I asked the guys to have fun and adjust to the event as they read the crowd, and that they did, with stunning success. That 'hillbilly' label can be a bit misleading. Hire these guys and you will appreciate that what they offer is musically complex and sophisticated, and really down-home fun all at the same time. Their obvious depth of knowledge, years of experience and truly top notch musicianship caught our guests and us by surprise. We expected good music and we got that - plus, plus, plus. Among our guests were a few musicians, they were especially impressed and gave us the WOW feedback. It was good background music for gabby guests, and a truly great performance for those who paid closer attention. Perfect. I would hire these guys for a great variety of events, confident that the depth of their talent and breadth of their playlist could swing to meet so many needs. They tune right in to what works, and advise you if you're a little lost on exactly what you want/need. Wish I could give these guys 10 stars. I'm a picky planner. No worries with these fine gents. Just amazing talent and real pros on the business end. Too often it's one or the other. I just love how these guys deliver artistically while leaving the planner (me!) with peace and utter confidence in the Entertainment end of an event with lots of moving parts to manage. These guys do love what they do, and it shows. Bravo, Blue Drifters!
Good with cover songs - a little to "new" for our senior group. Audience loved the banjo playing & enjoyed the jokes.
Steven showed up early - set up and was ready to perform right on time and kept our guests captivated for the entire set list of fantastic performances from some of the best singer/songwriter creations from the 60's and 70's all the way up to today. Perfect for our annual backyard BBQ event - already looking forward to next year!!
What to Expect
We are a successful cover dance band, but without electric instruments and drums. Our repertoire consists of a wide variety of 60's-70's hits, blues, jazz, Cajun, Irish, vintage country and new country. We are expert jazz and bluegrass players and can readily play many of those standards. BDs are more like a small orchestra than a band and the video demonstrates our versatility and expertise.
David Stenshoel and Steve Howard provide the Irish repertoire for Irish Blue Drifters Duet, supported by Rob and Jim as needed for trio and quartet. View "Irish Blue Drifters Duet 2017" video. David is a premier Irish fiddler in the Midwest, exemplified by his work over the last several decades with the swaggering Celtic rock adventure, Boiled in Lead.
Fond of speakeasy jazz? We feature David's superb swing fiddling on danceable 1920s-30s jazz classics. Please view "Dave and Steve - Two Swing tunes" footage, January 4, 2017, Sample Nite Live, Landmark Center, downtown St. Paul. David honed his chops on the road in with the West Bank's own Radio Rangers, a touring national act in 1970s-80s. I provide the extremely unrehearsed comedic material and some swing jazz guitar pickin.
Review of "Easy to Get Lost in the World", Inside Bluegrass, March 2010.
"Steve Howard has been performing American roots music for over three decades. For those of you who know him, you would probably agree with me that he is a walking encyclopedia of blues, jazz, folk and bluegrass music. If you ever have a chance to jam with him (something I would recommend) you’ll probably be playing tunes from Bill Monroe, Robert Johnson, and Duke Ellington, all in one session. Steve’s latest Album, Easy to Get Lost in the World sums up a lifetime of musical exploration.
Listening to the project is a bit like taking a class in American folk music. The journey starts with a visit to the Appalachian Mountains, winds to Nashville for some classic country, and ends up in New York City with a jazz standard.
The opening track “Salty Dog Blues” does a good job of letting the listener know where Steve and his ensemble are coming from. Rather than create another Bluegrass Album Band version of the tune, Steve has created more of an old-timey sound adding extra measures to give it a “crooked” feel. The end result is a fresh sound that embraces Steve’s passion for Appalachian traditions.
“A Fool Such as I” has a classic mournful sound that highlights Steve’s considerable vocal talent. His phrasing is reminiscent of country greats Webb Pierce and Lefty Frizzell. A challenging song to be sure, but Steve pulls it off effortlessly.
“Sweet Chariot Swing Low” is a beautifully presented a cappella that captures the classic four-part gospel harmony. The group manages to hold pitch and tempo throughout the tune maintaining energy from beginning to end.
Musicians that have been playing as long as Steve Howard often have signature tunes. I’ve have to say that for Steve, that tune is Merle Travis’ “Lost John.” After playing this one live for the past few decades, he has successfully made this iconic tune his own. In fact, I can’t really imagine any other version of it at this point, and for me, that’s saying a lot. The tune works perfectly with Steve’s percussive guitar style and the phrasing fits Steve’s voice like an old glove. . ."
Irish Blue Drifters repertoire:
A - Red-Haired Boy
D – Whiskey in the Jar vocal
G – Flowers of Edinborough
D – Midnight on the Water
C – Billy in the Lowground
D – Danny Boy - vocal
G – Temperance Reel/Swingin on a Gate
F – The House Carpenter-vocal
D – Fisher’s Hornpipe
C - What Does the Deep Sea Say-duet/voc
D – Whiskey Before Breakfast
D – Soldier’s Joy
Gm – Moondance - vocal
A – Fare Thee Well – vocal duet
D - Harvest Home
G - Leather Britches
D - Cuckoo’s Nest bjo
G – Moonshiner – vocal/duet
D – Forked Deer – bjo
D – Into the Mystic – vocal
G – Katy Hill – bjo
D – Over the Waterfall
Here is more of a club Irish/variety show
D - Banish Misfortune/Lisdoonvarna/O’Keefes medley
2. D – Whiskey in the Jar 7/30/16 #4
3. C - Harvest Home
4. Dm - Rocky Road to Dublin
5. D - Wind that Shakes th Barley
6. G – Flowers of Edinborough
7. D – Midnight on the Water
8. G - The Wild Rover
9. Em – Aran Boat Song
10. D - Rickett's Hornpipe
11. F –House Carpenter
12. G - Temp Reel/Swingin Gate
13. D – Into the Mystic
14. E – Buckets of Rain
15. G – Walking Blues
16. G - Leather Britches
17. F - What a Wonderful World
18. Bb - Cherokee
19. C – I’m Walkin
20. D – Sheebeg Sheemor
21. C -What Does Deep Sea Say
22. Em - Drowsy Maggie
23. A - The Leaving of Liverpool
24. D – Danny Boy
25. A - Girl From the N Country
26. E – Only L Can Break Yr Heart
27. E – Alabama Getaway
28. G – I Never Cried
29. G – Cross Road Blues
30. D – Fisher’s Hornpipe
31. Gm – Moondance
32. D - Walls of Liscarroll/ Connachtman’s Rambles
33. C - Something In the Way She Moves
bottleneck blues: I Never Cried, Traveling Riverside Blues, Stop Breakin Down, Walkin Blues, Cross Road Blues, many others
jazz: Cherokee, Sweet GA Brown, Back Home in Indiana, All of Me, Georgia on My Mind, and dozens more
Fire and Rain, 1968-James Taylor, Something - George Harrison, All My Loving, Baby Don't Do It, Night They Drove Old Dixie down - The Band, Bad Moon Rising, Lodi, Lookin Out My Back Door, 1971: One Toke Over the Line - Brewer and Shipley, Go My Way, Home From the Forest, Did She Mention My Name, Wreck of Ed Fitz., Carefree Highway, Rainy Day People - 1975 , Gordon Lightfoot, Uncle John's Band, Ripple, Sugar Magnolia, Deep Elem Blues - Grateful Dead, Don't Let It Bring You Down, Only Love can Break Your Heart, I Believe in You - Neil Young, 1971, Behind Closed Doors - Charlie Rich 1973, Crazy Love, Into the Mystic, Moondance, Brown-Eyed Girl, Van Morrison, I'm Walkin - Fats Domino, Country Roads, Thank God I'm a Country Boy - John Denver, Time in A Bottle - Jim Croce, Ballad of Jed Clampett - Flatt and Scruggs, Gentle on My Mind - John Hartford-Glen Campbell, Bluebird - Steve Stills, Buffalo Springfield, Girl From the North Country, Like a Rolling Stone, Fare Thee Well, Buckets of Rain, Love Minus Zero, No Limit, Times They Are a-Changin - Bob Dylan, What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong, April Come She Will, Homeward Bound - Simon and Garfunkel, You Never Even Called Me By My Name, Jack Daniels if You Please - David Allen Coe, Bloody Mary Morning, All of Me - Willy Nelson, Highway 40 Blues - 1981, Ricky Skaggs.
2017 Blue Drifters lineup:
Joh Borofka, bass/vocals
Jim Lally Mandolin, guitar/vocals
Steven Earl Howard, guitar/banjo/vocals
Chad Willow, old-time banjo, guitar vocals
Additional Booking Notes
We bring our PA, as needed. Four mic stands, 3 wedge monitors, powered mixer, feedback exterminator, double rack 1/3 octave EQ, two new EV Speakers.
Past Booked Events
|October 14, 2017 • 5:30pm - 8:30pm||Wedding Reception, Bayfield, WI|
|September 23, 2017 • 5:30pm - 8:30pm||Osage, IA, Community Celebration|
|September 16, 2017 • 5:00pm - 9:00pm||Wedding Reception - Deerwood, MN|
|August 23, 2017 • 7:00pm - 8:00pm||Music in the paerk Series-Savage, MN|
|August 18, 2017 • 10:00am - 2:00pm||Nowthen Threshing Show - quartet show|
|July 30, 2017 • 7:00pm - 8:00pm||Anoka Summer concerts|
|July 21, 2017 • 9:00pm - 11:00pm||Bachelor Dinner- Wayzata|
|July 08, 2017 • 1:00pm - 5:00pm||House Party|
|June 24, 2017 • 7:00pm - 9:00pm||Ecology Camp for Kids, Lanesboro, MN solo performance|
|June 15, 2017 • 12:00pm - 12:45pm||Nonprofit Event|
|May 06, 2017 • 2:00pm - 5:00pm||Adult Bday Party-Big Stone Mini-Golf Sculpture Garden|
|April 22, 2017 • 1:15pm - 3:00pm||Church Anniversary Celebration - downtown- Duet|
|March 18, 2017 • 5:00pm - 7:00pm||Palmer's Bar, BDs Quartet, Minneapolis, MN|
|February 26, 2017 • 11:00am - 2:00pm||Pub 500, Mankato, MN, solo Steven Earl Howard|
|September 19, 2015 • 7:00pm - 8:00pm||Gibbs Farm Museum, duet, 11 a.m. – 3. GIBBS MUSEUM OF PIONEER AND DAKOTAH LIFE, 2097 W. Larpenteur A|
|September 12, 2015 • 7:00pm - 8:00pm||1:45-3:00 pm., Cambridge City Center Market, 122 N. Buchanan St., Cambridge, MN 55008. Art Festival|
|August 04, 2015||Holiday Party (Other)|
Already covered in categories above.
|Steven Earl Howard||lead singer, guitars, 5-string banjo|
|David Stenshoel||expert Irish and Swing jazz fiddler, harmony vocals|
|Matt Senjem||bassist, vocals|
|Kevin Daley||guitar, vocals|
Influences & Inspiration
All first generation bluegrass groups: Bill Monroe, Stanleys, Osbourne Bros., many others. Contemporary - Tony Rice, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Lonesome River Band, Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss and too many to mention.
The leans heavily towards traditional Americana and is similar to David Bromberg's repertoire and touring bands, in that we play rural blues, jazz, Cajun, Irish. Also, we do many funky covers 60s-70s, Dylan, Neil Young, Van Morrison, CCR, Gordon Lightfoot.