Bluegrass to take to Brewer stage

Posted Nov. 25, 2010, at 10:51 p.m.
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Sometimes the original idea is the best one, after all. Anna Mae Mitchell, a Winterport resident, learned that over the past few years, as the bluegrass ingenue grew as a musician and eventually struck out on her own.

“It took me a little while to figure out just what exactly I wanted to do,” said Mitchell, 26, who formerly performed with the local band Rising Tide. “I’m definitely at that place now, though.”

It wasn’t until a chance encounter with an old musical friend last year that she really found her voice. That friend was Pat Harris, an upright-bass player with whom Mitchell performed while both were students at Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Mich.

“Those were some of my best memories of playing music,” said Mitchell. “We always clicked really well.”

Upon graduating in 2006, however, the two parted ways, with Harris gravitating toward musical mecca Austin, Texas, and Mitchell making her way to Maine with her husband, Ben, to teach music at Hampden Academy and at Main St. Music Studios in Bangor.

Last year Mitchell and Harris reconnected while meeting up and eventually performing together in San Antonio, Texas. Their old musical chemistry reignited, and within a few short months, Mitchell and Harris’ new band, the Uninvited Guests, was born.

Anna Mae Mitchell and the Uninvited Guests will perform at 7 p.m. Nov. 26 and 27 at the Next Generation Theater in Brewer. It’ll be one of the last chances to see Mitchell perform locally, as she and her husband are moving to Austin in January, so Mitchell can play with the band full time.

“I always really enjoyed playing with Anna, and playing together again that time in San Antonio really sealed the deal for me,” said Harris, who plays both bluegrass and jazz full time in Austin. “We had such a great time.”

For the past year, Mitchell and Harris have been trading recordings and ideas by e-mail, with Harris recording a song on Apple’s Garage Band software and sending it to Mitchell. Mitchell then put her own spin on it, adding new vocal elements to Harris’ melodies, and e-mailed her recordings back. Eventually, a six-song album, “The East Coast EP,” came out of their long-distance collaboration. The CD will be available at this weekend’s performances.

“We spend a lot of time on Skype,” said Mitchell. “That’s a big part of the reason we’re heading to Texas, is so we can actually work together in the same room.”

It’s clear Mitchell is a young, up-and-coming bluegrass powerhouse, with her stage presence and vocal chops, honed after years of singing in church and in musical theater. Mitchell’s clear, powerful soprano is a dream for the soulful kind of bluegrass that Harris composes.

“I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, but I like to be able to write songs that could just as easily have been written at the turn of the century as in 2010,” said Harris. “I like that timeless quality.”

Though Austin is a hub for all kinds of music, from bluegrass and country to indie rock and metal, Mitchell leaves Maine with nothing but love for the Pine Tree State.

“Oh, I love Maine. I just want to be able to have the resources I need to make a career,” she said. “I don’t really care about being hugely famous or popular. I want to maintain that kind of intimate feel that I’ve had here in Maine, where you can go out into the audience and talk to the crowd afterwards. I love that. That’s really all I want.”

Anna Mae Mitchell and the Uninvited Guests will perform at 7 p.m. Nov. 26 and 27 at the Next Generation Theater in Brewer. Tickets are $15 at the door. For information, visit www.annamaemitchell.com.

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