Maximum Blue showcases talent if three local musicians

Maximum Blue plays bluegrass at the Black Bear Brewery taproom on March 21. Members of the band, which also plays swing and Celtic fiddle music, are (from left) Nancy Merrill on bass, Max Silverstein on fiddle, and Jeff Silverstein on guitar.
Brian Swartz
Maximum Blue plays bluegrass at the Black Bear Brewery taproom on March 21. Members of the band, which also plays swing and Celtic fiddle music, are (from left) Nancy Merrill on bass, Max Silverstein on fiddle, and Jeff Silverstein on guitar.
Posted April 15, 2014, at 9:55 a.m.
Last modified April 15, 2014, at 10:45 a.m.

BANGOR — Fathers and sons do many activities together: playing catch, going to ballgames, fishing.

Jeffrey and Max Silverstein of Bangor formed a band.

Guitarist Jeffrey and fiddler Max make up two-thirds of Maximum Blue, and, along with standup bassist Nancy Merrill, they play a blend of bluegrass, old-time, Celtic, and Western swing at gigs throughout Maine. The bassist’s daughter, Edie-Lee, provides vocals at some shows.

On a recent rainy Sunday, the trio was preparing for their biweekly gig at Paddy Murphy’s in Bangor. Max, 17, was setting up the stage, including a chair displaying the band’s two CDs” 2013’s studio-recorded “Grounded” and the concert release “Live @ Stage Too, Ossippee Valley Bluegrass.” Jeffrey and Nancy were working the room.

On this day, they played a series of instrumental numbers, with Max switching between a pair of fiddles, depending on the song. A couple of young blond boys bounced along in the booth in front of the stage; they later got up to dance.

While the Silversteins are busy with their day jobs (Jeffrey as a criminal defense attorney, Max as a junior at Bangor High School), they always find time for their music.

“Dates come up on a month-to-month basis,” Jeffrey said. “I’m sure we’ll be busy.”

Max found the violin first, then the fiddle. At as first-grader, he began violin lessons at age 6, studying classical violin with Laura Gallucci in Bangor for six years. He later switched to fiddle, studying with Lauren Rioux of Scarborough since 2011.

Max credits his father for his conversion. “My dad is in a bluegrass band,” he explained. “I would go to festivals with him, and afterward the musicians would do some field pickin’.”

Maximum Blue, which debuted at the 2006 Paul Bunyan Bluegrass Festival when Max was 9, developed organically.

“We were playing together at home, then we wanted a chance to showcase Max publicly,” Jeffrey said. “We started playing more frequently, in bigger venues.”

Merrill was added in summer 2011. “We wanted to grow our sound,” Jeffrey said. “We’re thrilled to death to have her join us. She’s very accomplished as an upright bass player, with 20 years in area bluegrass bands.”

Jeffrey has been recording Max since those early days, what he referred to as “an audio snapshot in time.” This has resulted in five solo albums by Max: “Going to Boston” (2007), “Doubled Up” (2008), “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (2009), “West Side Stomp” (2010) and “Crooked Minor” (2011).

Music is a great outlet for Jeffrey. “It’s an excellent stress reliever,” he said. “I’ve been involved in some high-profile public cases, where there’s lots of stress and anxiety. This helps me preserve my sanity.”

Max’s choice of music has gotten a mixed reaction from his peers.

“Some think it’s cool, while others joke with me about it,” he said.

Max hopes to go to college in Tennessee, with an eye to continuing his music career in bluegrass or old-time music.

“Max has been playing professionally for quite a few years, and we’ve been squirreling away money,” Jeffrey said. “We’ve got a very healthy start on college tuition.”

For more information, visit www.maximumbluebland.com.

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