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Steep Canyon Rangers

Thursday, March 30, Boulder Theater, 303-786-7030; Friday, March 31, Swallow Hill Music Hall, 303-777-1003.

Approximately 73 million bands have formed at colleges over the years, and the vast majority of them fall into the rock or pop categories, with a few hip-hop or jazz outfits thrown in for good measure. That makes the Steep Canyon Rangers an anomaly -- a bluegrass combo formed in the shadow of academia. Banjoist Graham Sharp, bassist Charles Humphrey III, guitarist Woody Platt, fiddler Nicky Sanders and mandolinist Mike Guggino were students at the University of North Carolina when they first got together circa the late '90s, and in a few short years they've become one of the genre's prime hopes for the future. Not that their music eschews tradition. Although One Dime at a Time, a 2005 Rebel Records release, is dominated by original material, it's performed with an ear toward old-fashioned verities: vibrant harmony vocals, enthusiastic string work and the sort of solo fire that's capable of scorching anyone within hearing range. The Rangers, who'll be joined by the Jayme Stone Quartet at their Boulder gig, may not have learned the typical lessons while attending school, but they're making the most of their education.

 
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