Hilltown Ramblers commemorating 30th anniversary at Caffé Lena

— Photo by Wendy Decker

Ramble on: The Hilltown Ramblers are performing at Caffé Lena in Saratoga Springs this Saturday to celebrate their 30th anniversary. From left to right, they are: Moe Safford, Tom White, Dick Stock, Ed Kryzkowski, and Smilin’ Jim Selkirk.

HILLTOWNS — Some stones keep on rolling, and while the Hilltown Ramblers are without moss after 30 years of performing and more to come, they have plenty of bluegrass. 

The Ramblers are commemorating their 30th anniversary with a concert at Caffé Lena in Saratoga on Saturday, Feb. 25, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. The event will also be livestreamed, with Grammy-winning producer and sound engineer Joel Moss handling the broadcast. 

The two founding members of the now five-piece band, Dick Stock and Moe Safford, first crossed paths at Highland Farm in Altamont, which had a woodshed bar that became the venue for an ongoing bluegrass jam put together by a local banjo player. 

“That’s where I met Moe, and it turns out we were neighbors right here in East Berne,” Stock told The Enterprise this week, adding that their guitarist, Smilin’ Jim Selkirk, has been with the band “nearly since the beginning.”

“It hasn’t been that hard finding people, usually,” Stock said. “It’s mostly a word-of-mouth kind of thing. We’ve actually had other people approach us from time to time, wanting to join, but we didn’t have a spot at the time.”

The band’s newest addition is Tom White, a fiddle player whom Stock describes as a “consummate musician.”

“He’s a fantastic multi-instrumentalist and he’s given us quite a spark as we move toward our 30th anniversary …,” Stock said. “The fiddle is just an integral part of bluegrass, and it really fills out our sounds.”

The group is currently recording its new album, Clear Mountains, at White’s studio in Middleburgh. Stock said it’s about three-quarters of the way done. 

“We’re taking a little bit of a break [from recording] because we’re doing a lot of rehearsing for Lena’s,” he said. “We’re working on a lot of our original songs for Lena’s.”

Of their songwriting, Stock said that each member of the band has their own style. 

“Moe wrote a great gospel tune with his son, Maury, that we’re going to play on Saturday,” he said. “I tend to like songs that have some historical background, but not all the songs I’ve written contain that … That’s part of what makes it interesting. If you pigeonhole something too much, it’s not as much fun as if you can kind of do what you want with it.” 

As he reflected on the changes within the genre he’s noticed in his 30 years as a Rambler, Stock said that the universe of bluegrass lyrics seems to be expanding as younger people become interested in it and introduce the topics they care about. 

“People now are bringing in more contemporary issues,” he said, pointing to a song by the 30-year old award-winning bluegrass guitarist Billy Strings called Watch It Fall. 

“I was listening to it, reading the lyrics when I realized it’s a song about climate change that he’s done,” Stock said. 

The sound has evolved over time too, he explained, as people bring in influences from other genres like jazz, rock, or new age. It’s one of the things that makes improvisational jam sessions — which are popular among bluegrass players — so interesting, Stock said. 

“Everybody plays a little different,” he said, “and you might hear something you like that somebody else does. Then you follow it along and take off on that. That’s another reason why Tom’s been so beneficial, because he’s another set of influences that he’s bringing into the band. That’s what gave us that spark, and makes us want to create some music.” 


The Hilltown Ramblers will perform at Caffé Lena — located at 47 Phila Street in Saratoga Springs — from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m on Saturday, Feb. 25. Tickets may be purchased for $22.50 at https://bit.ly/HilltownRamblers

All ages are welcome.


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