FAIRMONT - "It's blues and jazz, and it has a high lonesome sound. It's plain music that tells a good story. It's played from my heart to your heart, and it will touch you," Bill Monroe once said, describing the genre he pioneered.
Following in their founder's footsteps, Monroe Crossing will perform Saturday at Fairmont Opera House, returning to the venue where their bluegrass style has been well received on numerous occasions.
Bluegrass originated in the Appalachian mountains, a conglomeration of music traditions brought overseas by English, Irish, Scottish and German settlers, steeped with the blues, a sound brought into the mix by African-American musicians. In the 1940s, the genre would spread out across the country, gaining popularity along with the Blue Grass Boys, led by Bill Monroe.
Monroe Crossing featuring, left to right, Matt Thompson on mandolin; Benji Flaming on banjo; Lisa Fuglie on fiddle; Derek Johnson on guitar; and Mark Anderson on bass, will perform Saturday at Fairmont Opera House.
"We hear a lot of times, after a show, people will say they didn't know they liked bluegrass, but they're fans now," said Matt Thompson, who plays violin.
Joining Thompson on stage at the Opera House will be Benji Fleming on banjo, Lisa Fuglie with her fiddle, Derek Johnson on guitar and Mark Anderson on bass - all the fixins needed for a bluegrass band.
On stage, the quintet is arranged around a single microphone, and the performers move in and out, almost in a dance, as they take turns with vocal and instrumental solos.
"People get to see the focus of what's being featured for the music," Thompson said. "... That's fun for the view to physically see us moving in and out. Sometimes bluegrass bands just have a wall of microphones in front of them ... that's not as visually exciting."
Based in Minnesota, Monroe Crossing tours year round. They've put out 11 CDs, the most recent being a tribute to Bill Monroe, since this year is the 100th anniversary of his birth. They're also working on their next album, which will be strictly bluegrass gospel.
"We play bluegrass, but we also throw in other kinds of music," said Thompson, like Etta James and The Temptations.
Of course, they put their own bluegrass twist on the songs they cover, but hearing the familiar often pulls people into the show - whether they're traditional bluegrass fans or not.
"It's just a way of reaching people and it's for our sake too," Thompson said. "We think it's fun."
New to the band from the last time they performed in Fairmont is guitarist Derek Johnson, who joined Monroe Crossing the first of this year.
"We're just thrilled to have him in the band; [he] grew up in northern Minnesota in the Moorhead area, and he's playing like he's been with us for 10 years," Thompson said.
Tickets to see Monroe Crossing are $20 for adults and $10 for students.To purchase seats, contact the Opera House at (507) 238-4900 or go online to: www.fairmontoperahouse.com