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Bluegrass At Lake Purdys

LAKE PURDYS, N.Y. - Mike Burns started taking piano lessons in kindergarten. By sixth grade he was ready to do his own thing. He picked up a guitar, started strumming, and has been sounding the strings ever since.

For years he wrote and performed country music, touring with a group called Mike Burns and the North Country Band. Along the way he had hits and won awards, but like many musicians, he eventually tired of being a traveling man.

“I got sick of country music,” he explains. “They were all bar gigs. I was tired of line dancers and the bar scene.” He settled down with his family in Lake Purdys and developed his carpentry business. “I do kitchens, decks, house additions. But I wanted to keep my hand in music."

Burns eventually made a transition from country to bluegrass and organized the Westchester Bluegrass Club . “Bluegrass is folksy,” he says. “Nowadays they call it Americana.”

A few years ago, Burns began to host monthly jam sessions in Somers. A long list of impressive names has shown up for gigs. “We’ve had Bill Keith. He’s legendary. He played with Bill Monroe,” says Burns. “We’ve had Barry Mitterhoff, the mandolin player with Hot Tuna, and we’ve had Jim Hurst. He’s a Nashville cat. A great player. I’m kinda buds with him.”

“You never know who’ll be in the area,” says Burns. “In November we had The String Fingers. They’re a really good band." The February act will probably be The Cornfed Dogs. Caroline Doctorow and her Bluegrass Band are scheduled for April.

“People start arriving about 6:30 p.m. A lot of them bring instruments. Around 7 p.m. they start to jam. We have open mike from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. And then the act of the night is on from 9 p.m. to 10:15. Sometimes the artists even give workshops before things get started. People come from all over: Connecticut, Dutchess, even the Adirondacks.”

The Westchester Bluegrass Club jam sessions are usually scheduled for the third Saturday of the month at the Lake Purdys Clubhouse . The next one, on January 21, features Miller’s Crossing with singer Jen Larson. "She’s an amazing vocalist. She’s been on "A Prairie Home Companion” says Burns.

The entry fee is $10 per person. There is a BYOB policy. Burns calls it “a great value. Where can you go for $10 and hear a live band and be among genuinely nice people who are there for the music?” For more information, call Mike Burns at 914-276-2239 or email mccueburns@aol.com.

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