Not So Clean Machine

“People often tell us that they had no idea what to expect from a band named Dirty Cello,” says bandleader (and celloist) Rebecca Roudman, seated.

In choosing a band name that conjures all kinds of possibilities, Dirty Cello bandleader Rebecca Roudman feels the decision was simple.

“I like classical, but it’s not my favorite music,” she says. “And I love blues, and I love bluegrass. I have eclectic musical tastes, and over time I began to wonder if it would be possible to do the cello as a lead instrument, like the guitar is in a rock band.”

She then adds this: “When I play classical I think of it as such a clean way to play. I was going for the opposite of that.”

Roudman plays her cello standing up, bowing fiddle-style like in bluegrass, and the results are gritty, gutsy blues and frenetic, blistering Americana, with rowdy renditions of rock-and-roll classics like Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” Stevie Ray’s “House Is Rockin’” and Clapton’s version of “Crossroads” all thrown in for good measure. She also covers Antonio Vivaldi’s Double Concerto in G Minor for Two Cellos and Piano. Hers is a powerful mix that elicits predictably strong reactions.

Her cover of Guns and Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine” prompted one YouTube viewer named Warmoth Guitarist to observe, “The cello not only sounds better than Axl, but it also won’t jump into the crowd and beat up a fan.”

It was an onstage experience in San Francisco that led Roudman to cross over into other genres. “People were not sitting there quietly,” she says. “They were into it and they were yelling and stuff. I liked that energy and that people were more interactive. I had never thought of the cello as a lead instrument for a band until then, but that’s when the seed was planted.”

Bluegrass cemented her musical style. “When I first heard bluegrass I knew I wanted to incorporate it,” Roudman says. “When somebody says I sound like a fiddle player then I know I’m doing it right.”

What began as a duo with her then-boyfriend, now husband/guitarist Jason Eckl, has morphed into a vivacious quartet with the addition of drummer Cory Aboud and bassist Colin Williams, and that is the configuration who will visit the Big Sur Mothership this weekend. Expect a spontaneously chosen playlist of heart-thumping bluegrass classics like “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” along with Roudman’s originals like her sardonic 12-bar blues “Don’t Call Me Honey”: “Don’t call me honey/ don’t call me baby/ don’t call sweetie/ I ain’t your lady/ don’t call me girl/ don’t call me hon/ don’t call me anything/ you ain’t the one.”

“Hopefully we give them something unusual,” she says. “Something that is memorable because it is so different.”

DIRTY CELLO 7:30pm Saturday, Jan. 6. Henry Miller Library, 48603 Highway 1, Big Sur. $10-$20 suggested donation. 667-2574,

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