BND Magazine

August 10, 2014

Terry Mackin: Old Salt Union music makes this old salt happy

I enjoy live music year around, but especially this time of year.

To my ears, music just sounds better in summer or fall, outdoors, under the stars and a harvest moon.

We have a strong tradition of homegrown music here in the metro-east. I've seen some great bands with metro-east roots over the years, indoors and out.

Growing up, we'd sneak in the back door of the old Ricco's on West Main to hear the country-rock sounds of Arrow Memphis. They were a little like a local Poco, and a little like a hometown Eagles.

During the same era, we'd also see and hear Full Moon Consort with Joe Truttmann on guitar and the late Steve Strayhorn on drums. Post-band, Truttmann became a successful chiropractor in west Belleville.

I saw Head East at the Belle-Clair Fairgrounds, and REO Speedwagon more than a dozen times, indoors and outdoors, throughout St Clair, Madison and Clinton counties.

In the early 1980s. there were dances at the Little Devils building at Citizen's Park in west Belleville. The band was a group of high school kids from Belleville West called The Primitives. They were a fun band, sort of punkish, and played a lot of popular music that made young folks get on the dance floor and jump around a little.

The Primitives also had some dances at the old Liederkranz Hall at Millstadt Park. Pay $5 for live music and all the draft beer you could drink.

That young band was led by a young Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy. They became Uncle Tupelo. Later, the band split and Tweedy formed Wilco, and Farrar started Son Volt.

The late Uncle Tupelo is one of my favorite bands ever and I still listen frequently to Wilco and Son Volt.

The tradition continues. This summer, under the stars, I've had a chance to watch another very talented band from Belleville that's making quite a name for itself, locally and nationally. The band's name is Old Salt Union.

They've been playing together for just more than two years. They're sort of a bluegrass band, with a bit of an edge that pulls influence from pop and indie rock.

All five members of Old Salt Union are from Belleville and are under age 30. They play their music with youthful energy but an old soul and heart.

Band members are John Brighton (violin, mandolin, vocals), Dustin Eiskant (acoustic guitar, ukulele, vocals), Jesse Farrar ( upright bass, acoustic guitar, vocals), Ryan Murphey (banjo, vocals), and Justin Wallace (mandolin, acoustic guitar, vocals.)

Can music be bad with banjo, mandolin and violin? I don't think so.

Go to an Old Salt Union gig and you'll see generations of local fans, from high school age to grandmas and grandpas, and every age in between.

Some dancing.

Some singing along.

Some, like me, swaying occasionally, or tapping a foot, and singing a few words.

I saw Old Salt Union outdoors this summer at the Turner Picnic in Smithton and at Eckert's in Belleville on a Saturday night in late July.

Small but fun, friendly crowds. A lot of familiar faces. The band has a growing, dedicated local fan base.

Old Salt Union's popularity has extended beyond its hometown roots. The band has performed in Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, California and Missouri and other states.

If you're a music fan, and you have not had a chance to see Old Salt Union, they're playing August 29 at the Old Rock House in St. Louis to release their second CD. They'll also be playing Aug. 31 at the Millstadt Homecoming, and Sept. 20 at the Belleville Bicentennial musical celebration downtown. You can learn more about the band at

Call it bluegrass.

New grass.


I call Old Salt Union music "lawn chair music."

Why? On a summer or fall night, it just feels right to listen and watch them while sitting in a lawn chair, under the stars and a Harvest moon.

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