Lost Whiskey Engine
The sound of bluegrass music has a few things in common with the sound of an an old locomotive—it can clang and bang along at speed, or sound lonely and distant, but always with a steady chug to keep things rolling. With the release of their debut album Just Hold On earlier this year, and a few summer festival dates on the horizon, Truckee Bluegrass band Lost Whiskey Engine is gathering steam.
The band is the brainchild of brothers Sean and Conor McAlindin, whose great grandfather emigrated from Scotland to Scotch Plains, New Jersey, where the brothers were born.
Growing up, they played in jam bands under the influences of Phish, Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers. It wasn’t until Sean arrived at the University of Colorado that he discovered bluegrass.
“There was, and still is, a very strong bluegrass scene in that area,” said Sean, the band’s songwriter, guitarist and front man. “I went to some Yonder Mountain String Band festivals, and it was just so much fun.”
He recruited Conor to join him at some of these festivals—the two would often work on the trash crews for free tickets—and they fell in love with the ancestral qualities of the music.
“I think on some level, the music has a lot of Scottish and Irish roots, and I think that culture runs strong in my DNA,” said Sean.
The brothers relocated to Truckee, where Conor picked up the mandolin, and they put out a Craigslist ad looking for bluegrass musicians. They met bassist Mick Melvin in 2011 and kept in touch while Sean spent a few years in Oregon. When he returned to Truckee, they quickly added Ellen Flanagan on the fiddle and Peter Anderson on the banjo.
“It used to be sort of a rotating cast that would come up, with different people at each show,” said Sean. “We’ve been pretty solid with this quintet for about four years now.”
Sean wrote the six original tracks of Just Hold On, and Conor recorded them at a home studio.
During their live shows, the band draws heavily from folk standards and some compositions from Sean’s solo projects. The bandmates are excited to expand their reach with a physical album.
“We did a lot of work after hours to put the album together to have something for the festival season this year,” said Sean. “We’re super excited to play some of the bigger festivals in the area this year, which is one of the goals we’ve been working towards since the beginning.”
It’s not hard to imagine most of the tracks on Just Hold On in a festival setting. Tracks like “I Am Gone” and “Down by the River” exemplify the classic bluegrass combination of rollicking and soulful, and the group embraces the jam band mentality with extended instrumental breaks on each track.
Lost Whiskey Engine is slated to play three festivals this summer and fall—shows that could earn them the support of Truckee’s robust bluegrass community.
“I would definitely say that Lake Tahoe is one of the hotspots for bluegrass music in the country,” said Sean. “Almost every bluegrass band stops by, so it’s a great opportunity for us to open up for them or support them.”