Say goodbye (for now) to Misty River

Thursday, June 9th, 2011, 8:25 pm by Ben Salmon

Sometimes it seems like we (I?) get all hyped up about the rock, pop and hip-hop shows that come through Bend, and in doing so lose sight of the bands that sweep into town to play and sing beautiful songs beautifully, which is a skill we should never lose sight of.

Sure, Ice Cube can blow up the Midtown Ballroom with bass and Death Cab for Cutie can send squealing guitars into Central Oregon’s night sky and Ray LaMontagne can gather God’s creatures and heal the sick with his beard. That’s great. But a lot of folks who’ve been around Bend for a while will tell you that Misty River — four ladies from scattered towns around the Northwest who’ve been playing and touring for 14 years — make some of the prettiest, most powerful music around.

Misty River’s days of creating compelling, harmony-happy acoustic Americana appear to be numbered, however. Tomorrow night at The Old Stone (they dropped the “Church” from their name a while back), the quartet — Carol Harley, Dana Abel, Laura Quigley and Chris Kokesh — is playing a show to say farewell to their Central Oregon fans, at least for now. Here’s an explanation straight from the band (some of which you may also see in my story in tomorrow’s GO! Magazine). Emphasis is mine:

As for the impetus for the band’s break from performing, Abel says that after fourteen years of making Misty River a priority, it is time for band members to focus on other aspects of their lives. Harley (Vancouver, WA), a seven-year survivor of leukemia, is concentrating on improving her health. Kokesh (Portland, OR), who in 2010 released her first solo CD October Valentine, is working on a career as a singer-songwriter. Quigley (Maupin, OR), who married last year and moved to a stock ranch in Central Oregon, is expecting her first child. Abel (Eugene, OR), a mother of two, wants to spend more time with her family and pursue the environmental work she left behind eleven years ago.

“We still love to perform together, but also recognize the need to move on,” says Abel. “When Misty River formed in 1997, we took a canoe trip together that inspired me to write a song about the rewards, challenges and surprises one might face on a river trip–for me, it was an analogy of our band’s journey into the performing world. It has been a great ride, but for now, the demands of touring together don’t fit in with our lives. We are glad, however, to have a chance to say farewell for now to our Central Oregon fans and thank them for being so supportive over the years.”

If you’ve never heard Misty River, here’s their cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Black Muddy River” from their 2007 album “Stories.” In the hands of these four women, it’s more polished but every bit as mournful as the original, and it sounds like an old traditional tune — a testament not only to the players, but to the songwriters, Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter.

Misty River, “Black Muddy River”

If you’re interested, click here to read the feature article I did on Misty River in 2007, which is based on an interview with Harley, who grew up in Bend in the 1950s and ’60s.

Misty River plays The Old Stone (157 N.W. Franklin Ave., Bend) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the door or $17 plus fees in advance, available at Ranch Records (541-389-6116) in Bend and


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