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On the air: Dirty Cello bringing a different kind of cello to intimate KVMR house concert

Steve Baker
Special to Prospector


WHAT: KVMR 89.5 FM presents Dirty Cello, featuring Rebecca Roudman on cello, fiddle and vocals; her husband, Jason Eckl, guitar, flute, saxophone, penny whistle, banjo and cowbell; Colin Williams on bass; Ben Wallace-Ailsworth on drums; and Sandy Lindrop on piano, ukulele and vocals.

WHEN: Sunday, 3 p.m.

WHERE: KVMR Miss Rumphius Community Room, 120 Bridge St. (across from Miners Foundry) at Spring Street, downtown Nevada City

TICKETS: $15 available online at kvmr.org/events or at the door (if available)

LIVE BROADCAST: 3 p.m., Sunday, KVMR 89.5 FM, Truckee 105.1 FM, online kvmr.org streaming

INFO: 530/265-9073 or kvmr.org/events

OK, the band Dirty Cello — and its lead singer and cello player Rebecca Roudman — are compiling pretty amazing press.

And, wait, they’re coming to a special KVMR 89.5 FM intimate house concert in the radio station’s community room this Sunday, Dec. 15 at 3 p.m. in downtown Nevada City, during Victorian Christmas.

The show will also be broadcast live on KVMR 89.5 FM. 105.1 FM Truckee, kvmr.org streaming.

“When you take a cello out of concert halls and chamber settings and let it loose in a bar or nightclub, interesting things tend to happen.”

That’s what correspondent Andrew Gilbert wrote in the San Jose Mercury News a few months ago.

“For Rebecca Roudman, the journey from playing lilting melodies while demurely seated to absolutely shredding on her cello started during a long residency at Sonoma’s HopMonk Tavern, playing with guitarist (and husband) Jason Eckl,” Gilbert added.

“Well, we gradually built up a fan base and realized we needed to switch it up,” says Roudman.

And that fan base is developing worldwide.



“When Roudman started the band, she didn’t think it would go anywhere. Instead, it’s gone everywhere,” according to critic Tim Parsons in Tahoe Onstage.

“In seven years, Dirty Cello has released seven albums and had multiple tours in England, Italy and China.”

Now as the group’s returned from Israel and Iceland (was that the I-tour?) this summer, band audiences “will hear blues, but they’ll also hear anything else we feel like playing. We’re going to play some rock. We’re going to play some Irish music, some Eastern European music,” says Roudman.

This is a musician who has come a very long way, although she is a cello player in both the Oakland and Santa Rosa symphony orchestras. And, yes, she tells Tahoe Onstage, that’s where her musical journey began.

“There was never any thought of learning any other type of music,” said Roudman, whose mother is a piano instructor.

In fact, when Roudman was 7, her mom suggested she try harp in addition to piano. That didn’t fit in the family car so a miniature cello was her next instrument. And she ended up majoring in music with a cello emphasis.

And “her career destiny was set, but there was a problem,” according to Tahoe Onstage.

“Classical music doesn’t really do it for me like blues and bluegrass, world music and even hip-hop,” Roudman told the website. “I really like music with a heavy beat. I like music with a message.”

So she started playing cello to songs on CDs. And she learned the Scorpions song “Rock Me Like A Hurricane” and performed it at a Vallejo talent night.


“Somebody asked me if she could buy my album,” she laughed, “but that was the only song I knew.”

That encouraged her to uncharted territory, like a blues band and experimenting with bluegrass.

She told writer Paul Fried in the Monterey County Weekly that she answered a Craigslist ad from a blues guitarist who was “looking for a cellist who can improvise.” Enter fellow classical student (and future husband) Jason Eckl, who at the time was part of a cello and flute duo with Roudman. He convinced her that she could do it.

Onstage improvising for the first time, Roudman was transfixed, writes Fried.

“In classical, the audience is quiet. There’s never any applause for a solo,” she told the Monterey County Weekly. “When I got applause in the middle of the tune for my very first solo, it was both energizing and enlightening.”

To go with his flute, Eckl learned guitar, and Roudman also sings and writes the group’s originals. She usually plays cello standing up, creating a veritable frenzy of improvised lines more akin to an Irish fiddler or an electric guitarist.

“We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” Roudman explained. “We’ll be playing favorites of ours like ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia,’ and Clapton’s version of ‘Crossroads’ along with some of our own tunes. If you’re expecting a calm classical cello concert, well, I’m afraid that’s not what we’ll be doing.”


“”You know, when I started improvising on cello, I was really horrible at it because I had the mentality of a classical musician,” she said. “I (didn’t) know how to improvise.”

But she sure learned, and one of the first Dirty Cello songs to go viral on YouTube was her version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze.” Most recently, her take on the bluegrass standard “Orange Blossom Cello” (new title) got a similar reception.

“We’re something familiar but unique,” Roudman told Tahoe Onstage. “People understand bluegrass. They understand blues. What’s unique is the cello is not a fiddle. It’s not a guitar. It’s a cello.”

“People are enough intrigued that we are able to book these crazy tours in these crazy places. Sometimes the name of the band Dirty Cello works against us. Think we’re a burlesque band. No, it’s just cello music that is really in your face, loud and crazy.”

And a hoot of fun.

On The Air is a weekly irreverent look at the nearly 200 broadcasters and hundreds of other volunteers at Nevada City’s eclectic community radio station at 89.5 FM, 105. 1 FM Truckee, and streaming at kvmr.org. Sister station 105.7 FM features NPR and Pacifica news and analysis by day, with KVMRx.org indie pop by night and on weekend afternoons. The station is currently seeking funds to help pay for a new transmitter and generator to better keep the station on air during mandated blackouts and emergencies. Donations are welcome at kvmr.org or 530/264-4165 or can be mailed to KVMR, 120 Bridge St., Nevada City.

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