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Based in Prairie Grove in Northwest Arkansas, the duo of Trout Fishing in America has been playing together since the 1970s. And although much has been made of the pair’s disparate physical heights, more of a fuss could be made over the way guitarist-vocalist Ezra Idlet and bassist-vocalist Keith Grimwood blend — not only their harmonies, but musically and stylistically. Trout Fishing can be for children or adults, and sound jazzy, bluesy or poppy, while still retaining its acoustic-based framework.
“We can play songs that we have written,” Idlet says, “that are brand new, and we can draw from the great wealth of styles that we draw from, and it’ll still be OK.”
Trout Fishing in America’s holiday-themed 2004 album, “Merry Fishes to All,” earned the group its second Grammy nomination. In late 2006, Trout Fishing’s live disc, “My Best Day,” was released, and recently garnered the group a third Grammy nomination. Recorded Feb. 11, 2006, in front of an audience at Reynolds Performance Hall in Conway, “My Best Day” is also available in home video format. The Arkansas Educational Television Network taped the show as part of the network’s periodic “AETN Presents” series.
TFIA songs can, and do, speak to young and old alike, but the band particularly caters to younger ears. Trout Fishing in America has always cultivated its kid fan base as well as its adult fans. The title track and three other songs from “My Best Day” stemmed from songwriting workshops the band has conducted with young students in Arkansas towns like Fort Smith and Van Buren, as well as in Maryland and Kansas.
“It’s something that’s happened,” Idlet says of the band’s atypically broad fan base, “but it’s never been a conscious effort. I think our most conscious effort was after kind of having a struggle back in 1986. Just to make ends meet, we decided we would take any job that was offered. Any, any, any, any kind of job. And we did, we took any kind of job. And we always loved playing for kids, but there became jobs where we would play for kids.
“That just sort of has slowly grown. I think the best thing is, we’re playing music these days for families. Not just for kids, not just for adults, but a really inclusive mix of music.”
“My Best Day” is Trout Fishing in America’s 13th release on the band’s own Trout Records imprint. Collaborator Fred Bogert accompanies the duo on the album, playing accordion, cornet, piano and guitar. For their many fans who’ve always insisted that live is the best way to experience the fun-loving duo, “My Best Day” may show the best of what Trout Fishing in America has to offer, short of a concert ticket.
Stephen Koch’s weekly radio series “Arkansongs” is syndicated on National Public Radio affiliates across the state and originates from KUAR FM-89 in Little Rock. Shows (including the Trout Fishing in America show from Dec. 15) are archived at www.arkansongs.org. Hear more Arkansas artists every Friday at 6:40 a.m. and 6:20 p.m. KUAR.