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Never sticking to the straight 'n arrowThe Concerts in Park series debuts with Rocking Arrow.
"Dante the weimaraner is asleep, one ear flopped across the overstuffed arm of the chair.Snoozing dog is a good sign, Rocking Arrow band member David Bray says. He only sleeps when practice is going well. The rehearsal is smooth. Rocking Arrow has the relaxed, assured air of performers who have worked together over time. They face each other to sing, each acknowledging the rhythm in ad hoc dance moves. The musicians change key and tempo without losing a beat. The harmonies blend without a glitch.The band is gearing up for their July 11 appearance as opening act for the free Concerts in Waterfront Park series, sponsored by the city and park district and running weekly through the summer.The choice of music also shows the band's assurance; the repertoire covers a tremendous range. Rocking Arrow is comfortable with idioms as different as rock and roll, folk ballad, cowboy songs, fiddle tunes, Dixie music from the '20s and '30s and Stratman's original material.They don't take an old-timey, traditional approach, but interpret the music idiosyncratically - perhaps another index of self-confidence. Their rendition of Another Saturday Night and I Ain't Got No Money uses bongos for percussion, as does other rock-and-roll the group sings. The performers are themselves an eclectic bunch, their tongue-in-cheek approach evident. Bray wears a customized belt with pockets for his nine harmonicas, an odd affair that looks like an appointment half for karate, half for a carpenter's tools.The band formed six years ago when Stratman, who has been in bands since age 14, decided to to find other musicians on Bainbridge who liked the material he did. He hooked up with performers Slater and Bray. Other members joined a few years later. Originally, the group was known as Back Up and Push, a name with a decidedly unhelpful tendency to morph into the phrase Back up and Flush, band members say.Finding the right handle proved quite difficult. It seems whatever name you choose, there's some band somewhere with the same name, Stratman said.Eventually, the group selected Rocking Arrow Ranch after Bray's parents' spread in Louisiana, dropping Ranch over time. The group ends the practice with the the number that closes their performance, the standard Good night Sweetheart.Sure you remember the words? Bray asks McAllister. He nods solemnly, and launches into the opening De doo doo de doo - his only lyrics.I hate to leave you, but I really can't stay, the group sings. Good night, sweetheart, good night.One can imagine the audience might be equally reluctant to pack picnic baskets, fold blankets and say farewell to this band. * * * * *Rocking Arrow opens the 2001 Wednesday Evening Concerts in the Park series, at 7 p.m. July 11 at Waterfront Park. Comprised of lead vocalist and songwriter Jonathan Stratman; fiddle and banjo player Linda Slater; harmonica and vocalist David Bray; drummer Joe Kimzey; bass player and vocalist Rich McAllister; and guitarist and vocalist Tim Sell, Rocking Arrow plays an eclectic mix of songs including standards and original material.The concert series, sponsored by the city and the park district, is free to the public. Call 842-2306 for more information. "