John Kraus is a Fullerton guitarist who's helped shape two of the best bands to arise from the Paris of North Orange County in the past 15 years: Trip the Spring and Bodie. But he's also got this really weird thing for the sea and probably wouldn't mind being kidnapped by pirates.
So, knowing Kraus' maritime predilection, as well as his passion for music, it's not surprising that Rose's Pawn Shop, a rather terrific group of bluegrass-leaning alt.-country types from Los Angeles, chose him to round out their ensemble. After all, it was Anglo-Celtic folk ballads and sea chanteys brought over the Atlantic that birthed this kind of music.
The music comes from instruments you'd expect: fiddle, mandolin, banjo, upright bass, pedal steel guitar and the like. But where a lot of multi-instrument bands overpower their songs through too much sound, the six members of Rose's support and embellish, rather than blaze through, the material. This gives lead vocalist and principal songwriter Paul Givant's genuine sense of melody and songwriting craft room to be heard.
That's not to imply Rose's lacks edge or drunken swagger; any band that covers the Misfits and has a song including a call and response of “I fucked Bill Gates, did you fuck Bill Gates?” isn't sleepwalking through a set. It's just that they seem to care about the songs as much as the delivery. Rather than Bushmill's and sweaty pubs, Rose's is moonshine and the Appalachians. The music can still knock you on your ass, but it's just as good around a roaring fire as it out of speakers.
Rose's Pawn Shop at the Back Alley Bar and Grill, 116 W. Wilshire, Fullerton, (714) 525-3032; www.rosespawnshop.com. Fri., 9 p.m. Free. 21+.