When the last show isn’t the last: Oak Street Ramblers look to the future | Music


During what they thought was their last show, the Ramblers played two sets in the parking lot of Harmony, which, as part of the town’s Steatery program, had been transformed into an outdoor restaurant. Out of respect for the bar neighbors, it was an acoustic show.

Emmenegger said that in her 3.5 years with the band, this was the only show she had performed without any amplification, not even a vocal mic. They had to project themselves as powerfully as possible so that the 200 or so people in the audience could hear them, and by the end of the show the kitchen was so overwhelmed with orders that it had to shut down early.

“For the last few songs, the crowd calmed down and it was pretty special,” Emmenegger said.

The band’s last song was “I’ll Fly Away,” an anthem written by Albert Brumley in 1929, and one of the most-covered gospel songs of all time, including by Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis.

“Everyone joined us and it was quite magical and moving to blackmail everyone,” said Emmenegger.

Over the past year, the often masked group has grown into a pandemic group. They met at least once a week in the garden of Emmenegger or Kunkle. When it got too cold, they rented a warehouse nearby on Bryan Street on the East Side of Madison.

Members of bluegrass band Oak Street Ramblers, including Mark Schlutt, left, and Annie Emmenegger, perform in Jeff Kunkle’s backyard. If the group broke up for good, Kunkle said, the remaining members would feel the call to come to his home to play music. “I mean, it’s been going on for 18 years.”


“We worked on a lot of new tracks, and we were all going through a rough time, some of us at different times maybe more than others,” said Emmenegger. “But I think we all found comfort in knowing that we could release emotion and play music together because music is so important to all of us.”

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