BEACON FALLS — The man who might give you a ticket for speeding in Beacon Falls is the same man who will be rocking the bass this weekend at the St. Michael’s Church green during the latest installment of the town’s summer concert series.
Town police officer Bill McCasland is one of six members of the Red Dirt Road Band, a multi-genre group based in New Milford. The band’s music can be classified as Americana, bluegrass, country, western swing, and even gospel, according to band manager, vocalist, and guitarist Doug Mathewson.
“It’s hard to describe,” Mathewson says. “It’s rural roots music. We do some covers but I write most of the songs. Our music is anything from western swing to blues to Appalachia to gospel. It’s what you might call American-based. We’re not considered a bar band. We try to do songs that fit our genres.”
The group is only a few years old, formed shortly after the members met at a local song swap, where dozens of musicians share original tunes. Mathewson and vocalist and fiddler Susy Marker write most of the band’s compositions.
The band’s name isn’t cliché, either.
“I grew up spending my life with my mother in Arkansas where we had red dirt roads,” Mathewson says, “and [banjoist and violist] Pat Walker had red dirt clay when she lived in Alabama, so it just made sense. As a matter of fact, when I was searching genres we might fall under, I actually found one called ‘red dirt’ and that fits us.”
In addition to Mathewson and Marker, and Walker, the band features Bill Petkanus on guitar and mandolin, Missy Alexander on vocals, and McCasland on bass.
McCasland may be the only familiar to face to most concert-goers Saturday evening, mostly because of his longtime duty as a Beacon Falls police officer. McCasland thinks local concerts like this weekend’s are opportunities for residents to see him in a gentler light.
“People see me as the cop in town who’s been there for a long time and they think I’m going to give them a ticket,” McCasland says. “It’s good to have people see the other side of me and see that I have interests and I’m not always with police business. I think it’s a way of seeing there are other things in life besides work. People are really receptive.”
Mathewson says he doesn’t even think about McCasland’s profession anymore because of his importance to the band.
“He’s such a part of our band that I don’t even see him as a police officer anymore,” Mathewson says. “I think that it would be great for people to see he’s not just a cop in a car. He’s got human qualities and interests. We love having him in the band. He’s a great guy and he’s serious about his music, too.”
McCasland says it’s important to him to be able to bring his band’s style of music back to Beacon Falls.
“I don’t consider myself to be an expert musician or anything,” McCasland says. “I just want to bring roots and acoustic music back to Beacon Falls. I want to get a good crowd. It’s a chance for people to come together and socialize and bring back the old spirit of Beacon Falls. We try to keep the small town the way that it is, so we do small-town things to keep people close together.”
The concert is scheduled for Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. on the St. Michael’s Church green, and McCasland is looking forward to seeing a strong local turnout at the event.
“We don’t need to go out to Missouri to enjoy good country music,” McCasland says. “Why not go out for the night in the town and enjoy the weather?”