Words and Music

This is my personal blog, where I can document my interests in words, music, concerts, travel, and guitar-building.

Grey Fox 2013

The Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival was on July 17 – 21 this year. This was my second trip there…last year I didn’t post a review until November, which meant I didn’t do a very thorough job of it. This year, the festival occurred during the middle of our Maine vacation, so I got to come back to the beach and relax another week. I headed out on Wednesday, stopping by at the house in Brookline to pick up the camping gear, etc. It was 101 in my driveway, according to the car temperature. And it didn’t get any warmer in Oak Hill, NY either. More on that later.

This was my bluegrass pickin’ summer camp for adults (although lots of kids attend, too). Fortunately, I had run into Mike O’Brien at work a week earlier and he offered to save me a spot at their campsite. I think there were about 30 people there from the 3 O’Brien families plus friends, so what’s one more?? It was certainly a big family atmosphere, reminding me of my youth with my cousins, but with music! I felt welcomed right in to the crowd and sweated through setting up my tent while everyone was waiting for the O’Cousins to do their Open Mike set in the dance tent (officially the Catskill Stage, but no one calls it that).

Here’s the campsite:

Blog_campsite

The jams happened under the white tent with some spillover to the blue one. 🙂 Thankfully we were along the east side of the farm near the woods, so we were somewhat protected from the sun and heat in the morning, until about 10 anyway. However, on Thursday morning we were jamming (and since I was just learning mandolin, I was using that) and I forgot that my guitar was in the tent until it was too late. It was burning hot in the case and this caused the glue to loosen on the bridge and start to pull up! Aaaargh. I loosened the strings and opened the case to let it cool down under the tent before playing it again later that night.

Every morning started with coffee and a jam session. Someone would just start playing and then others slowly but surely joined in. A most excellent way to start the day. Usually this went on until noon or so. I almost lost a hand playing mandolin, trying to keep up with Joe while he played Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms.

It was so hot (95 + humidity) that I didn’t really feel like eating anything either, much less walking to the concert stages. Certainly going to the big stage (which is mostly in the sun, although there are some shade awnings up) was not going to be in the cards. I think I lost 2 lbs. every time I went into the porta-potty, too.

Every night ended with another session under the tent. At about 10:20 pm the first night (Wed), we got told  by the authorities we were too loud since we were officially in the quiet camping area. Boo! Maybe it was the rowdy “Jambalaya”?? A fellow named Brad had drifted over to our campsite to listen and offered up his site, which was just over the line into Pickers Paradise, so we all trudged over there for a bit more hootin’. On Thursday and Friday nights we kept it quieter in our own site, which was challenging. Anyway, the dance tent was louder than us on most nights until about 1 or 2 am, so sue me! On Saturday night, we just played normally and it was fine.

Blog_Jam1

 

Left to right: Steve, Ellen, Dave, Judy, Mike, Rick, Flan

Blog_Jam2

Left to right: Mike, Rick, Flan, Joe, Steve, Ellen, Judy

A nice O’Brien tradition was to end the night with “Good Night, Irene”. The “Leadbelly version” I was told, which ends with “I’ll get you in my dreams.” None of that wimpy Pete Seeger stuff!! haha. On Saturday night, the O’Briens sang a song for their older brother, Don, who had passed at age 29, that was very moving.

Blog_mikeFiddle

 

dave on dobro

The Concerts

There was an excellent line-up of acts, a good mix of the old guard and the up and coming bands. Here’s what I saw:

Wednesday night. The O’Cousins – O’Brien cousins Flan, Brendan, and Liam did 2 songs at the open mike. People really got into “The Weight” and we played it a few times at the camp site too. I also heard it one night when I was walking around the camp sites.

Thursday. Really too hot to do much during the day except sweat. Went up the High Meadow stage for dinner around 6 and listened to Milkdrive, the Deadly Gentlemen, sat at the charging station and listened to Devil Makes Three, then back up to the stage for Keller Williams and the Travelin’ McCourys, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Williams is quirky to say the least.

Blog_deadlyGents

Friday. Made it to 23 String Band at 1 pm in the dance tent. These guys were awesome! Check ’em out if they come to your area. One mike to huddle around is always good. I went for food, then came back for the end of I Draw Slow, a great Irish band playing more traditional Americana (I suppose). After that I headed over to the masters tent (a.k.a. Creekside) since it was too hot to be anywhere else. There I saw Nora Jane Struthers and up and coming band, then got a seat right in front for Milkdrive and then the Travelin’ McCourys. In the past, this tent was supposed to be for ‘workshops’ but this year it was more just another, more intimate stage. The McCoury’s were the only ones who tried to encourage questions – they got a lot of tune requests but finally someone asked a real question about Rob’s banjo, which he got from his father-in-law. He said he put 4000 hours into it. Ronnie and Rob also answered a question about their kids and their interest in music.

Rob McCoury

 

Travelin McCourys

 

I went back to the campsite after this to chill out – not that it was possible in the heat. I actually took a shower in the gravity shower they set up. Let me tell you, that water was hot, too!! I played a little guitar, which is why I also missed Della Mae on the main stage. We had just seen them at Passim’s so I wasn’t too broken up about it.

I did make it back for Del McCoury and the Infamous Stringdusters, both fabulous in different ways. Del held down the fort with some classic numbers, such as Vincent Black Lightning and Rain and Snow to close it out. (I swear Ronnie sounds more like him every year, too!!) He was bantering with the crowd and having a good ole time. The Stringdusters just tore up it from beginning to end – fast and faster was the order of the day.

blog_del

Saturday. After the usual morning jam session, I headed to lunch at caught the last part of the Lonely Heartstrings Band. They are one of the bands that Berklee seems to be churning out these days. The name comes from them covering Beatles tunes, which they did, but they also did some straight ahead bluegrass. Gabe Hirschfield on banjo is one to look out for. They did a Scruggs classic, which I can’t remember right now, which featured him. The vocals were strong, which is the only way you can get away with Beatles in bluegrass style.

It wasn’t as hot as the last 2 days, thankfully. I went back to camp for a while to rest up, then made my way back up the hill to see Tim O’Brien(m) with Bryan Sutton(g), Noam Pikelny(b), Casey Dressen(f), and Mike Bub(bs). Fairly straight foward set – I even noticed Thile checking them out in the VIP seating. Jerry Douglas hopped on stage for the last 2 numbers. After dinner, it was non-stop music.

Blog_OBrien

Up first, Thile/Daves duo began the set with their usual Monroe tune, Evening Prayer Blues. From there they went into the standard repertoire they have done on their album (Rabbit in a Log, Sophronie, Loneliness and Desperation, Sleep with One Eye Open, etc) along with a couple of tunes from Tim Sparks and one they did for a documentary, called Richmond (which tagged on Soldier’s Joy). Fiddle tune request time was Scotland (A), Whiskey Before Breakfast (D), and Big Sciota (G). You can find the video here. Brilliant as always.

Blog_ThileDaves

 

Next was the Jerry Douglas band, a.k.a. the Earls of Leceister, which does music of Flatt and Scruggs from the 50’s. Unexpected, but refreshing take on it. It seemed like a lot of people left the main stage to go see Rushad Eggleston at the dance tent. Video posted on youtube.

I had never seen the Carolina Chocolate Drops before, although I have a couple of their albums. Wow! What a show! Not only musically satisfying but also visually interesting. The crowd went crazy for them, too. Highly recommended. Here they are doing “Jackson“.

The Magnificent Late-Night Supersonic All-Stars was anchored by Tim O’Brien and included the base group of Thile, Bales, Douglas, Pikelny, Cushman, Driessen. Dom Flemmons from the Drops came back to hold down the fort on “Mama Don’t ‘low No Music Playing Round Here”. This gave every one a chance to stretch out, including him on harmonica. Thile did the Band version of Cripple Creek. Tim brought out Nora Jane Struthers to do Won’t You Sing with Me and another Hot Rize tune. I Draw Slow made an appearance for 2 songs. Courtney from Della Mae played a duet of I Am a Pilgrim with Bryan Sutton (Bryan mentioned that Tony Rice was not doing well…) Kimber Ludiker and Brittany Haas came out to lead Wheel Hoss. The highlight of the night might have been Rushad leading them on Mississippi Sawyer and I Peed on a Bird – pretty funny. Video here.

After that, we went back to the camp site for our own late night all star jam until about 3 am. Of course, the fie alarm sirens blasted everyone awake around 5 am!! By 8, it was time to pack up and leave another Grey Fox behind and return to civilization. My first stop was Starbucks on the turnpike, and I listened as I drove, to the audio I had recorded from the various sets I attended. Good stuff and kept me awake. After dumping off the camping gear at home, I headed back to Maine for the rest of the week.

Until next year…

Blog_tapestry

 

Chris

Check out my tumblr for more pics of Grey Fox 2013.

Splinters at Roslindale Open Mike

The Splinters were feature act at the Roslindale Open Mike on June 10, 2013. That means you get to do about 1/2 hour set or more if they like you. We prepared 6 songs and a couple of more in the wings, just in case and got to all of them for about 40 min.

Set List:

  • Long Journey Home/Old Grey Cat medley
  • In the Pines
  • Make Me a Pallet on the Floor
  • Red Haired Boy
  • Little Cabin Home on the Hill
  • My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It
  • Red Rocking Chair

Needless to say, we had a good time and people seemed to enjoy it, singing along to these old chestnuts.

Here’s a video I posted to youtube, in which I overlaid the sound from the board, so you can’t hear the crowd singing (awwww).

Hope you enjoy it and check out our gig schedule on splintersmusic.com. We kind of have a July vacation break, then 5 gigs in August.

Chris

The Splinters at Somerville Porchfest 2013

Somerville, MA – May 18, 2013 – J and I signed up for Somerville Porchfest, porch graciously provided by Jennifer Badot. We played from 2-4 pm. At first there were only a handful of people there, but pretty soon bikes, dogs, and roaming gangs of people stopped by. It was a windy day and we were in the shade on the porch, but folks mostly hung out across the street in the sun. Usually we play 2 sets, but when we got to the end of the first one, we didn’t want to stop in case the crowd decided to pick up and leave. So we kept going, calling a few audibles here and there from what we had on the list.

I video’d the whole thing from a stationary camera below us and here are a few of them I posted to YouTube.

Red Rocking Chair

In the Pines

Red Haired Boy

Make Me a Pallet on the Floor

We’re playing out about 2-4 times a month, so check out the web site for more info about when and where.

Chris

http://splintersmusic.com

 

 

John Renbourn Guitar Pieces

front coverI’ve had this book since sometime in the late 1970s, when I was learning to play more intricate finger-picking guitar songs.  I don’t remember where I found it – at that time I was living in Flagstaff, so it could have been there. I didn’t read music, but this book is all in standard notation, so it gave me the incentive to learn how to read. Now I find it much easier than tablature, which I think is the scourge of all guitarists everywhere and should be banned by law.

Back then, the first one I learned was Judy – I still play it occasionally. I also took on “A Day at the Seaside”, “Debbie Anne”, and “Ladye Nothynges Toye Puffe”. A lot of them are in the English Renaissance style he is known for, but there are a couple of the folkie ones.

Anyway…I have never seen this book anywhere else and it is certainly out of print now. Early on, I made a copy and bound it and used that for my main book. Recently, I figured I should find the original again in my stuff and scan it. If you want the hard copy, real book, there are a couple available on Amazon…used, of course. My book has the binding apart, which makes it easier to scan page by page.

I’ll post the book here for all, because I love Renbourn’s music and more people should be able to play it. 🙂 He has other books on his own site and there are various tab books from records he did with Stefan Grossman (I have some of those too.)

John Renbourn – Guitar Pieces (25M PDF).

Enjoy,

Chris

Grey Fox Festival 2012

Walsh Farm, NY. July 19-22, 2012. We attended the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival this year. I’m just getting around to writing it up, but it would certainly take a long time to capture all its awesomeness. Summary version: 4 days of listening, picking, and sweating. Yes, it was hot and dry for the most part, which was good, but it also forced you into the shade quite a bit. Luckily the Creekside Stage (aka Masters) was under a tent.

We arrived Wed about 6. J and Jennifer had already staked out a campsite cuz they got their earlier. We were next to 20+ year GF veterans, who had an bunch of campers and giant tents. They drank, swore, and were generally loud, but seemed to settle down over the week perhaps as they became more hungover and subdued. In the Picker’s Paradise, there is always a low hum of banjo and fiddle it seems.

Here’s the list of folks I was able to see:

Creekside Stage

  • Michael Daves Workshop (with Chris Thile)
  • Della Mae
  • Jessie McReynolds
  • Last part of Tim O’Brien cuz I was at the main stage watching Tony Trischka
  • Frank Sollivan
  • Dixie Bee-liners
  • David Bromberg (he was late and the sound on his guitar was horrible, so left)

Main Stage

  • Thurs: Dixie Beeliners; Thile-Daves; Bromberg Band
  • Fri: Deadly Gentlemen; Noam Pilkeny; Tribute to Scruggs, Watson; Del McCoury; David Grisman Sextet; Punch Brothers
  • Sat: Tony Trischka; Hot Rize

I posted some pics on my tumblr page.

When not attending concerts or workshops, J and I jammed, mostly in our campsite area, once with some friends we knew there. The whole idea was to play as much as possible, so we did that.

The food at the midway was excellent. I didn’t feel that compelled to cook at the campsite – who wants to do dishes and whatnot?

That’s it for now. Sorry I can’t review every concert we went to…no time, gotta practice!

Chris

Peter Rowan and Tony Rice at the Wilbur Theatre

Peter RowanApril 21, 2012. Boston, MA – Peter Rowan and Tony Rice, along with the Travelin’ McCoury’s came to Boston’s Wilbur Theatre for a night of “The Music of Bill Monroe”. They played 2 sets of just under an hour, including the encore number. All of the tunes were songs written or recorded by Bill Monroe. We were sitting right in front of the stage, so had a good view of everything, although the sound was mostly behind us. Still, you could definitely here the acoustic instruments from where we were sitting. There were only a handful of mikes on stage and the members of the band moved around to get into position to play or sing. It was quite the ballet sometimes. And did I mention that Tony Rice was right in front of me!! Playing the 1935 Martin D-28 (58597) he got from Clarence White!! What a treat!

Here’s the set list:

Set 1
Long Journey Home
Bluegrass Breakdown
In the Pines
I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome
Groundspeed
Tony Rice Intro by Peter(21:30)
The First Whippoorwill
Used to Be (Uncle Jerry singing)
Uncle Pen
The Old Old House(George Jones hit)
Live and Let Live
Cheyenne (‘here that now, that’s the Indian sound’ Also where The Land of the Navajo originated, a song by Rowan)

Set 2
Blue Moon of Kentucky (in 3, then 4)
I Hear a Sweet Voice Calling
Walls of Time
Kentucky Mandolin
Beautiful Life (quartet singing, Pete and Tony accompany)
Blue Night (Jerry lead vocal)
This Land – bass/banjo duet
Molly and Tenbrooks
Footprints in the Snow (audience request – “you’re in New England, play Footprints!”)
With Body and Soul
Salt Creek
Muleskinner Blues – Encore

The concert started simply with just Peter Rowan(guitar, vocals) and Ronnie McCoury (mandolin, vocals) singing Long Journey Home before the band strolled on stage to kick it into high gear. Peter Rowan has a great voice and is still going strong from the looks of things. The rest of the band members were: Rob McCoury (banjo), Jason Carter (fiddle), and Jerry McCoury (bass). Jerry was apparently subbing for the regular bass player who had to be back home waiting for a baby delivery. This was some high caliber bluegrass!

The next song was “the first bluegrass instrumental ever recorded” with Earl Scruggs on banjo: Bluegrass Breakdown. This gave everyone a chance to blister the strings on a quick one. The band was tight! Of course, they were playing all these bluegrass standards, which they’ve probably played a million times, so even if they never rehearsed before, it’s okay! In fact, Peter noted that ‘we don’t have tuners on our instruments’ and that they also didn’t have a set list (at least one that was written down). He claimed that they never knew what Bill Monroe was going to play or what key it was going to be in – Monroe would just chop a chord and you better get goin’!

There were certainly a few tributes to Earl Scruggs, since he contributed mightily to the bluegrass sound, along with Bill Monroe. A tune written by Scruggs, Groundspeed, was led by Rob McCoury. Both Ronnie and Jason Carter had amazing solos on this with good support from the band.

Tony Rice
“The most influential guitar player in the history of bluegrass…” came on the stage after that – Tony Rice! I had never seen him play before (that I recall, anyway). I was getting goosebumps just watching him, and the guitar is legendary. Even while he was tuning up, you could hear its power. As Peter said while Tony was tuning on stage, “It doesn’t cost a thing, but I’d pay to hear that.” It took about the first set for Tony to warm up. He does not look in the peak of health, even though he’s only 60 yrs old. A couple of times you could hear him talk on stage from where we were and he sounded like Miles Davis with the croaky voice. I was surprised watching him that he actually flubbed a few notes! Others around me were speculating about arthritis – at times it looked like he was telling his fingers to do something but they were not cooperating the same way as in the past. What people may not notice immediately was that the rhythm playing added another dimension on top of what Peter was playing. There were times when he added these jazzy chords to the progression that caused everyone to smile. Over the course of the night the solos got better and better. In particular, Walls of Time and Kentucky Mandolin, Cheyenne, and Salt Creek, were highlights. It looked like the rest of the band was enjoying listening to Tony, too, almost in reverence.

Other highlights included the singing and bass playing of “Uncle Jerry” McCoury. The bass was solid throughout and he has one of those good country voices with a little bit of twang. Jason Carter on fiddle was inspirational in his playing, either as a lead or accompanying. I really enjoyed the song, Beautiful Life, which had a simple guitar accompaniment but the feature was the quartet singing around the microphone. And did I mention the awesome banjo and bass duet on This Land?

I guess there wasn’t anything I didn’t like about this concert. The sound could have been better from where we were sitting, that’s my only complaint.

Here’s Salt Creek from that night – Enjoy. Salt Creek.mp3

	

I hope they make another visit up to New England soon!

Chris

2012 Joe Val Bluegrass Festival

Framingham, MA, February 18, 2012 – Another year, another Joe Val Festival took place at the Sheraton in Framingham, MA. I was able to go on Saturday, but The Splinters had a gig on Sunday, so I couldn’t go both days. I got there around noon and quickly found my way to the Josh Williams Band, playing on the main stage, aka, the ballroom. Josh gained a bit of youtube fame because of this video, where a bird landed on him during a gig – over 1.1M hits!! Most for any bluegrass musician, for sure. Too bad he didn’t get any money for that!! 🙂

Joe Val Workshop with Geoff Bartley

At 1 pm I headed for the workshops. These are my favorite part because the rooms are small and you get an informal lesson from these great performers. I went to the Geoff Bartley/Howie Tarnower guitar/mandolin blues workshop first. They basically were winging it, calling tunes they both knew and played before together. Geoff did a good job of providing some background on them before they played their version. Some of the tunes they played were:

  • My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It
  • Wine Boy Blues
  • Careless Love
  • Sittin on Top of the World
  • Laurie Lewis song re: Prohibition
  • Rolling Spencer? in Bb…

It was fun to hear them play. J and I had been to Geoff’s open mike at the Cantab, and he is very nice and welcoming there, too.

Charlie Lawson workshop

Charlie Lawson workshop

Next I went to see Charlie Lawson, who plays rhythm guitar for Michael Cleveland. It also appears that they are good friends because Michael was there with him, but on mandolin instead of fiddle! The workshop was on rhythm guitar, of course, and Charlie said he’d never really done one of these before, but he was really good at explaining his thought process. Key to playing these fast tunes is certainly to stretch beforehand and to try to relax. If you’ve ever heard Michael Cleveland you know he plays fast! Charlie was influenced by Jimmy Martin and Jimmy Rodgers. I always notice that these performers always have a strong sense of the history of their instrument and can reach back for the most obscure records to listen to. They demo’d some things on Big Country, Sweet Dixie, and Waitin’ for a Train. Another interesting guitar-playing tidbit was that he uses a fairly flexible pick (maybe .8?), so he really only plays rhythm (and has a great voice, so he’s the lead singer in the band, too). Also, that’s Michael Cleveland’s 1944 Martin D-28 he’s playing and that sucker was loud.

Around 3 is when J, my fellow Splinter, showed up and we got our instruments to play in the hallway a bit. I was a bit shy about it, so we went in one of those business centers on the bottom floor, where people could see us playing and hear us if they walked past. Just like outdoor bluegrass festivals, there is a tradition at Joe Val to jam, only you have to play in the hallways and rooms of the hotel. More on that later…

Ashby Frank

Ashby Frank, Mandolin

4 pm we went to the mandolin workshop led by Ashby Frank, again from M. Cleveland band. I think he said he was in his late 20’s, but boy could he play. Both Charlie and Ashby talked about various ailments they were suffering from – life on the road ain’t all roses, people. Ashby was more of a feel player and he said, ‘don’t do it like I do it, cuz it’s probably wrong’. The lesson is to find out what works for you by playing and listening. He demo’d a few techniques on Steel Guitar Rag (in E), Dailey’s Reel (Bb), and Roanoke. I think J came away with some to-do’s to work on.

At 5 pm was the man himself, Michael Cleveland with a fiddle workshop. Again, Charlie Lawson accompanied him. He basically just took questions from the audience. First up was about his fiddle, which has 5 strings. It’s made by John Silakowski who’s out of Indiana, where Cleveland is from. The story goes that he somehow played this particular instrument and wanted it, but it was promised to someone else. That other person “didn’t like it” so it came back and end up in Michael’s hands. He’s another one with a strong knowledge of the fiddle tradition. Someone asked him about what to listen to and he reeled off a string of obscure old records you probably couldn’t find anywhere. Tunes they played: Lost Indian, Orange Blossom Special!, Hear that Lonesome Whistle Bow, and Black Mountain Rag.

Michael Cleveland

Now we were inspired to play some more, so we went out in the hallway to jam. It was 6 pm, so a lot of people were going to get some food. A big group showed up near us to jam also, so we went over to join them. They let J call the first tune, which was Temperance Reel. They weren’t really a fiddle tune crowd, but one of the fiddlers got on board with it. After that, it was a lot of Hank Williams and other standard bluegrass tunes. People came and went. J had to leave about 7:30 but I stayed and played until about 9, when my arm was going to fall off. At one point 4 fiddlers joined in and called some fast ones. Phew! Here’s a link to some stealth video of the jam that someone took and posted. It was fun.

By that time it was 9 pm and food options were limited. I hadn’t eaten all day, so I roamed the hallways and checked out the various jam sessions that were going on. I got myself some doritos in the hotel lobby to hold me over. I checked out the Claire Lynch band a bit, but I didn’t like them, so I wandered the halls again. There were some good players out there, for sure. Here are some photos I took.

Bass player

Cool Dobro

Dobro

Hallway Jam
Hallway Jam

At 10:30 the Michael Cleveland and Flamekeepers was set to start. What a band! I think the Flame Keepers reference is about how much they light the place on fire! (or to say it properly, “faar”). The repertoire is straight ahead bluegrass and country, in the tradition. And they don’t mess around with silly slow tunes, except for maybe the waltzes. I didn’t write down the set list this time, but they pulled from their albums, so go check them out if you haven’t already. They played until about 12:15 or so. Of course, the fiddle tunes they are known for, Orange Blossom Special and Jerusalem Ridge, came out and were administered to. I did manage to turn on my iPhone sound recorder for Jerusalem Ridge and it came out enough to enjoy. This is typically just a duet with Ashby and Michael on mandolin and fiddle.

Jerusalem Ridge

After that concert, I wondered the halls again and the jams were still going strong. I stopped by one near the lobby where Josh Williams was playing with the folks from Flatt Lonesome, a.k.a. kids with braces! It was good pickin’ and singin’ however.

Josh Williams

Josh Williams at Joe Val Festival

Mandolin Case

Mandolin Case

I got home about 1:30 that night, tired and hungry, but had a great day of bluegrass at the festival.

Chris

Other handy links:

Second Cousin Curly posts a lot of bluegrass video and was at Joe Val. Some good stuff here.

 

The Splinters Play Oh Susanna

J and I played at the West Roxbury Open Mike, which J emcees each month. The video below captures our performance of Oh Susanna. We first played this tune up in Maine one weekend just goofing around and it stuck. After each taking a chorus for improvising, we play together in a counterpoint before taking it to the finish.

(I don’t know why WordPress doesn’t display youtube videos sometimes, so here’s the link to it.)

Oh Susanna

We also played 2 medleys:

Cold Frosty Morning > Old Grey Cat – this one we played 2 choruses of each tune and switched back and forth. The first one is in Am and the second in Em, gives it a cool effect.

Blackberry Blossom > Kitchen Girl. Blackberry we did medium tempo 3 times through, then pick it up a notch for Kitchen Girl. It’s high energy.

Chris

http://splintersmusic.com

Gillian Welch at the Wilbur Theatre

December 13, 2011. Boston, MA – I finally got to see and hear Gillian Welch and David Rawlings on their last concert of the tour. This was previously scheduled for Oct. 27 but got rescheduled due to a bout of laryngitis. It was certainly worth the wait, and as Gillian said during the concert, “It gave us a chance to fix a few things…” including a crack in her guitar (Gibson J-50, which you can see in the Fall 2011 issue of Fretboard Journal with Welch on the cover, showing the guitar with tape on it.) and a banjo repair. They seemed very relaxed and Rawlings family had come in from RI and were sitting right in front of us, adding to the familiarity. They are pretty funny in the banter dept. too.

The pair were in fine form on this second night of two at the Wilbur Theatre, which is a great venue for them. We were in the mezzanine about 5 rows up and the sound and sight-lines were excellent. This was a “standing room on the floor” gig, which I think is a stupid way to enjoy a concert, but whatever…we had seats. Much better than the House of Blues when we saw Dave Rawlings Machine with Old Crow Medicine show and others, where the seats are too far back and the crowd was too noisy during the Rawlings/Welch set.

picture of gillian welch on stage for encore

The stage setting is very sparse, with only mikes on stage for the 2 guitars and 2 vocalists – no plugging in here, and they have the luxury of getting the sound just right with the microphones. The other notable stage prop is “The Box” which sits between them and contains everything they might need on stage, from strings to picks to harmonicas. The other noteworthy item was they had to stand on a rubber mat so they wouldn’t get shocked by the microphones!

The music itself is just what I expected, and more. Welch typically will crouch down away from the mics and start getting into the right groove before beginning the song. It was a real lesson in focus and intimacy. While Welch holds down the rhythm, Rawlings weaves his magic in and around the vocals. Their voices blend so well, it is sometimes hard to tell who is singing without looking at them. They started with Scarlett Town, off of the new album, “The Harrow and the Harvest”. This gives plenty of room for both of them and got us ready for what was to come.

Highlights for me were Scarlett Town (a great song, strong start), Make Me a Palette, 6 White Horses (with the dance – “I usually do this in private only…”), I Hear Them Alland the encores were just perfect, I’ll Fly Away with the audience singing along and ending with White Rabbit. I think they worked in all of the tunes from the new album and they sound like timeless classics, well-integrated with the older songs.

Gillian posted the handwritten set list to her twitter feed (@gillianwelch, but not much tweeting there). The concert started at 8:20 (I think they were late getting dinner at Legal!). The first set ended at 9:10. After a 20 min break, the second set was from 9:30-10:15 with the encores extending the show to 10:50.

Gillian Set List

Here it is in text form…and more accurate, in my opinion.

  1. Scarlett Town
  2. Make me a Pallete on the floor – ref. Doc Watson
  3. Rock of ages
  4. The Way It Will Be
  5. Annabelle
  6. I Want to Sing that Rock and Roll
  7. That’s the Way it Goes
  8. Silver Dagger
  9. Red Clay

Second set:

  1. Hard Times
  2. Down Along The Dixie Line
  3. Elvis Presley Blues
  4. Ms Ohio – ‘she wants to do right, but not right now’ << classic line.
  5. 6 White Horses – with G doin a dance and Dave on banjo
  6. I Hear Them All/This Land medley – led by Dave
  7. My Wrecking Ball
  8. Caleb Meyer

Encore

  1. Tennessee
  2. I’ll Fly Away – audience sing-a-long!
  3. Time the Revelator
  4. The Way the Whole Thing Ends
  5. White Rabbit – turn up the reverb!

Other reviews worth reading: Jambands (includes good pic).

Now, go buy the new album so they’ll make another one before 8 years passes by.

Your intrepid concert-goer,

Chris

Carrie Rodriguez at Passim

Carrie Rodriguez - FiddleJune 14, 2011, Cambridge, MA – Catching up on my concert reviews for 2011. I really should do this right after the event happens….I have been listening to Carrie Rodriquez for a few years now and love her. She’s another one from Austin and is known for her fiddle playing as well as singing and songwriting. I recently saw her perform on The Colbert Report with Jeff Bridges – I’m guessing I was one of the few who actually recognized her.

As you can see from the picture I took, I got a table in the front row at Club Passim, aka my favorite music room. She only had one other musician on this gig (whose name escapes me, sorry) who switched among pedal steel, electric, and acoustic guitars. Carrie herself moved from fiddle to mandobird to tenor guitar. She can really play and her  style moves from down-home country fiddlin’ to indie singer-songwriter.

The set included new songs from her latest album (which I just bought on Amazon for only $4.99!) as well as some of hits from her past albums, like She Ain’t Me and Seven Angels on a Bicycle. I didn’t realize that the latter song was about a friend who had passed away and this story added some extra poignancy to the piece during the show.

She seems to be constantly touring, so next time she’s in your town, go see her and support live music – that’s how they make their money, people! I think the only disappointing part of the night was that the club was not completely full, perhaps due to the Tuesday night slot.

The Set List:

  1. Keep your Words
  2. Big Love
  3. I Don’t Want to Play House Anymore
  4. 50’s French
  5. Absence
  6. Got Your Name On It
  7. Lake Harriet
  8. Waterbound
  9. She Ain’t Me
  10. Seven Angels on a Bicycle
  11. I am Not a Farmer -> Blackberry
  12. When I Heard Gypsy Davy Sing
  13. El Salvador
  14. Today I Started Loving You
  15. Never Gonna Be Your Bride
  16. La Punalada Trapera
  17. Encores – I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry; Say Darlin’ Say

The traditional picture of the setlist.

Carrie R. Set List