Thursday, April 30, 2009

Merlefest: The Artists

The best part of Merlefest is that it not only attracts the established artists, but it is a showcase for rising performers as well as novices. At Merlefest, anyone can bring an instrument onto the grounds, and in fact, the promoters actually encourage it. They have established several pickin' tents, open mic tents, the open mic coffeehouse, and the gravel stage - all for amateurs and aspiring artists . And throughout the festival grounds, at any part of the day, small cliques of musicians form - young and old - to pick and learn from each other. There are also official instrument contests (banjo, mandolin, guitar) as well as the Chris Austin Songwriters Contest. "The festival for the proletariat".

Over the course of the festival we were able to meet a few of these aspiring artists - first with fiddler Wyatt Espalin and guitarist Cobi Ferguson of Trees Leave. The duo performed in the Chris Austin Songwriters Contest in the bluegrass category - having one of the 12 songs selected out of 840. The Nashville based band is already establishing a name for themselves on the east coast, performing regularly from Florida to New York. They also have a nice CD out called "Run" which contains the song they submitted to the songwriter contest "Water Falls" and one we like even more in "Artificial Yesterday".

We also had a chance encounter at the Friday night Coffeehouse when Neeley Bridges and Andy Jobe had a chance to perform because of a scheduling conflict. The two formed the Neeley Bridges and Andy Jobe Band and are currently based out of New York City. The decided to attend Merlefest because Bridges is a local girl from Winston-Salem and they were hoping for a chance to perform to an audience at the festival. After listening to Bridges' debut album "Devil On My Shoulder", this band has a chance - she has a great voice - just listen to the first track "On The Ground".

Over the three days we followed several rising acts starting with Bearfoot. This young band has a new lead singer in Odessa Jorgensen and a new CD Doors & Windows. This is a nice compilation and over the course of 4 sets we were able to hear our favorite tune, Time Is No Medicine", three times. The one downfall of the CD is it doesn't showcase their musical talents well enough. This group can play as shown by the three standing ovations we saw the band receive. Another bluegrass band we followed closely was the Spring Creek Bluegrass Band. They also have a new CD, "Way Up on a Mountain" and interestingly two of our favorites are instrumentals composed by banjo player Chris Elliott. The band's performance Saturday at the Walker Center was awesome. On Saturday we made sure we penciled in The Belleville Outfit since that was the only day they were scheduled to perform, albeit three times. They started at the main Watson stage accompanied by two of our new favorites: The Dixie Bee-Liners and The Farewell Drifters. They then had a popular set at the Creekside stage where we heard the first samples of their cross overs into jazz and blues. They ended the day at the Dance tent, having fun and playing a few covers in their unique rootsy, swing, bluesy style. Look for their new CD, Time to Stand, to be released shortly. We only had a chance to watch one Ollabelle set, but what a set, with Martha Scanlan and David Bromberg playing the entire set and Jim Lauderdale sitting in for a couple.

We have already mentioned The Greencards in previous posts concerning the festival, so the last rising band we'd like to focus on was one of the "grunts" of the festival: Scythian. They opened the festival Thursday on the Watson stage and finished that day at the opening night dance. Over the next three days they performed at least 5 more times closing with a jammed packed, entertaining performance Sunday on the Austin stage. Don't come expecting to sit and relax during one of Scythian's performances. They expect everyone to participate - from dancing, singing, jumping, ... whatever. I think we had the most fun watching their antics and listening to them play - they can play. Not bad for a group who last year were confined strictly to the gravel stage.

Then there are the established acts and superstars. We're talking about Doc Watson, himself, The Del McCoury Band, Tony Rice, Sam Bush, Jim Lauderdale, David Bromberg, Emmylou Harris, The Waybacks, and BeauSoleil. You know going in that each chance to see one of these artists is special and are guaranteed a solid performance. But by far, the best sets we saw were the two given by Donna the Buffalo Friday, first on the Hillside stage then that evening in the dance tent. What more do you need to say about this group; I could watch Jeb Puryear play guitar all day. And Ms. Nevins is not too shabby herself; the same for the entire band. They are awesome; Cajun rock or whatever you want to call it. Add in appearances by Jim Lauderdale and Leonard Podolak of the The Duhks and that's a memorable show. We are now card carrying members of The Herd.

That's it for this year's coverage. We wish we could have seen more performances, particularly from The Duhks, Cadillac Sky, and Missy Raines & The New Hip. By the way, the later has a new CD out, Inside Out, that we can only describe as cool. Mostly instrumentals, but great listening material. We hope to see you next year.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Merlefest: The Songs

At any festival there are usually a handful of individual performances of a song that stick in memory. This leads to remarks down the road such as, remember when Guy Forsyth sang "Mona" at the 2004 ACL? And Merlefest had its share. One example even occurred with the same song, when The Dixie Bee-Liners covered the bluegrass "Pioneer" Bo Didley on the Watson stage.The band played the same song the following day on the Hillside stage - but for whatever reason, their performance Saturday was more memorable. Maybe it was sharing the stage with members of The Belleville Outfit, or playing the main stage, or not being fatigued from 11 performance over 4 days, or just the thrill of hearing one of your favorite songs first played at a "bluegrass" festival.

Then there were the songs saluting fathers. I guess I'm becoming a sappy old dad. It started Friday with Dennis Duff's "A Man of Few Words" during the The 17th annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest and continued with Emmylou Harris and her tribute to her father Saturday night. And it ended Sunday, with one of the final performances, The Gibson Brothers Bottomland. Fortunately I had downloaded that song to my ipod from their latest CD, Ring the Bell, and listened several times on the drive home. This is a great CD.

Then there was the unexpected, as in The Farewell Drifters cover of John Hartford's "In Tall Buildings. Who are these guys? What a great choice of a song to play. Their "River Song" was another good one.

The most jaw dropping performance occurred Sunday on the Hillside when The Greencards covered Patty Griffin's "What You Are". Many of us had never heard this song previously since it was recorded in Griffin's unreleased Selling Bells. But Carol Young nailed it - what an amazing voice. After wards it took the audience a few seconds to recover before applauding. Unbelievable the talent that amasses at Merlefest.

I would think one of the most memorable performances for those who stayed Sunday, was by Scythian on the Austin\Sugar Hill stage. After Danylo Fedoryka requested that the audience stand and lock arms, the band burst into "Those Were the Days". Hilarious. It did originate in Eastern Europe, so it was quite appropriate for this band. But throughout the entire song the audience swayed from side to side, or kicked, or bopped their head - risking following down the steep hillside. Awesome.

Merlefest: The Blues

Merlefest is best known for the tremendous bluegrass, folk, and country artists that regularly perform during the festival. But at the 2009 event, festival regular Roy Book Binder hosted "The Greatest Acoustic Blues Show on Earth" at the Austin\Sugar Hill stage on Saturday. Besides himself, the series included five time WC Handy Blues Music Award winner Rory Block, XM Favorite Doug MacLeod, Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, Patrick Sweany, Pat Donohue as well as folksters Mitch Greenhill and Happy Traum. Book Binder, Sweeny, and Traum also performed Sunday on the Americana stage and Block performed a short set on the Watson stage when the Waybacks were delayed. What a treat.

For us the highlights were finally being able to watch Macleod and Book Binder live after hearing them often on the radio. And we were introduced to the musical talents of both Sweany and Holmes. Jimmy "Duck" Holmes (pictured above) was a special treat since he apparently operates the longest running juke joint in Mississippi. "Joog" from MyJoog is one of the original terms in which Juke transformed to. Plus the guy can play - in the unusual Bentonia style - but he can play. "Little Red Rooster" - traditional blues at its best. In the same vein, MacLeod is "one of the last remaining Bluesmen who learned from the old masters". He has played with George "Harmonica" Smith, Big Joe Turner, Pee Wee Crayton, Eddie 'Cleanhead' Vinson, Lowell Fulson and Big Mama Thornton. Fortunately Bill Wax is also a fan so we get to hear him regularly on satellite radio.
Roy Book Binder Happy Traum
Roy Book Binder performed his narrative blues - a master storyteller - both Saturday and Sunday. He taught us about the Reverend Gary Davis, a blind blues and gospel performer from South Carolina. Eventually he wound up in New York City and become known as the "Harlem Street Singer". Davis was "rediscovered" with the help of Peter, Paul, & Mary and his performance at the Samson and Delilah at the Newport Folk Festival. Within his story, Book Binder narrated Peter, Paul, & Mary made sure Davis received royalties for all of their covers of Davis' work. With new income, Davis set up shop in Long Island teaching guitar. One of his students: Roy Book Binder. Book Binder also introduced us to Hacksaw Harney and "Pink" Davidson, by playing a song each in their honor. We could have sat all day listening to his stories.

The future of the blues is safe in the hands of Patrick Sweany. Roy Book Binder told us the tale how they met from a couple of chance encounters with Sweany's father. That's him playing the tub with Patrick. One fortunate day Book Binder discovered the discarded demo CD in his fan and decided to give it a try. After cycling through the initial 30 seconds of each song, he realized that Sweany was already just as good her better than he. Book Binder humorously told us his response, "I contacted Patrick and told him that I heard his CD and was impressed. He had two options. I could kill him or help him." Patrick selected the later. Sweany can rock as with the Chelsea Swing or he can slow it down and he has some great lyrics - "Ford Don't Make a Bedroom". Go out and see this guy play and see why he will be a featured MyJoog artist very soon.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

MerleFest: The 17th annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest

On Friday while exploring the grounds, I stumbled upon the Austin stage which was just preparing to host the finals for the 17th annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. I decided to have a seat and for the next 90 minutes heard better songs than those played on the popular airwaves. From a collection of unknown artists nonetheless. The contest is named in honor of famed songwriter, Chris Austin, who perished in a 1991 plane crash along with other members of Reba McEntire's band.

The contest is open to all songwriters and 840 entries were submitted this year. Many now popular artists received their first big break from this contest: Gillian Welch, Tift Merritt, Michael Reno Harrell, Adrienne Young, and Martha Scanlan. And proceeds from the entrance fee support the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship.

The 840 entries are allocated to several categories: Bluesgrass, Country, Gospel, General. The songs were judged by a panel of other songwriters, publishers, executives, music professionals - the usual suspects. This panel narrowed the field to just three songwriters within each category, and that is who I heard perform on that stage. Jim Lauderdale was the 2009 and he was joined by the distinguished and entertaining judges: Leonard Podolak of The Duhks, Tift Merritt, and John Lohman, Program Director of the Virginia Folk Life Program at the Virginia Foundation of the Humanities.

The contest lead off with the Bluegrass category with Cobi Ferguson & Wyatt Espalin (Trees Leave), Carol Hausner, and Brink Brinkman. This was the most difficult category where, from our opinion, there was no clear winner. And it was difficult to categorize the songs. Ferguson & Espalin song was the most traditional bluegrass, whereas Hausner's seemed more country and Brinkman's more alt-country. In fact, I envision Chris Knight making his "Old Coal Mine" a hit. In the end the judges deemed that Carol Hauser had penned the best song.

The Gospel category, like every category, contained three great songs; this time by Richard Henry, Jo Ellen Doering, and once again Brink Brinkman. Nice to have two songs selected to the finals. And to us, and obviously the judges, Brinkman's was the clear favorite: Beyond the Rain. Lookout for this song and this songwriter.

The country category contained another clear winner, with perhaps one of the best individual songs I heard the entire festival: Dennis Duff's "A Man of Few Words". I don't know if being a relatively new dad had in influence, but this song mesmerized myself as well as the judges. This will be a hit. Sorry Lloyd Wood and Tonya Lowman.

The final category was the catch all and was where we heard our first blues of the weekend, from winner Miles and Letha Costin who perform with Greg Bockover as the Transzenders. The Costin's had home field advantage from being from Raleigh and being regulars at the Merlefest open jam coffeehouse. Plus there song, "Unmarked Pavement", was pretty cool. Ron Fetner's "Carolina Rain" was also a good song as was John Smith's "I Will Fly". To bad someone has to win.

The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest was a great place to start the festival - witnessing the songs and stars of tomorrow. If you or someone you know is an aspiring songwriter, this is where to start.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Merlefest - Friday

Despite being a dry festival, Merlefest is proving it is one of the most exciting musical events we have attended. Not only is the music incredible but attendees have immediate access to the artists. Want to say Hi to Jim Lauderdale. Walk on up. The same applies to Tift Merritt, The Duhks, the Spring Creek Bluegrass Band, Bearfoot, and the other dozens of artists performing each day. This festival is also fascinating from the hundreds of attendees who carry their own instruments onto the grounds and perform at the pickin' tents or the coffeehouse. The festival for the proletariat. In a similar fashion we witnessed the Jim Lauderdale hosted songwriter competition held at the Chris Austion stage. Almost a thousand songwriters submitted entries and only 3 were selected in four categories: Bluegrass, Gospel, Country, and General. The caliber of the songs and musicians were better than the standard Nashville fare. But the highlight of the day was Donna the Buffalo, who performed twice, once at the Hillside stage and then in the Dance tent. Both shows were awesome, but the dance performance was unbelievable. Add in appearances from Jim Lauderdale and Leonard Podolak of The Duhks, and it was a special evening. Check back later this week for expanded coverage.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

MyJoog Artist: The Greencards

At the 2004 Austin City Limits Music Festival we had a chance to watch a little known group perform on a small, sparsely attended stage and thought, wow that band is really good. Sort of bluegrass, sort of Celtic; while neighboring attendees thought they were watching Nickle Creek. The next day we arrived early in order to catch Kelly Willis and who do we find supporting her, the same band from the previous day: The Greencards. We were sold. Since then we have attended several performances by the band and have practically destroyed their first three CDs (Viridian, Weather and Water, and Movin' On) from over use.

The Greencards are Carol Young, Kym Warner, and Eamon McLoughlin; who all found themselves in Austin at about the same time. Not that atypical, except Young and Warner are from Australia and McLoughlin is from the United Kingdom. Separately all were raised in households that listened to American roots and country music. But not American bluegrass, as Ms. Young relates, "bluegrass was very hard to find in Sydney". Young and Warner found success as country artists, but both foresaw limited options in their home countries. Independently, they set off for Austin were their musical tastes were more appreciated. The Greencards formed about six years ago and after their debut album Movin' On, still had to make ends meet as studio musicians. At the time we first witnessed their act, McLoughlin was also a supporting musician for Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis. Ms. Willis invited the band to perform a couple opening songs then had The Greencards accompany her for the remainder of the set. This was one of the most memorable sets we have witnessed over three years attending the ACL.

During this period, the band slowly started to click, however, there was still several lows that every artist experiences. As Ms Young describes, "... I remember was a very poorly attended show in Charlotte, NC, next to no one showed up. We climbed into the van after the show and drove to Annapolis, MD. The three of us were totally bummed out, no one was talking to one another and everyone was at rock bottom. Then my phone rang, it was our booking agent in Nashville. He said, 'Are you sitting down - you've just been asked to open for Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson on their 6 week summer tour in baseball stadiums.' We quickly changed our attitudes!" The highs and lows in the music industry. We actually attended one of these performances at the Bowie Baysox stadium. The stadium was jammed packed - great publicity.

Within the music industry, artists must continually tour in order to increase name recognition and support CD sales. The Greencards are no exception and have toured throughout the United States and on occasion have returned home to perform. Some of their favorite venues are the The Ark in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Nashville's Ryman Auditorium; Houston's McGonigel's Mucky Duck; the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis, Maryland; and the Sierra Nevada Tap Room in Chico, California. They will be performing at some of these venues, as well as some of our favorites (Jammin' Java and Knuckleheads) starting April 27th in support of their current CD, Fascination.

The band is very excited about this effort, particularly after spending more time writing and testing the material at bluegrass festivals before entering the studio. According to Warner, "Normally, we start writing a couple of weeks before recording ... and this time, we took eight or nine months”. Ms. Young believes it is their most focused CD and is more themed based than the previous. Each member "wrote differently, trying to create sound more like a unit ... starting with the title track, "Fascination." But don't worry; the CD portrays the bands trademark style - "after all we're still an acoustic band with fiddle, mandolin, guitar and bass".

We haven't listened to the CD, but will have our first taste at Merlefest, while we stalk the band during their multiple performances Saturday and Sunday. The trio are also looking forward to the festival, a chance to catch Linda Ronstadt on stage as well as the impromptu jam sessions that erupt when several artists find themselves in the same location. We can't wait - both their Merlefest sets and their April 27th show at Jammin' Java. Who knows we may even show up to the Rams Head Tavern on the 28th, Cafe 939 on the 30th.....

(Photo courtesy of The Greencards.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sunfest 2009

For the past few years artists have tended to exclude south Florida from their national tours because of its relative isolation from the heart of the country. Its just been too expensive to drive that far south. However one event that has consistently attracted popular performers to south Florida is Sunfest and the 2009 lineup looks like the best that we've seen. Need more incentive - the festival is located in the nicest section of West Palm Beach right on Flagler Drive - overlooking the Intercoastal Waterway. The promoters are right on when they exclaim "Where Music Meets the Waterfront".

No wonder the artists flock to this event. We are talking about 311, Citizen Cope, James Taylor, Slightly Stoopid, Randy Bachman, Collective Soul, Pepper, David Cook, Cold War Kids, UB40, Need To Breathe, G. Love & Special Sauce, Matt Nathanson, Bettye Lavette, and the Steve Miller Band. And this list doesn't include dozens of other excellent Reggae, Rock, Pop, Jazz, Americana, and Acoustic artists that will be performing throughout the festival.

The 2009 Sunfest runs from Wednesday April 29th through Sunday May 3rd. Tickets range from a one day early bird pass (purchase by April 26th) for $29 to a five day pass for $65 ($60 early bird). What a bargain compared to other festivals. Most festivals of this size charge close to $100 for just 3 days of music (See the Austin City Limits festival); but Sunfest, 5 days for $60-$65. Come on. This is an awesome event. You will be sure that editors will be onsite; there's no way we would miss this fest. And like most festivals we attend, feelfree to upload our photos of the event to the MyJoog Sunfest Facebook page. Now for the full lineup:

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 Stage

Tire Kingdom Stage

Coors Light Stage

5:30 p.m. Wavves (beach punk)
6:30 p.m. The Mae Shi (punk)
7:45 p.m. Solillaquists of Sound (hip-hop)
9:15 p.m. 311 (alternative rock)
5:30 p.m. Spam Allstars (funk/electronica/Latin)
6:45 p.m. Awesome New Republic (punk/soul)
8:00 p.m. Kinky (electronica/alternative rock)

Thursday, April 30, 2009 Stage

Tire Kingdom Stage

Coors Light Stage

5:30 p.m. Black Finger (American rock/indie)
7:15 p.m. Risa Binder (pop/rock/country/soul)
8:45 p.m. James Taylor (pop/folk/soft rock)
6:00 p.m. Griffin Anthony (acoustic/soul)
8:15 p.m. Citizen Cope (hip-hop/folk/blues)

Friday, May 1, 2009 Stage

Tire Kingdom Stage

Coors Light Stage

5:30 p.m. The Expendables (reggae/punk)
6:05 p.m. Crisis in Hollywood (pop/punk)
6:50 p.m.
Pennywise (punk rock)
8:20 p.m. Pepper (reggae/dub/rock)
9:50 p.m. Slightly Stoopid (punk rock/reggae/dub)
5:15 p.m. The Ben Robinson Band (blues/rock)
7:15 p.m. The Nouveaux Honkies (Americana/roots/country)
9:15 p.m. Randy Bachman (rock)
5:45 p.m. Monty Warren & the Whatevers (Americana/adult contemporary rock)
7:30p.m. Mark Gaignard & The Also Ran (singer/songwriter)
9:00 p.m. Collective Soul (alternative rock/post-grunge)

Saturday, May 2, 2009 Stage

Tire Kingdom Stage

Coors Light Stage

12:15 p.m. Card Sound Road (rock/country/blues)
2:00 p.m. Tonic (alternative rock)
4:00 p.m. Gin Blossoms (alternative rock)
6:15 p.m. New Noise Standard (pop/rock)
7:30 p.m. NeedToBreathe (rock/alternative)
9:30 p.m. David Cook (alternative rock)
1:00 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Classic Albums Live's Jimmy Hendrix/The Who/Beatles (tribute rock)
5:30 p.m. Hep Cat Boo Daddies (rock/blues)
7:00 p.m. Ever So Klever (power swing)
9:00 p.m. UB40 (reggae, dub)
1:00 p.m. The Resolvers (reggae)
3:00 p.m. Sly & Robbie (reggae)
5:15 p.m. Wait for Green (alt rock/funk/reggae)
7:15 p.m. Dharmata (hard rock)
9:15 p.m. Cold War Kids (indie-rock/blues-rock)

Sunday, May 3, 2009 Stage

Tire Kingdom Stage

Coors Light Stage

12:15 p.m. Cerveza (ska/rock)
2:00 p.m. B-Liminal (surf/reggae/roots)
3:45 p.m. G. Love & Special Sauce (alternative hip-hop)
5:45 p.m. The Jesse Young Band (acoustic rock)
7:30 p.m. The Steve Miller Band (rock)
12:15 p.m. Debbie Orta (jazz)
2:15 p.m. Spyro Gyra (jazz fusion)
4:15 p.m. Candlebox (alternative rock)
6:15 p.m. The Darrell Raines Band (blues)
7:45 p.m. Bettye LaVette (soul)
12:30 p.m. The Pretty Faces (new wave/garage pop)
2:00 p.m. Thriving Ivory (rock/pop)
3:45 p.m. Shauna Sweeney & Friends (acoustic rock)
5:00 p.m. Erin McCarley (alternative music)
6:15 p.m. Matt Nathanson (folk/rock)
7:30 p.m. Jack's Mannequin (alternative rock)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Merlefest Preview

We just received our friendly reminder that Merlefest is less than a week away. Tickets are still available and will be covering the event for the second consecutive year. At this point prepare to camp, because most of the hotels neighboring Wilkesboro are sold out. Also expect four full days of awesome music.

Throughout the festival we will be following a few bands; providing photos, interviews, and perhaps short videos of their performances. The first is Scythian, a local (for us) Washington D.C. based band who has a loyal following through out the country. See how these guys transform their eastern European heritage into a dancing Irish fest. The next band we will be highlighting is the Greencards, bluegrass from down under (and England). We have been following this Nashville based trio for the past five years and they will be releasing their third CD just in time for Merlefest, Fascination. See why in 2006 the band received an Americana Music Award for “Emerging Artist of the Year”. Then there's Phoebe and the guys, as in Austin's The Belleville Oufit. We've never seen this band live, but have listened to bits and pieces of Wanderin' for the past year on satellite radio. But we are really looking forward to seeing this act - from what we've heard, they are tight. They also have a new CD on the horizon, Time to Stand.

Finally, we also plan to watch The Waybacks, the Spring Creek Bluegrass Band, Missy Raines & The New Hip, Bearfoot, and The Gibson Brothers perform. Yea, and we may find time to catch a glimpse of Emmylou Harris, Donna the Buffalo, BeauSoleil, or even Linda Ronstadt. See ya there.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Music Scene - West Palm Beach

While spending a couple weeks in South Florida, I was able to investigate several music venues. South of Palm Beach there is a series of small towns located adjacent to the ocean - Lake Worth, Lantana, Boynton Beach, and Delray Beach. Each town has several bars and clubs that provide live music but my favorite past time was walking around the main street areas in Lake Worth and Delray Beach. Within both towns the venues were in the same proximity allowing us to see several artists during the same evening.

We had come to know Lake Worth from the famed Bamboo Room - that used to host local and national blues and rock acts. Unfortunately the venue closed last year and there has been no word on its re-opening. However, there is still a vibrant music scene within the same vicinity, with several bars and restaurants hosting musicians: Havana Hideout, Homerun Sports Bar,
Propaganda, and South Shores Tavern. Our favorites were two that were literally across the street from each other: Brogues on the Avenue and the Lake Worth Rum Shack. Last Wednesday night we started at Brogues after hearing a booming voice coming from the bar. Over a Jamesons we listened to a fellow playing a few Irish songs and other covers. This is a nice bar - open - with a nice outside corner spot on the street. Afterward we headed to our intended destination, the Lake Worth Rum Shack. This restaurant\tiki bar hosts live music every night and this evening to regulars were playing: Jason Montero and Shauna Sweeney. We selected this evening because we had noticed that Ms. Sweeney was also playing at Sunfest on May 3rd. The duo are quite entertaining; they played a mix of originals and covers - from Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, to Led Zepplin. At least from Montero's selections. Ms. Sweeney was just as gifted, playing a more soft-rock flavor; and with Montero picking on the acoustic guitar - we really loved their act. We definately recommend taking a look at these two.

Delray Beach is not as compact as Lake Worth so it requires a little more walking. Delray Beach is probably the nicest beach in the area so its a great place to sunbath and swim. Afterward we usually head to Boston’s on the Beach, where on the weekends they host live music all day. Sometimes we will escape the high sun and listen to Amber Leigh, then head back to the beach in the late afternoon.

In the evening, head west on Atlantic Avenue. Before the railroad tracks Elwood's Dixie Barbecue hosts local blues acts on their outdoor porch. I nice place to listen to music and people watch. Behind Elwood's is the area's largest venue, City Limits. This club attracts national, regional, and local artists - with a reggae/blues/rock flavor. Any place that JJ Grey & Mofro play is worth looking into. If Irish music interests you, turn left into Pineapple Grove and go to the end of the street where you will find O'Connors. Smithwicks and music. Oh yea. Finally there are a couple other establishments we haven't ventured to yet, The Bull Bar and Dada. We will check them out our next walking tour of Atlantic Avenue.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Oneside @ RiRa Bethesda

After a night watching the The Gourds, we dragged ourselves out for a second night - why is it so hard now - to catch up with our buddies Oneside. Every couple of months the band spends two nights in the D.C. area, once at Ri Ra Arlington the second at Ri Ra Bethesda. This evening there was a good size crowd, some regulars, some family, and some fans like ourselves. Even members of Scythian showed their support. In fact, Scythian's sound crew is actively recording a few of Oneside's live performances in order to produce an EP or CD which will be available for purchase from their website.

Oneside opened with new material - both originals and covers - intertwined with some of our son's favorites from First to Last. As much as we love their CD, its nice to hear new material - even the covers which the audience sang along to. How can you not when its The band, Johnny Cash, John Prine, among others. The acoustics was crystal clear - probably a result from the audio recordings. For the first time Jake's drumming real stood out - he was jammin. Maybe it was the microphones or Lent - but he was right on. Oneside is a fun bar band. They may not have the following as the Gourds, but the evening was just as fun. See you next time guys.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Gourds @ The State Theatre

Usually every six months we have the pleasure to watch The Gourds perform at the The State Theatre in Falls Church Virginia; this time in support of there latest CD Haymaker!. Ever since seeing them perform at the Austin City Limits festival several years ago, this band has entertained us with their uncanny lyrics, zany behavior, and extraordinary musical talents. And extraordinary is an understatement. Start with Max Johnston who during a show will play the fiddle, banjo, mandolin, acoustic guitar, and a lap steel guitar. When not playing the mandolin Kevin Russell and Jimmy Smith will smoothly transition from the others electric and bass guitar. Add in Claude Bernard on the accordion and organ and Keith Langford on percussion and you have the composition of one of our favorite bands. Maybe the favorite.

And this show was no exception. It could probably be called the Kevin Russell show, because it seemed that the night revolved around him. Not that that's a bad thing. He was his zany self on stage and perhaps since most of the songs played from Haymaker! appeared to be his. They started with Country Love Listen and throughout the night we also heard All the Way to Jericho; Shreveport; Tex-Mex Mile; Way You Can Get; and Country Gal - all Russell songs. Add in Russell's "The Lower 48" and he was the man. That's odd because I really liked Smith's tracks on the new album. As with Johnston's pair - particularly "Tighter".

The first time I listened to Haymaker! I wasn't sure what I thought - probably because all CD's are instantly compared to Cow Fish Fowl or Pig. But I spent the day after the show re-listening to the CD and it is tight. It's better than the last two: Noble Creatures and Heavy Ornamentals; with great vocals, harmonies and the standard "jambalaya" of instruments. Go buy this CD.

The Justin Trawick Band opened the show and they provided a solid performance to start the night. Many of us have followed Trawick on his usual local circuit at IOTA Club, Vermilion, and The Rookery. But tonight he had a few extra's including Ken Wenzel - who was excellent on the sax. The band had a great sound with the sax, Jean Finstad on bass cello, Will Reinhardt on drums, and Josh Himmelsbach on lead guitar. Some in our party thought it had a Dave Matthews-ish quality - maybe - but not being a great Dave Matthews fan - I like to think of them as having a Trawick-ish sound.