Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Infamous Stringdusters @ Jammin Java

After missing The Infamous Stringdusters at several festivals due to scheduling conflicts, we were finally able to watch them perform Tuesday May 19th at neighboring Jammin' Java. Wow, what a band; these guys can play - and there's an instrument for everyone: acoustic guitar, mandolin, upright bass, fiddle, dobro, and the banjo. This arrangement sure creates a unique sound. This is also an egalitarian band - during each song some members step forward to show off their talents while the others melt into the background. Add in extraordinary chemistry and you get one tight band. Every member is also comfortable engaging the audience between songs - with humor. Bassist Travis Book was definitely entertaining making fun of himself and the band with quips like "(Andy Hall) .. is the world's best dobro player..which isn't difficult since there's only 15 of them." The quote rings true however, Hall is the fastest dobro player we've seen.

This evening the Stringdusters played a few covers and songs from their two previous CDs: The Infamous Stringdusters and Fork in the Road. The former is the first CD with guitarist Andy Falco and was produced by Tim O’Brien. They also played a couple of songs from banjo player Chris Pandolfi's latest CD, which was released that day. One of the best performances was the duo between Falco and mandolinist Jesse Cobb, who played a song that Flaco heard a recording from with Bill Monroe and Doc Watson. The two will tour together later in May and early June at a few select east coast venues.

For those in the Mid-Atlantic, The Infamous Stringdusters will be playing Friday May 29th at Delfest 2009 held at the Allegany County Fairgrounds. Go out and see this band. More photos are available at the MyJoog Facebook page.

Enter the Haggis @ Jammin Java

We recently received a copy of Enter the Haggis latest CD, Gutter Anthems, and after several iterations of listening, knew we had to see the band live. Fortunately they were scheduled just down the street at Vienna's Jammin' Java. We have noticed this band tours constantly and plays at many popular festivals across the country. But listening to Gutter Anthems was our first real exposure to this somewhat celtic, somewhat rockish band. The CD starts out with "The Litter and the Leaves", traditional Irish fare at a breakneck pace - bagpipes, rhythm guitar, piano, drums, bass - what's not to like. The CD continues with more celtic flavor, but gets more complicated as the tracks progress. "Suburban Plains" was a favorite and sounds a bit like something out of Paul Simon's world music stage. Apparently drummer James Campbell listens to this genre often. Then Brian Buchanon added French lyrics (a benefit of the Canadian bi-lingual policy). An interesting song. "The Ghosts of Calico" really gets jamming, "Murphy's Ashes" a little metal, and "Lights and Cars" just a classic sound. Its as if I shuffled my ipod.

This evening they had two shows scheduled at Jammin' Java. The first thing I noticed is that the band streams their shows live through Enter the Haggis TV. If you can't make a show, they provide an opportunity to watch at home. What a great concept. Tonight, they opened with "The Litter and the Leaves" and their comfortable stage presence was immediately evident. This band knows how to interact with the audience. Particularly when Craig Downie puts down the bagpipes and starts calling for socials. They played several songs off the new CD, we learned that "Murphy's Ashes" was a tribute to Downie's dog which had become the band's dog. We also learned that this is no celtic band. This is a jam band that can rock. Guitarist Trevor Lewington and bassist Mark Abraham can jam, and when Buchanon plays the fiddle - watch out. But its the overall sound that's really entertaining. Bagpipes and drums, fiddle or piano, electric and bass guitars; where else can you find that combination. In fact, most of the crowd favorites were instrumentals where the abnd jams and the audience dances.

I look forward to the Celtic Fling at Mount Hope Estate & Winery, where the band is scheduled fro several sets. Maybe at that time we can discuss wine with Abraham or listen about Campbell's skydiving exploits.

Traveling with Enter the Haggis, was another Canadian band, this one with a bluegrass feel, The Abrams Brothers. We had also received their latest CD, "Blue on Brown", a tribute to Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie. The inspiration for the CD came from producer Chris Brown who had produced a similar theme with songs from Steve Goodman. In fact Goodman's "City of New Orleans" is by far the best track on the CD, a great orchestration; subtle harmonies blended with an equally subtle banjo, great vocals - a classic song. Dylan's "Nashville Skyline Rag" is a nice opening track.

What's particularly amazing about this band is how accomplished they sound for such a youthful band. John Abrams is 18, his brother James only 15, and their cousin Elijah, 18; add in two other occasional band members both under 19. The band is another example of why its important to see artists live. You can not fully appreciate how talented they are based on studio recordings. These young men and can play. Acoustic or electric, fiddle, upright bass - they will be surprising traditional bluegrass fans with drums and electric guitars this summer. The brothers came to play music, as well as roots-bluegrass music, from their family heritage - 4 generations worth, starting with the violin at 6 years of age. Want to learn more, watch the video on their website. I heard all I needed, fortunately I stuck around for their longer second set and am waiting for Iron Sharpens Iron arrives.

More photos are available at the MyJoog Facebook page.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

2009 Wine in the Woods

We've always stressed that wineries, breweries, and the associated festivals are great venues to watch live music. And this past Saturday I witnessed this at the 2009 Wine in the Woods festival - held in Columbia Maryland. I was actually volunteering to pour wines for Terrapin Station Winery which I will describe at the WineCompass Blog later this week. Fortunately our tent was located adjacent to the Main Stage, so while I was pouring wine I was able to listen to three entertaining artists. It started with the blues of Charles "Big Daddy" Stallings. “Big Daddy” has shared the stage with several national blues acts and can hold his own with each - just take a look at the slightly off kilter video below. Next was local artists Patty Reese, who's band plays a mixture of blues, folk, and rock. Ms. Reese is able to assemble an awesome array of talent in her band including Dave Chappell, Ron Holloway, and Dan Hovey. Ms. Reese can sing and play herself and is usually nominated annually for a WAMA. Below is a video of one of her songs - thanks Tom. Carl Filipiak closed out the day bringing about a quarter of the audience to their feet. Playing his trademark jazz guitar, he even forced me to take a closer look during slow periods.

And this was just one day at one stage. There was equally entertaining artists playing on the second stage and all day Saturday. Remember to include these festivals in your search for live music.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

More Live Music in West Palm Beach

There's nothing better than sipping a cold beer overlooking the water and listening to live music. And fortunately we found two great spots in the West Palm Beach area. The first is The Crab House, located on the Jupiter inlet with direct views of the Jupiter lighthouse. The lighthouse is interesting in that it is the same latitude as the Hope Town Lighthouse in the Bahamas and only 60 miles apart. After a day swimming we headed to the restaurant for happy hour and found
Jason Montero unloading equipment for his regular Friday show (6:00-8:00). We had last seen Montero the previous month during his regular Wednesday series at the Lake Worth Rum Shack, where he is accompanied by Shauna Sweeney. As a solo artist, Montero has a more rockish-bluesy sound - although he occasionally has to sneak in a Jimmy Buffet to satisfy audience requests. When paired with Ms. Sweeney they alternate between classic rock and softer Sarah McLachlan type songs. Regardless they are extremely entertaining - particularly with Sweeney banging away on her African djembe drum. This is how we found them Sunday at the Old Key Lime House in Lantana where the duo play every Sunday from 3:00 to 8:00. Can't think about a better way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon - Kalick beer, intercoastal waterway views, and great music - see video below.