This report comes from Casey Henry, a banjo player and writer living in Nashville, TN. She performed the past few years with her brother, Chris, in The Two Stringers, now disbanded.
Both Cliff Wagner and the Old #7 and the Clark Brothers did us proud on Friday night’s Next Great American Band. Twelve bands performed two tunes each for the judges and the live studio audience, and for the millions watching at home. Each band played one original tune and one Bob Dylan tune. The judges commented on every band, though at this point the decision is entirely up to the TV audience calling in their votes.
This week before each band’s performance a short video bio of the group was shown. (You can watch clips of these on the NGAB site.) The Old #7’s clip showed the guys picking (Lucas Cheadle ‚Äì Bass, Devitt Feeley – Mandolin, Craig Ferguson ‚Äì Guitar/Dobro, Stephen Aram Mugalian ‚Äì Drums) and Cliff taking a long swig of moonshine from a mason jar, which was probably what prompted judge John Rzeznik (of the Goo Goo Dolls) to comment, "I want to party with you guys."
Cliff’s Dylan selection was Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, a song that lends itself well to a bluegrass arrangement. His original tune was called Old Fire, "a tender love song," he said, "about tender love and diesel fuel" that had a catchy hook. Judge Sheila E. (who has played with Prince and Ringo Starr, among others) said of the song, "I could listen to that all day long."
The Clark Brothers rocked Maggie’s Farm, their Dylan song, managing to sound like far more than just three people, with Ashley playing fiddle and singing simultaneously (always impressive). However judge Ian Dickson, who consistently finds something negative to say, commented they shouldn’t have messed with the simple melody. After an instant instrument trade (making it obvious that the show was pre-recorded) they rendered their original Billy the Kid, a gritty story song that they performed magnificently.
Now it’s up to the viewers to call in their votes. Phone lines were open for two hours following the show. We’ll find out when we tune in next week which two bands get the axe. In the meantime the bands, who are sequestered in a hotel somewhere, will be working up an Elton John or Bernie Taupin song.
I can’t wait to hear Elton John bluegrass style!