Wednesday’s final showcase performance put the exclamation point on an evening that was decidedly bluegrass. Danny Paisley took the stage with the current version of Southern Grass, and the resulting show was everything the enthusiastic crowd was expecting. Opening with Margie, Paisley’s group let fly with the one-mic, three part harmony that is a bluegrass staple, accompanied by ferocious picking.
The appreciative audience received a special treat during the very next number, when Danny’s 11-year old son Ryan elbowed his way to the front to knock out a killer break on Rose of Old Kentucky. The instrumental interlude was punctuated by the “I told you so” facial expressions of the young man, bringing a round of laughter from the crowd and a smile from prideful poppa. 30-year bass player and uncle, Michael Paisley, obviously approved as well.
In the commotion, reigning mandolin player Spencer Mobley was encouraging to young Ryan while demonstrating why he’s still the band’s regular mando-picker with solid playing and superb harmony accompaniment to Paisley’s lead.
Not to be outdone, fiddler Doug Meek played a solid show and brought murmurs of excitement from the fans when he ripped through Red Apple Rag. Banjo phenom Mark Delaney was the perfect foil for Meek’s contribution, alternating the lead on the instrumental in what appeared to be effortless performance. Delaney’s efficiency of movement can lull the observer into believing he’s actually bored, as if he’s using only half his talent while the other half of his mind works on his next mind-numbing performance.
As if to make sure his point was well-made, Ryan stepped up again to tear through Rawhide, which he played with a fervor that would have made the Father of Bluegrass proud. The band featured Ryan again on its closing piece, Alcatraz, earning a standing ovation from the grateful crowd.
Backstage, Paisley’s comments were as pride-filled as his eyes. He discussed the comfort of knowing that the family’s bluegrass tradition is safe for another generation. “We love what we do,” he acknowledged.
Wednesday night at the IBMA showcase, the crowd loved what they do, too.