I heartily second John’s comment about being too busy to post showcase reviews in a timely manner. But even if this is late, these bands are still very worthy of mention. As it happens, each of the groups I watched also has a newly-released CD.
I caught Sirius/XM deejay Chris Jones and his band the Nightdrivers in the 1:30 slot on Tuesday night. Their show is always entertaining and almost always includes one of banjo-player Ned Luberecki’s signature pieces. Tonight it was his “classic” bluegrass song, Cabin of Death, which we all sang along with merrily. Their new release, Cloud of Dust, has been mentioned here in a previous entry. We sat around so long talking after the show that the security guards asked us to move along so they could close up, which made us feel a little rebellious.
John has already mentioned the Jeff and Vida Band’s excellent showcase, so I’ll just add the picture below. They have a new CD titled Selma Chalk. I’d also like to give them a big thumbs up for being the only showcase room I saw that was actually decorated. With a little thought and effort on their part they created a very pleasant atmosphere in which to listen to music. Their decor wasn’t elaborate, but it was a welcome change from the zero atmosphere of the other showcase rooms. (Showcase presenters take note!) The paintings of instruments on the wall behind them are by Lori Davis.
New York Monroe-style mandolinist Buddy Merriam and his band Backroads delivered an excellent performance featuring material from their new album Back Roads Mandolin. Singer/guitarist Kathy DeVine and bass player Ernie Sykes sang a particularly stunning duet on an old George Jones and Melba Montgomery song. They ended with a tune Buddy wrote in honor of Butch Baldassari titled simply Baldassari, showing once again how great an influence Butch had within the mandolin community.
Finally I caught almost a whole set of Dede Wyland. She may be best known around the Washington D.C. area, but years ago she played with the nationally-known band Tony Trischka and Skyline. Her first new album in a long time is called Keep the Light On. She gathered some D.C.-area all-stars to back her up: Mike Munford on banjo, Ira Gitlin on bass, and Frank Sollivan on mandolin. (I didn’t catch the name of the fiddler.) Her voice is high and pure and her music has just a bit of a progressive edge to it.
Ira came up with one of the niftiest terms I’ve heard in a while. When a fiddle kicks off a fiddle tune, it generally starts with a shuffle bow lick called “potatoes.” You usually have either four or eight sets of potatoes. When the fiddler started to kick into a tune at the showcase Ira said, “Give us the old quadraspud!”