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.
I’m happy to report that both bluegrass representatives made it to round three of Next Great American Band. But the show couldn’t have unfolded more suspensefully. All twelve of last week’s bands were gathered together, then called up to play one at a time, so the two left at the end were the ones who didn’t make it. The bands each played one original and one cover by the songwriting team of Elton John/Bernie Taupin.
The Clark Brothers played fourth, long before the nail-biting suspense set in. Their original, Country Time, had a very catchy hook and a cute story about living in a little country town. Their John/Taupin song was Country Comfort, a slower ballad that gave them a chance to play prettily, not just all-out, nail-it-to-the-wall fast. The judges had nothing but positive comments for the boys.
Cliff Wagner and the Old #7 played seventh (appropriate‚Ä¶). They good naturedly dedicated their original to "Britney Spears and her first husband." It was titled Little White Chapel on the Strip. Their cover was called Honky Cat and for it the guitar player switched to dobro, leaving them guitar-less. But they pulled off the unorthodox instrumentation with ease and the judges unanimously proclaimed them "The funnest band in the whole competition."
Once again it is up to the American public to decide who moves forward after Friday night’s show. The votes have been cast but we won’t find out ‚Äòtil next week. In the meantime the bands will be working on a Billy Joel cover. And you can now watch bands’ week 2 performances online on the NGAB site.
Watching the show has been great fun, but has raised some questions. Like, do they get to choose their cover songs or are they assigned? Did they really have to sit through each band’s performance before the next band was called up? Because that would have taken a ridiculously long time.
And why did Cliff not get a better pickup system for his banjo? The way his pickup sounds is the reason most players hate pickups on banjos. But it’s possible for a pickup to sound decent. Bela Fleck and Alison Brown do it all the time. I don’t know who could answer these questions except for the people involved in the show, but inquiring minds want to know.
And why is there no official mention of the band involvement in the NGAB show on either Cliff’s webpage or his MySpace site?
Oh, wait. Being the bluegrass player that he is he probably handles his website himself and he’s been kinda busy the last three weeks‚Ä¶