The quick review was contributed by Ken G. Brown, who we hope will become one of our new correspondents when we launch our expanded new site later this year.
Fiddle and harmonica might not seem like enough instruments to create a full band sound for a concert, but in the capable hands of Raymond McLain and Mike Stevens, they were more than enough at the College Coffeehouse in Fairbanks, AK on July 21.
Both teachers at the week-long Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, McLain and Stevens kicked off their noon concert with McLain’s rousing gospel vocal on the fiddle standard Back Up and Push. This was followed by the Canadian fiddle tune Grumbling Old Man, Grumbling Old Woman played not on the fiddle but by Stevens on the harmonica, with McLain playing back-up chords on the fiddle.
This lead to great vocals by McLain on Cash on the Barrelhead and Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down, the one song Raymond did play guitar on, with incredible harmonica solos and back-up by Stevens. Stevens later played an improvised, unnamed harmonica solo, and the duo closed with Bill Monroe’s In the Pines, with McLain’s voice and Stevens’ harmonica holding the last note for an extended time as they backed slowly away from the single microphone.
The attentive audience was thoroughly entertained by McLain’s vocals, stage patter, and fiddling and Stevens intricate harmonica work. The duo have appeared together many times before, and have a CD that features their work together, Old Time Mojo, released in 2004.
Here’s the pair of them performing Grumbling Old Man, Grumbling Old Woman on Song Of The Mountains in 2007.