There is nothing like a house concert. Be warmly greeted by excited hosts, nab some cheese and crackers, grab a seat (heck, the staircase can be prime real estate) and settle in for a casual, intimate musical retreat.
On December 6th in a Washington, D.C. living room, the legendary Richie Stearns and Rosie Newton proved that, really, there is nothing like one of their house concerts. The simplicity of the setup and the genuineness of the experience fit perfectly with Richie and Rosie’s pure music. One fiddle, one banjo and two magnificent voices, each clearly made for the other.
About 60 music lovers gathered at the feet of Richie and Rosie that night during the third leg of a recent Northeast house concert tour. Richie and Rosie, current members of Red Dog Run and with credentials too voluminous to list, took those music lovers on a journey through love, heartache, sorrow and downright joy. Foregoing the lighthearted from the get-go, Richie and Rosie kicked off their show with Hang Me. The air left the room when Richie and Rosie sang their first notes together as everyone had their breath taken away at once. Just stunning.
There is ache and wisdom in Richie’s voice. That well is deep. Layer that with the strength and beauty in Rosie’s and you have a winning combination. Their harmonies carried the night accompanied by their incredible playing. Richie’s clawhammer playing is like no other. Crisp, clean, popping and melodic. Wistful. His creativity and versatility made their presence known on each tune. Rosie’s perfectly-timed and soulful fiddle-playing, the ideal complement to Richie’s banjo, roots the sound in a distant valley. Each long stroke of the horsehair pulling heartstrings along with it. This became evident on their second song, I Am With You Always where the vocals and strings blended seamlessly. A feature, come to find out, that was to be sustained throughout the evening.
You could hear a pin drop during their renditions of Townes Van Zandt’s hymn-like If I Needed You and Dirk Powell’s Waterbound, the first song on their Red Dog Running CD. They got the toes tapping too though with several fiddle tunes, playfully played Iko Iko specifically to the PJ-laden tikes in the crowd, and transported the room on an hypnotic trip to a foreign land with Last Train to Rajasthan. What a special treat to have Veins of Coal belted out only feet in front of you with those famous banjo lines coming from Richie’s too cool skeleton head banjo. A prime bonus for the audience was also hearing the stories behind the music: where the lyrics come from, what the songs mean to the artists. The room was at rapt attention as Richie explained his mission for composing Nowhere in Time, another brilliantly written song that poetically covers a gamut of feelings on what it means to be alive in times past and present day.
Many songs performed were off their CD Tractor Beam. But, the group was lucky enough to also have Jim Miller in the area that night. Jim, a third member of Red Dog Run, joined Richie and Rosie for a few tunes, including a new fan favorite Walk Past Your House.
Prior to a hard-driving encore to rile the spectators to jump around, Richie and Rosie closed their set with Ribbons and Bows, an absolutely perfect song. Those voices. That playing, The lyrics. The message.
The intent listeners wrapped arms around significant others, nodded approvals to their friends across the room and erupted into heartfelt applause after each tune. Some had no care in the world that tears were openly dripping over their cheeks, a genuine response to the soul-touching music. Their sound is one of an earlier time that calls us to reflect on the constant truths of love, life and death. And, when Richie and Rosie expertly deliver that beautiful sound, it makes one pause to assess what is truly important.
Time stopped that night in that D.C. row house. There seemed to be a collective assessment, thanks to Richie and Rosie’s artistry, that friendship and family, and the warmth that comes with them along with the effort to live a good life matter most. The songs were genuine. The performance was true. And, those there shared a charmed experience.
Here is to hoping Richie and Rosie perform more house concerts in the future, and that you are on the invite list! Seek them out—whether they are standing in front of someone’s fireplace or on a huge stage. Everybody needs to experience the magic they provide. It will do your soul good. In the meantime, pick up a copy of Red Dog Running and Tractor Beam. I guarantee Richie and Rosie will use that tractor beam to pull you in.