Not many American bands have invested in a DVD recording of their show. For a British band to do so it is positively ground-breaking. That’s what the west of England quartet the Thunderbridge Bluegrass Boys have done and with good reason.
Thunderbridge Bluegrass Boys use only a single mic at their personal appearances, meaning that they are a dynamic and visually appealing band.
The band consists of Brian Schofield (banjo, guitar and vocals), Jules Bushell (bass fiddle and vocals), Martin Schofield (Dobro¬Æ, guitar and vocals) and Nick Girone-Maddocks (mandolin, guitar and lead vocals). Girone-Maddocks is front and centre in so much of what the band do, singing lead as mentioned already, writing the original songs that Thunderbridge Bluegrass Boys perform in this show [recorded December 1, 2007 at their regular haunt, the Wellington Arts Centre] and doing most of the inter-song chat.
This performance pitches a good mix of original songs with a variety of material from other sources, including songs from Steve Earle – Copperhead Road – and Townes van Zandt – White Freight Liner Blues. It seems that they have a penchant for travelling songs, including two others in their set, the original New Train Song and Paul Kraft’s (sic) Midnight Flyer.
The video begins with a trip around some Somerset lanes to the venue and shows preparations for the show, accompanied by an enjoyable version of Rocky Top. Once the performance gets started there is an immediate engagement of the audience, which is persuaded to sing along in a couple of instances. Girone-Maddocks is an excellent writer and four out of the first five songs are penned by him, a sign to me of their quality and the level of confidence that they have in them, such that they grab and hold the audience. Before I Die, I Get So Down, Feels Like Home and Carolina Calling do just that.
The arrangement of the gospel song Sweet By & By includes some audience participation and the sacred Is There Room on the Cross For Me? begins with a few bars from the mandolin alone, save for that it is performed a cappella until about half way through when the other instruments are introduced into the mix.
The vocals are strong and expressive throughout.
The video recording is professionally and expertly done with good angles, including a few shots from below the mic, and focus on the relevant musician at all times. The use of overlays and fading in some instances provides some variety to what’s on view.
As well as the performance itself, there are clips of the band members chatting and some from their past, and bonus videos. These are cleverly produced with various performances of (I am a Man of) Constant Sorrow spliced together expertly and Too Many Ghosts is a very subtle visual and audio delight.
Four On The Floor puts the spotlight – literally a single light for the concert performance – on all the various talents of the band members and nobody is seen to be wanting.
The DVD can be purchased through the band’s website – which features several video samples – and at personal appearances.