by Hollis Morgan
On a long-weekend Sunday, while a lot of folks left the city, the country rolled into the Elmdale Tavern and the 50 or so patrons who stayed were glad they did. While not all of the music was twanged with country charm, the opening and penultimate acts had that certain relaxed, comfortable feel that traditional country music exudes. The second band, however, exploded with youthful, pop-culture enthusiasm; while the closing act was an intriguing potpourri of jazzy, quirky folk.
Greg Kelly and the Broken Windows Philharmonic (a.k.a. “The Shards”) opened appropriately with songs from Greg’s CD Broken Windows. Rasputinites are familiar with Greg performing on his own, but it’s great to see him with a good band. Greg’s lyrics frequently contain a sense of sweet regret; yet there’s always something there to which each listener can relate. This was the debut of The Shards with Sarah Hill on violin, Andrew Snow on acoustic bass, and yours truly Hollis Morgan on dobro.
The Ginger Fox Band is a trio of twenty-somethings on a mission. Warren Meredith, aka the Ginger Fox, was energetic and strong on lead vocals, and writes most of the songs. While he writes well, I think his stories describing the writing process for each song add a lot to his performance. Backed up by rhythm and lead guitars, The Ginger Fox is Band sounds quite contemporary — alt rock perhaps –which is a little unusual for Spirit of Rasputins, but the band was still a great fit for the Beard based on Warren’s song writing and and how he reaches out to bring the audience into each song. The only non-original song of the set, Hurt composed by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, was definitely a highlight.
Huntley Slim and the Suburban Cowboys don’t take alt country too seriously. But they do take it where ever they can! From a song “older than my grandma” to a variety of well penned gems of their own, they were entertaining and just rough enough around the edges. With Chris Mellor – strong rhythm guitar and vocals, Seamus Mulready – both bluegrass and old-time banjo and vocals, and a stand-up bass player who got several rounds of applause for his kick-ass solos. This band is lots of fun. Okay Chris, we forgive you for not knowing the Tony Rice lick!
We finished this Beard with the Alise Marlane Trio. This is a talented, very professional sounding combo that manages to support Alise’ often quick and surprising chord changes. Alise presented her own material in this set which ranged from non-sense lyrics to a song about a toad…oh yes, and there were some serious songs in there too! And all of it set to jazzy rhythms and flowing chords spiced up by the by skilled and sensitive violin of James Stephens and a plethora of instruments from Brian Sanderson including ukelele and pocket trumpet. James and Brian took turns on electro-acoustic bass. All in all, a very rich and rewarding set for the end of the evening.