In the last month Australia has been visited by very amazing bluegrass players Tim O’Brien and Peter Rowan and his Bluegrass Boys (next post). I was lucky enough to see these performances at the Cat and Fiddle in Balmain and Notes Live in Enmore.
Tim O’Brien is a highly recognised performer and songwriter having won a Grammy Award as well as a couple of IBMA awards. He plays many string instruments and at Notes Live he played mandolin, banjo and fiddle with the Ocean’s Trio. The crowd was a full house of older adults who appreciated the music placidly. My friends scoffed at the idea of paying $50 cover charge. This crowd did not applause mid song for the great solos or sing along to the well-known songs. In fact, it was well past the bedtime of much of the audience by the second half of the show.
The highlight for me was ‘Old Joe’ (above) because it was a new song for me and shows off his songwriting skill. Overall the band worked well together with good variation and strong presence.
The support at Notes was Crooked Still. What you might call a ‘Nu-grass Supergroup’ as the fiddle, banjo and cello players are recognised as powerful solo musicians. Dr. Greg Liszt on Banjo plays very unsual and complex lead breaks and seems to be in a world of his own in more ways than one. Tristan Clarridge on cello has won national awards as a violinist but proves that he has mastered the cello. Holding it all together is fiddler Brittany Haas who’s solos are phenomenal in difficulty and execution. Aoife O’Donovan sings warm and gentle vocals and occasionally played guitar.
On this night, the pensioners were not receptive to Crooked Still. It may have been they were looking for a more traditional sound than the band provided. It was also the first gig in Australia and Tristan’s cello had been damaged in the Qantas flight with three serious cracks needing repair. Lucy Wise told me later that she had been asked to give the name of a luthier for his cello and the work was finished on the day of this show!
Friends saw this band in Melbourne and at the Blue Mountains and loved them. They have a confident and relaxed stage presence and perform with phenomenal musical skill. Check out this video for an idea of how this young folk take on trad songs.
To be cont. with Peter Rowan and his Bluegrass Boys
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