Fabulous American Roots Music Triple Play
You would think I had enough music last weekend at the Newport Folk Festival that I might need a bit of a break, but you would be mistaken! I’m not sure I could ever hear too much Americana music, so I headed over to T.T. The Bear’s Place for this fabulous triple bill.
Two of the three acts I saw this night – The Deslondes and Willy Gantrim – were at Newport this year (although I did not see them except when they sat in for other sets) while Spirit Family Reunion, the headliner, was at the Festival the previous two years.
I love Spirit Family Reunion. They have an infectious energy in their live performances that I love seeing without tiring of them. They refer to their music as ‘homegrown American’ which is an apt description.
They (other than Maggie) dress almost as if they had just left the farm – white t-shirts, work boots, lovingly-worn jeans – which sets the mood as almost a barn dance. They have an old-fashioned microphone set at center stage at which they all take turns singing. Sometimes one is in front of the mic and sometimes all of them are.
The members of the band are Nick Panken on guitar and vocals, Maggie Carson on banjo and vocals, Peter Pezzimenti on drums, Ken Woodward on bass, and Stephen Weinheimer on washboard, guitar, and percussion.
All of them are extremely expressive, both through their instruments and their facial (and really, their whole body) expressions. The way they move around each other on stage is also reminiscent of a barn dance – they appear to be doing some do-si-dos!
They recently released ‘No Separation’ so their set drew heavily from that album, but they also performed songs that their fans hoped to hear.
Spirit Family Reunion is all about the music. At every performance I have seen, they give their all.
Opening for Spirit were The Deslondes, a band from New Orleans who I fell in love with when I saw them open for Spirit and Hurray for the Riff Raff last November.
They describe their music as ‘country-soul, R&B, folk and gospel-influenced’ but whatever you want to call it, it’s fabulous! They are not flashy performers, although do not interpret that to mean they are dull. On the contrary, they give an engaging and powerful performance.
Sam Doores on guitar and vocals, Riley Downing on guitar and vocals, Dan Cutler on bass, Cameron Snyder on percussion, and John James on guitar and pedal steel comprise The Deslondes. Sam sings most of the lead vocals, but I especially love their harmonies.
They have one album which was released under their former name, The Tumbleweeds, but signed with a label in the last week and expect to have an album out early next year. I cannot wait for it!
Their set – which, at 45-50 minutes, was too short for me – drew from that album but they performed at least one new song. I believe they started with ‘I Got Found’ which is a slow, melodic song. They quickly increased the pace and by the third song, they had the crowd jumping.
First on stage was Willy Gantrim, a singer-songwriter based in New York.
Willy’s style is heavily blues-based with country and folk mixed in (and probably other styles, too); I liked his music quite a bit and bought his album so I can become more familiar with it. I think his lyrics are intelligent.
Cameron from The Deslondes provided percussion for Willy’s entire set, while Maggie and Stephen from Spirit backed Willy for a couple of songs. It was a lovely collaboration!
Willy had to contend with a smaller crowd that talked through his set; I spoke with him toward the end of the evening and he said he’s used to that which I find sad…
Another thing I particularly enjoyed was that each of the acts listened to the others from the crowd. Spirit and The Deslondes were also quite supportive of Willy, encouraging the crowd to buy his album (I do not know how successful they were, but I bought it).
This was my first time at T.T.’s and will most likely be my last. First, it was not a good venue for acoustic music; they had to contend with both feeling and hearing the music from the club below T.T.’s. The sound system is little more than PA speakers. The lighting is terrible. And it was brutally hot, for both the performers and the audience.
Despite that, I’m glad I saw this show because I got to see two bands I love and was introduced to someone new.
Posted on August 3, 2014, in concert reviews, music, Uncategorized and tagged Americana music, blues music, boston, concert review, music, old-time music, Spirit Family Reunion, The Deslondes, TT The Bear's Place, Willy Gantrim. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.