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Posts Tagged ‘Old Crow Medicine Show’

(Above: The David Rawlings Machine perform the always-poignant medley of Rawlings’ “I Hear Them All” and Woody Guthrie’s timeless “This Land is Your Land” at musical celebration of the film “Inside Llelywn Davis” in 2014.)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

Folk music simultaneously looks back nostalgically at a bygone era while looking hopefully ahead at a better tomorrow. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk without becoming antiseptic and corny or preachy and naive.

With a repertoire that included an old-time telegraph man, a pretty, young mountain girl and several appearances by Old Scratch, David Rawlings showed Friday night at the Folly Theatre why he is one of today’s most sought-after folk artists.

The two-hour concert (with half-hour intermission) was Rawlings’ second performance at the Folly in a year. Overall, it was Rawlings fourth show in the area in as many years. Or as Gillian Welch, Rawlings’ partner and musical foil put it, “the rest of the country is not seeing us that often.”

daverawlingsmachinecolorThe first set was heavy on material from Rawlings’ just-released third album. Across the course of the night, he’d perform all but one of it’s tracks. While the songs aren’t as road-tested, they had a knack for seeming instantly familiar. By the end of several numbers, the crowd was quietly singing along, even if they were hearing them for the first time.

Old favorites dotted the opening half as well. Welch took lead vocals on “Wayside/Back in Time” from her 2003 release “Soul Journey.” That was followed by Rawlings’ early collaboration with Ryan Adams, “To Be Young (Is to be Sad, Is to be High),” introduced as a “song older than some of the instruments onstage.”

For their encore performance at the Folly, Rawlings and Welch brought the same musicians who backed them last year. Guitarist Willie Weeks, formerly of Old Crow Medicine Show, bass player Paul Kowert from the Punch Brothers and violinist extraordinaire Brittany Haas completed the ensemble.

In a group of world-class musicians, Haas stood out. Her fiddle provided a melodic counterpoint to Welch and Rawlings’ vocal harmonies and frequently drew mid-song applause, especially on “Short-Haired Woman Blues.”

The mournful “Lindsey Button” sounded like a lost Appalachian hymn until Haas started plucking her violin along to Rawlings’ solo, turning the performance into a minuet. Later, the ensemble returned to the classical motif on “Pilgrim (You Can’t Go Home)” as two fiddles and Kowert’s bowed bass accompanied Rawlings’ guitar.

Other high points included a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Queen Jane Approximately” which featured a virtuosic Rawlings guitar solo that quoted “Midnight Rider.” Paradoxically, the solemn “Guitar Man” implored the crowd to “hear the band” and “clap your hands,” but Rawlings’ longing vocals and the band’s arrangement made it sound like they were looking at a faded photo and wistfully remembering something from long ago.

A medley of Rawlings’ original “I Hear Them All” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” has become the emotional centerpiece of the set. The pairing sadly never loses relevance, but seemed especially poignant in light of current turbulence and earned a standing ovation.

During “It’s Too Easy,” Welch swished her dress back and forth, dancing in place as Haas’ and Watson’s fiddles dueled. It seemed like the end of the night, but after another group bow, Rawlings reached back toward his guitar. After playing something Rawlings confessed they had been rehearsing at sound check, the night ended with all five musicians huddled around a single microphone. As the quintet sang “Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby” a capella, the audience provided percussive accompaniment with claps and stomps.

Keep reading:

Review: Gillian Welch and David Rawlings

Review: Bob Dylan

Review: Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle

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(Above: Arlo Guthrie pays tribute to his father as their friend Pete Seeger aids in a performance of “Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos).”)

By Joel Francis
The Daily Record

Illegal immigration is a hot-button topic in the current political landscape, but it is hardly a new issue. In January, 1948, a plane crashed carrying 28 migrant farmers being deported by the U.S. government. All 32 passengers were killed in this tragedy, but when newspapers and radio stations reported the incident they only mentioned the names of the pilot, co-pilot, stewardess and guard. The workers were described only as “deportees.”

This incensed Woody Guthrie, who felt the workers were just as human as the other victims. Thus inspired, he wrote a poem expressing the injustice of the situation. Since the workers’ names were not known – 60 years later, 12 of the victims are still unknown – he made up names.

Ten years later, Guthrie had been hospitalized at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital for what would later be diagnosed as Huntington’s disease. Although Guthrie was very much out of the public eye, learning his music became a rite of passage for the musicians in the burgeoning folk revival. Schoolteacher Martin Hoffman was inspired by Guthrie’s “Deportee” poem and set the words to music. The song was quickly passed around the folk community and Guthrie’s friend Pete Seeger added it to his repertoire.

Guthrie’s lyrics not only pay respect to the departed workers, but question the system that seduces workers to leave their families and risk their lives to find unsecured work under questionable conditions. In addition to the 28 workers who died in the plane crash, Guthrie jumps to first person and pays tribute to the other workers who either died on the job in America or perished trying to reach a better life.

“We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died ‘neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same. “

After restoring humanity to the anonymous deportees and chronicling the plights of their families and countrymen, Guthrie delivers some damning questions in the final verse.

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except “deportees”?

In the 2004 book “Reefer Madness,” author Eric Schlosser raises many of the same questions with his essay “In the Strawberry Fields.” Drawing on firsthand accounts, Schlosser describes the conditions of the illegal farmers in the California strawberry fields. The workers’ living conditions and treatment are amount to slavery in all but name, he argues. Schlosser’s questions, like Guthrie’s, remain unanswered.

“Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” has been covered so often that Guthrie biographer Joe Klein declared it the “last great song” Guthrie wrote. Artists who have recorded their vision of the song, either in tribute, in protest or both, include Pete Seeger, Guthrie’s son Arlo Guthrie, the Byrds, Bruce Springsteen, the Kingston Trio, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, the country super group the Highwaymen, Peter, Paul and Mary, Concrete Blonde, Nanci Griffith, the Los Lobos side group Los Super Seven, Old Crow Medicine Show and Billy Bragg.

Keep reading:

Bob Dylan – “Workingman’s Blues No. 2”

Bruce Springsteen and Tom Morello – “The Ghost of Tom Joad”

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The Kansas City Star

By Joel Francis

Michael Franti and Spearhead, Sun Down Stage

Michael Franti brought his political party to Wakarusa Sunday night. Its platform is both progressive and accessible: share love, be honest, bring the troops home and, oh yeah, have fun.

Franti was backed by his five-piece band Spearhead, and within moments of taking the stage had the masses jumping, waving, clapping and singing on cue. The 90-minute show leaned heavily toward the group’s newest release, “Yell Fire,” and its kinetic energy rarely waned. With barely a pause between songs, Franti’s mix of dub, soul, rock and smatterings of country topped by his spoken/rapped leftist lyrics created a fervor and energy unseen in the political arena by the newest voting generation.

Spearhead’s platform was augmented by a couple of well-placed covers. A medley of “Get Up, Stand Up/Stir It Up” drew great applause, but was dwarfed by the reception for “What I Got.” The Sublime cover was wrapped around a medley of the Sesame Street theme, “The Rainbow Connection” and Cookie Monster’s trademark “C is For Cookie” that Franti said was the high point of a recent gig in San Quinten prison.

The show ended with a stunt guaranteed to put Franti’s already-high approval rating through the roof with at least half the audience when 10 topless, body-painted women joined the band onstage. It was a move no other political party would dare to attempt.

Medeski, Martin and Wood, Sundown Stage

Medeski, Martin and Wood, the most democratically named band since Crosby, Stills and Nash, opened their 80-minute set with a frenzied cacophony of mashed organ keys and frenetic drumming joined by a rock-solid bass line that didn’t let up for 20 minutes.

So much for a soft opening.

Few bands can pull this off without getting monotonous, but more than 15 years of playing hundreds of shows together annually have made the trio the tightest musical battery imaginable. Pockets of melody spring to life from improvisation before a nod of the head or flick of the wrist send the music spiraling off again.

MMW’s music is difficult to describe and impossible to classify. Suffice it to say they are one of the few groups to be greeted with open arms by the traditional fans at the Newport Jazz Festival and the jam fans at Bonnaroo.

Though they were not joined by guitarist John Scofield, who has been touring with the band, no one seemed to mind. A scan of the crowd revealed hundreds of heads locked into the band’s groove, bobbing in unison. Since the trio has no vocalist it’s as close to a sing-along as they’re likely to get.

The Greencards, Homegrown Tent

The Greencards won enough new fans with their mix of melancholy and up-tempo bluegrass music to have their visas renewed indefinitely.

The quartet’s sound split the difference between Old Crow Medicine Show and Allison Krauss and Union Station, but with Krauss’ sense of longing replacing Old Crow’s down-home humor.

Though they performed several original numbers, the absolute high point was a haunting cover of Patti Griffith’s “What You Are.” Anchored by a strummed mandolin and electric bass, singer Carol Young’s voice nailed the heartache and longing of the lyrics. The song built quietly in intensity with an acoustic guitar providing tender sympathy and touches of color from a violin. The applause from that number alone was enough to move the band through customs with no problems.

Keep Reading:

Wakarusa Music Festival (2008)

Wakarusa Music Festival (2006)

Wakarusa Music Festival (2005)

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Wilco

June 17-19, Clinton Lake, Lawrence (Kan.)

Kansas City Star

By Joel Francis

Son Volt – Friday afternoon, Sun Down Stage
Jay Farrar’s revamped Son Volt made their regional debut on Friday afternoon to a collective yawn. Maybe it was the early hour of the show – 3 p.m. – but more people were greeting each other than grooving to the music. Son Volt Version 2.0 leaned heavily on classic material from “Trace” and “Straightaways” in its hourlong set, but were not as country-leaning as the previous incarnation. Uncle Tupelo was no where to be found._The new lineup is rawer and plays up Farrar’s classic rock influences – a sound closer to Joe Walsh than Joe Ely.

Matisyahu – Friday afternoon, Campground Stage
Matisyahu’s novelty – a Hasidic Jew playing reggae music – may have drawn people to his tent, but his music made them stay.
Dressed in a white dress shirt and glasses and sporting a full black beard, he may have looked like a rabbi, but he sounded like Toots Hibbert. Matisyahu’s groove spread quicker than a flu bug in day care, and though the tent was too crowded to give the music the motion it deserved, no one seemed to mind, least of all Matisyahu, who had to rest a hand on his head to keep his yarmulke from flying off as he jumped up and down. After proving his reggae credibility, Matisyahu dismissed the band and began an a capella beatboxing, incorporating dub, hip-hop and techno rhythms culminating in a call-and-response with the drummer.

Ozomatli – Friday evening, Sun Up Stage
Ozomatli isn’t afraid to toss a rap into a Spanish melody. In fact, it doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything musically. The10-piece band blended Spanish, rock, African, Middle Eastern and hip hop into the most contagious and diverse groove of the day. The 75-minute set drew heavily from Ozomatli’s latest album, last year’s “Street Signs,” but the band worked in a new song, a rap driven by a Middle Eastern flute. The crowd thinned considerably when the String Cheese Incident took the adjacent stage, but there were enough hands raised in the air and bodies shaking to show that these folks weren’t just killing time.

Junior Brown – Saturday evening, Revival Tent
Junior Brown took a mostly full and enthusiastic Revival Tent crowd honky tonkin’ early Saturday evening. Wearing an immaculate three-piece suit and backed by a three-piece band, including his wife Tanya Rae, Brown kept the stage banter to a minimum and kept his music plowing along like the Orange Blossom Special. His deep voice was cribbed in the same fertile tone as Johnny Cash’s and he deftly switched from traditional country melodies to a Spanish language song and even a surf guitar medley.
The highlights were all of Brown’s tasteful guitar solos, performed on his trademark “guit-steel,” a double-neck six-string and pedal steel guitar, and his drummer of 31 years, who was able to do more with his simple snare and cymbal set than most can from an entire trap kit.

Neko Case – Saturday night, Sun Down Stage
Despite having a large crowd assembled in anticipation of headliner Wilco, Neko Case did not go out of her way to win any new converts Saturday night. Case’s hourlong restrained set never moved above mid-tempo and failed to engage the patient crowd. Taken individually, each song was quite good, but together they became a long, lonesome lullaby. Like a mournful train whistle crying out late in the night, Case and her four-piece band wallowed in love gone wrong. The material was well-done, but best suited for an intimate club and Case looked a little overwhelmed by the crowd, which was polite in spite of the pacing problems and the fact that few of her subtleties transferred effectively to the lawn.

Wilco – Saturday night, Sun Down Stage
Jeff Tweedy, Wilco’s frontman and songwriter, had the sold-out crowd eating out of his hand from the opening strains of the first number, “A Shot in the Arm.” The 90-minute show only got better from there. Wilco’s expanded six-piece line-up, including two keyboards and two guitars, fought like siblings in the sonic mélange. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did, creating the perfect atmosphere for each song. “Handshake Drugs” and “Kidsmoke (Spiders)” had thick walls of distortion that would have made Sonic Youth proud, while the folksier romps through the “Mermaid Ave.” material were warm and happy. If the audience participation bits failed, it was only because Wilco’s material isn’t really suited for it. Besides, Tweedy already had them at hello.

Proto-Kaw – Sunday afternoon, Sun Down Stage
Proto-Kaw will inevitably be compared to songwriter Kerry Livgren’s other band, Kansas, but the call-and-response in the opening number between Livgren’s guitar John Bolton’s flute should put those differences to rest. Formed in the early ‘70s, the band folded after failing to land a record contract and Livgren’s leap to a rival band and classic rock history. The septet belatedly reconvened when their archival demos were released to critical acclaim in 2002 and have since recorded an all-new album together. Proto-Kaw drew from both of those sources in their hour-long set that was enjoyed by the meager and decidedly older crowd that braved the mid-day sun for a set of progressive rock that somehow managed to replace arena-ready anthems with splashes of jazz and funk.

Jazz Mandolin Project – Sunday afternoon, Revival Tent
The Jazz Mandolin Project has more in common soncially with its good friends in Phish than it does the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, of which bandleader Jamie Masefield was once a member. Anyone expecting soothing acoustic jazz may have been pleased by the first number, but the songs grew more experimental and danceable as the set progressed. The quartet – mandolin, drums, upright bass and trumpet – is what the Flecktones would sound like if they were a jam band. The crowd was enthralled by the improvisation, but the bass and drums were sometimes so propulsive and funky one lost track of the mandolin. The 70-minute set culminated with the feel-good and danceable “Oh Yeah,” the best song of the night.

Old Crow Medicine Show – Sunday evening, Revival Tent
If, as the old saying goes, you can’t play sad music on a banjo, then Old Crow Medicine Show is the happiest band in the world. With half of the sextet on the jubilant drumhead five-string, the Crows threw a mighty hoedown as the sun set over the Wakarusa Music and Camping Festival.
The Revival Tent was about half full at the start of the set, but by the end the tent was so full that people were dancing outside. The clappin’ and stompin’ were nonstop throughout the 70-minute set, which included classics like “CC Rider,” “Poor Man,” “Take ‘Em Away,” a cover of “Bluegrass Bob” Marley’s “Soul Rebel” and plenty of down-home stage banter.

Keep Reading:

Wakarusa Music Festival (2006)

Wakarusa Music Festival (2007)

Wakarusa Music Festival (2008)

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