Thursday, December 16, 2010

Live Review - 12/14/2010 John McGann's Bluegrass Mashup and The Dixie Butterhounds at Cantab

The Dixie Butterhounds: banjo player Jon Gersh described The Dixie Butterhounds' music at one point (and I'm paraphrasing) as "not too different from what you'd hear on a Friday or Saturday night in northern Georgia in the 1920's or 1930's." They mined traditional music (such as "Sugar Hill") and pre-bluegrass folk music stars (such as Uncle Dave Macon and The Carter Family) for their old-time set. The group is strong vocally, with everyone but the bassist taking a turn. Particularly good were subtle harmonies between fiddler Mark Wholley and rhythm guitarist Kathy Fletcher, very tastefully done. Nothing too groundbreaking here, but the mix of sounds - double fiddles by Wholley and George Touchstone, and Gersh's clawhammer banjo - was appealing.

John McGann's Bluegrass Mashup: I was prepared for McGann's excellence - though I hadn't heard him previously, his reputation as one of the best mandolin players in the Boston area precedes him - but the excellence of his accompaniment was a welcome surprise. McGann was joined by Deadly Gentlemen fiddler Mike Barnett, Della Mae bassist Amanda Kowalski, and the uber-talented Courtney Hartman. Kowalski brought the energy, consistently making eye contact with her band mates, swaying her whole body as she played, and keeping the bass line popping, even as the band played swingier numbers. Barnett and Hartman are just effortless players, playing fast, interesting, tasteful solos like they were just sitting on a chair. Hartman also sang and did a fine job; she's definitely a talent to watch. And McGann was terrific as expected, playing traditional fast bluegrass solos, bluesy riffs, woody chops, and putting the whole thing together I'll be interested to see if this foursome plays again, and also follow along with the other projects this group might have in store.

The Dixie Butterhounds official site
John McGann official site

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