James Delnero and Lost Mountain: this group consisted of rhythm guitarist Delnero, mandolinist Mark Leveille, and banjo picker Chris Boucher, plus a bass player who was a last-minute addition. I couldn't tell; it was pretty seamless. A lot of that was due to the tightness between Delnero, Leveille, and Boucher, who sang three-part harmonies on nearly every song. Delnero primarily sang lead but Leveille and Boucher had a couple turns each. Though the group asked for requests, they only got one: "Man of Constant Sorrow," which they did a nice job on. Mostly they played traditional songs: "Worried Man Blues," "Shake My Mother's Hand For Me," "Blue Ridge Cabin Home." They did play a couple originals. All in all, it was a solid performance. Usually the opening band at the Cantab is more old-timey, so it was fun to get a double shot of bluegrass.
Old Train and the Refugees / Jake Armerding Band: the calendar lists them as the Jake Armerding Band, but Geoff Bartley (who runs Bluegrass Tuesdays at the 'Tab) introduced them as Old Train and the Refugees, which the band picked up. I thought it was just a running joke, but they never gave another name and an Internet search does find that band name. It doesn't matter, it's the same guys: Jake Armerding, playing mostly fiddle, his dad Taylor "Old Train" Armerding on mandolin, and bassist / wonderful moustachioed man Zach Hickman (last seen rocking The Festy with Josh Ritter). Joining them was guitarist and terrific singer Mark Erelli, and Charlie Rose, primarily on the banjo.
As much as I enjoyed the opening act, it wasn't long into the main course that I was struck by what a difference in energy there was. Part of it was the energy; any band featuring Zach Hickman on bass is going to be a lot of fun. Part was the stage presence; the quintet was all nattily attired, with Erelli sporting a cowboy hat and suit, Hickman his usually moustache, and everyone with a sport coat or suit jacket. Part was the banter, as Taylor Armerding mocked a recent U.S. Weekly headline, "Jake and Taylor in love!" Part was the technical wizardry; Rose was stellar with up-the-neck banjo solos, Hickman performed at least three bass solos, and Jake Armerding played three instruments. And part was the songs.
The song selection deserves its own paragraph. All five members sang, from Hickman taking the Roy Orbison part on The Traveling Wilbury's "Handle With Care" (and Erelli doing a spot-on Tom Petty) to Taylor Armerding singing high lonesome on an original gospel number, "City On a Hill." No stone was left unturned: Rose sang Carl Perkins' "Baby Why You Been Gone So Long," Erelli reached into the 70's with Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen tunes, and Jake Armerding played a humorous original tune about TSA regulations and closed things out with Paul Simon's "Graceland." It was a celebration of American music through the lens of bluegrass, and it was as awesome as all that implies.
James Delnero and Lost Mountain official site
Jake Armerding official site