Those of you who follow this blog know I go to The Cantab Lounge in Cambridge quite a bit, but I almost always go on Tuesdays for their bluegrass night. Last night I wanted to check out their open mic night.
Geoff Bartley, who runs both the open mic and Bluegrass Tuesday at the Cantab, kicked off the set night with a few songs in finger-picking guitar style, doing a couple of his own tunes (including the lovely Nelson-Mandela-inspired "Letter From Prison" in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) and a couple covers. He's got a nice baritone voice and a real love of American roots music, whether folk, blues, country, jazz, or bluegrass.
After that came the open mic performances, almost exclusively on acoustic guitar. Some folks did covers, some originals, some vocal, some instrumental (notably a beautiful fingerpicked version of Kermit the Frog's "Rainbow Connection"). Things were fairly low-key, and it would have been nice to hear some punchier numbers.
Mary Lou Ferrante was the headliner, billed as playing "pre-World-War-II country blues." By modern standards, such music is very sparse and stark, but Ferrante had a performing charisma that helped carry it, smiling as she played and filling gaps between songs with stories of Memphis Minnie and Charlie Patton. Personally, I love blues in any format, and I thought Ferrante's adroit picking (at resonator guitar, acoustic guitar, and even ukulele for one song) and rich voice captured the feel and sound of those early delta blues in fine fashion.
Geoff Bartley official site
Mary Lou Ferrante MySpace page