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Ry Cooder, Sharon White, and Ricky Skaggs - 10 November 2015 - The Birchmere - Alexandria, VA

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Ry Cooder, Sharon White, and Ricky Skaggs - 10 November 2015 - The Birchmere - Alexandria, VA

Ry Cooder, Sharon White, and Ricky Skaggs

10 November 2015 - The Birchmere - Alexandria, VA

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Band Members:  Ry Cooder - guitars, mandola, banjo, vocals; Sharon White - guitar, vocals; Ricky Skaggs - mandolin, fiddle, electric guitar, vocals; Joachim Cooder - drums; Mark Fain - bass; Buck White - piano, vocals; Cheryl White - vocals

    The night was chilly and rainy but the spirits ran high amongst those gathered in line outside the historic Birchmere in Alexandria, VA.  Many dedicated souls braved the weather to come and bear witness to some truly great music and musical ability.  Once the appointed time arrived, we all filed inside ready to get warm and await our turns to get into the venue.  In the meantime, Will and I had the honor of interviewing Mr. Skaggs himself, but that is a tale already told here:  Ricky Skaggs Interview.  After the interview was over and we’d waited the remaining amount of time, we walked into the space after our number was called, grabbing seats near the aisle for good coverage purposes.  Our table mates were all very agreeable and supportive of our cause, which is always nice.  The food was tasty and the libations proved just the right thing to set us up for an evening of supremely fine music, care of Mr. Skaggs and company.  Might as well get right to it, right my friends?

    They kicked things off with the stunning vocal harmonies of “The Family Who Prays Shall Never Part” immediately showcasing so much of what makes this tour, this ensemble, so special.  Very, very fine instrumental work, adept-level musicianship, and incredible vocals.  Add that all up and you get a huge smile on your face, not to mention a whopping and lovely level of satisfaction.  Nothing gets to my heart faster than strong, sweet, and sonorous vocals.  And, luckily for me, this is just the kind of show that has those very things in spades.  Next up was Flatt and Scruggs’ “Take Me in Your Lifeboat” which featured some exquisite piano playing from the White family patriarch, Buck White.  My goodness can that gentleman tickle the ivories!  I’ll gladly listen to him break it down any day of the week.  And twice on Tuesdays!  Some really great guitar from Mr. Cooder in this one — I really see his playing in this group so much as the perfect accent line and texture to push these old favorites up to a new and different level.  It is a very interesting and rewarding process to watch, to be sure.  And just how tempting can one thing be?  This music sure was tempting in so many ways but none more so than with “Sweet Temptation” — can we tempt you with a little video? 

Pretty sweet, no?  They followed “Sweet Temptation” with a soulful and powerful version of Hank Williams’ “Mansion on a Hill”.  Sharon White took lead vocals for this one, obviously pouring her professed love of this song directly into her performance.  The effect was palpable.  Later on down the set the ensemble launched into “Soul of a Man” filled with heartfelt banjo care of Mr. Ry Cooder.  Not to mention the clarion clear vocals of Mr. Skaggs throughout the serenity of this piece.  It all made for a gorgeous whole.  They contrasted the “diaphanous and corpuscular” (Ry’s words) nature of “Soul of a Man” with the well-known and well-loved Jimmy Martin song, “Hold Whatcha Got”.  An obvious crowd pleaser, this rendition was filled with the perfect balance of all musicians present with some nice stand-out moments from a few, such as Buck on the keys.  Ry’s first favorite song he’s loved since the third grade, “Now and Then, There’s a Fool Such As I”, was next in line with Ricky up on fiddle to help round out the wonderful Western sound of this one.  A lovely number from Ry and the gang, nice and sweet and filled with some particularly fine harmonies.  Not a big surprise from this ensemble, but always a blessed treat all the same.  A bit of some good ol’ Flatt and Scruggs came after in the form of one delightful “Goin’ Home” followed by “The Old Home Place” featuring some straight pickin’ from Ricky on mandolin and Ry on banjo.  And that voice…that classic, Ricky Skaggs voice singing in such pure tones and perfect timbre for this musical style — magnificent.  They took this directly into a rousing “Hallelujah I’m Ready” which was big on sound and harmonic precision.  A really fun little ride!  The Delmore Brothers’ “Pan-American Boogie” sauntered out later down the set, bursting with an agreeable musical attitude and even more amazing vocals and harmonies from the exquisite collection of singers present.  Sensing a trend yet?  Sincerely, if you love good music, good music played well, sung well, then you should check this act out if you can before their tour ends.  The harmonies alone should be enough to get you there, never minding the world-class instrumental abilities throughout the group.  Absolutely marvelous.  “Wait a Little Longer, Please, Jesus” was next with Sharon on lead vocals for a little Gospel and then we got a wonderfully nice duet from Sharon and Ricky called “No Doubt About It” with Ricky on electric guitar for a song.  What blend these two have!  Thirty-four years of marriage must have an effect like that on musicians such as these…and thank goodness for it!  Then they gave us some Bill Monroe next with Ricky remaining on electric guitar and Ry on his admittedly really cool-looking mandola for a super energetic “Walking in Jerusalem”.  The group kept the Gospel vibe going with “Over in the Gloryland” to end the set on a high, high note for everyone there present.  What a show!!  So many wonderful parts and moments and there was still the encore to look forward to!

    Ricky spoke a few words of thanks before announcing that they would give us two more songs in encore to that stellar show.  The first was a Ry Cooder lead called “You Must Unload”, a sort of cautionary song and available for a listen here: 

Finally, picking another powerful Flatt and Scruggs catalogue favorite, they closed things down for the night with a moving and supremely gorgeous “Reunion in Heaven”.  Wow.  And I do mean, wow.  What a show!  I mean, I knew to expect wonderful things from this Bluegrass supergroup, however…wow.   Some of the finest musicianship I have seen on a stage in a long time.  Bravi to one and all for such a fun and important evening of musical adeptness.  Looking so forward to the next time I can see any or all of these fine artists again.  And so many thanks to one and all for such marvelous musical memories!

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2015 - Festival Experience Archive - Sunday

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Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2015 - Festival Experience Archive - Sunday

Telluride Bluegrass Festival 2015

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Sunday Highlights

Fruition - Greensky Bluegrass - Ricky Skaggs, Ry Cooder, and Sharon White

    T’was the hottest day of the fest and we could feel in our hair follicles.  Which meant it was also time for yet more of the hottest music to be found that Sunday, June 21st, 2015.  That friendly, fine Father’s Day in southwest Colorado.  And who was first on our docket?  Fruition on the Elks Park Stage, that was who!  And for their first time at Telluride Bluegrass, too, if you can believe it!!  If you’ve never heard, never seen this ridiculously talented and insufferably cool band from Portland, OR, then please, please do yourself the favor of checking them out as soon as humanly and humanely possible.  Their blended sound of rock and folk and grass and attitude and smiles is unique and one worth sampling…and then going back for seconds through sixths or so.  We walked up to the stage to the familiar sounds of guitar and mando, drums and bass right as they finished their first song.  Damn.  Hate being late to good music.  Their second selection was a new number with vocals by Kellen Asebroek and a distinctive reggae undertone.  Why take my word for it?  Why don’t you enjoy a bit of we enjoyed that day?  

Of absolute note here is just how positively the crowd was reacting to seeing Fruition play.  By far the most people were standing and dancing for this band than any other we saw at the secondary stage.  And that sun was pretty warm.  And plentiful.  And people didn’t seem to care one bit as they enjoyed the delightful stylings of this fine crew out of Portland.  Up next was the sweet and loving “She Loves Me Like High Waters” followed by the rocking number from a recent EP that Fruition did with Grant Farm, “Random Lee” — this one had pretty much everyone there up and moving and grooving.  Folk rock at its finest here, ladies and gents.  Excellence and fun all wrapped up together in an easy-to-love kind of band.  And they weren’t done yet!  Miss Allie Krall joined them for a song called “Labor of Love” from their upcoming album — in fact, this is, apparently, Mimi Naja’s favorite of the new tracks.  A hopping, clapping rhythm coupled with superb rock guitar and Jay’s wonderfully unique vocals helped quickly make this one of my new favorites as well.  After taking a few moments for much gratitude to the fest and their fellow bands, it was time for the old crowd favorite, “Mountain Annie”.  Really love the melody line of that song!  Something so catchy and haunting and gentle about it.  Just makes you want to hit “repeat one” on the shuffle for awhile.  Following “Mountain Annie” was the advice-riddled “Just Close Your Eyes” and then it was time for the big closer with “Gotta Get Back Home”, this last one almost feeling like a musical overlay to the time of the weekend, things starting to wrap up, pushing towards the final stretch.  Then, come Monday, gotta get back home.  And then they were done, last chords, final notes ringing out…or were they?  Guess who scored an encore??  And boy did they ever bring out an encore!  They said they only had a few minutes left so, why not completely melt our faces with a searing hot “Boil Over”?  I mean this one was en fuego, my friends.  They kickstarted that monster machine and tore through about three-and-a-half minutes of pure musical ecstasy with us, for us, for them.  And then there was a second encore!!  “Meet Me on the Mountain”!!  It was, most assuredly, one incredible hell of a way to put the final smack down on their first Telluride showing.  Damn!  I have not doubts of a them being invited back again.  Probably yearly after that set.  Damn!  Double damn!  And then it was the Main Stage shuffle back over to Town Park to catch some Greensky Bluegrass.  Tell yeah!!

Fruition

Fruition

    Blue skies above our heads.  Green grasses beneath our toes.  Greeksky Bluegrass on stage.  Life, she is good, eh?  In all seriousness, though, what a wonderful set of alignment to get that much good all at once and in one place.  The boys from Kalamazoo threw down a solid set drawing mostly on tracks from their most recent album, If Sorrows Swim, understandably so having an audience like that to play some of your prouder works for.  Must have been a very jubilant moment for them.  It certainly was for us as they opened with “A Letter to Seymour” featuring Bruzza on the lead vocals.  We could hear in his voice that Dave was suffering vocally a bit or even losing his voice — we felt badly for him and tried to send him good vibes all set to make it through.  Which he did boldly hitting that mic for every solo.  Hope he made a speedy recovery afterwards — I know full-well what it is like to have no voice on stage.  Not a great feeling.  The sweet, serene, and slightly sad “In Control” followed with Phoff on the vocals in front of the afternoon’s crowd segueing into a quick version of “Burn Them” which you can check out here: 

A universally-loved cover of theirs was next, Traffic’s “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” which sounded as crisp and on-point as any selection so far.  The middle jam was, in a word, intense.  And long and quite exploratory.  So far so great.  This was shaping up to be a solid set.  More good ones from the album, we got a nice “The Four” and “Kerosene” (which had a really decent mid-jam itself, one that got a little dark for awhile) before none other than the Sam Bush appeared on stage to augment GSBG’s awesomeness even further with his own fiddle prowess!  Getting a little Gospel on us the six musicians delivered a delightful and reverent “Will the Circle be Unbroken” and then unleashed some more Bruzza with “Worried About the Weather”.  Always incredible to have Sam sit in with one of your favorite bands…or just with any band, really.  And then how about some of the Grateful Dead redemption energy again?  A little “Black Muddy River” maybe?  Which sounded supremely excellent.  They just keep getting better and better and pulling forth such essence and feeling from that piece.  Then, channeling his funky inner Chuck Brown from the night before, Phoffman threw down a little “I Feel Like Bustin’ Loose” intro into “Don’t Lie” to close out their set on the Main Stage this year.  “Don’t Lie” featured another lengthy (16:00+!!), monster jam worth mentioning — anyone seeing a theme here?  It is a real pleasure to watch these five guys work their way around their instruments and as an ensemble.  Like during this “Don’t Lie” jam.  Give them 10 years and who knows how incredible they will be?  And, of course, they got an encore after that giving us “Windshield” as their Telluride 2015 good-bye.  Thanks for the ‘Ride, you guys.  What a thrill!!

Greensky Bluegrass with Sam Bush

Greensky Bluegrass with Sam Bush

    There, wasn’t that just musical excellence personified?  That, my lads and lasses, was the Gospel styling of Ricky Skaggs, Ry Cooder, Sharon White, and friends.  Living legends on one stage, in the same ensemble.  And boy, did it show!  As with “Take Me in Your Lifeboat”, their second song of the evening.  First impressions?  Top-notch harmonies, no doubt.  Ry Cooder on guitar?  Like watching a mellow god of peerless ability.  Ricky Skaggs?  Seen him before…just love the guy.  Great stage presence and the man can pick.  I already saw exactly why this trio was pulled together here at Telluride.  Later on down the set came an old Hank Williams ballad from Sharon White — “A Mansion on the Hill”, its sad and longing refrain and honky tonk tragedy feel hearkening back to an earlier time in music.  Flatt and Scruggs “On My Mind” was another nostalgic selection bringing that classic sound and feeling of bluegrass of yore to Telluride, featuring Ricky on fiddle.  Speaking of Ricky, he was full of stories and regaling that evening like about singing with Ralph Stanley when he was merely 15 years old.  Can you imagine?  Singing songs like “Daniel Prayed”, their next selection, for instance.  “Morning, noon, and night” I could listen to these three and their ensemble play and sing.  See what I did there?  Later still a really cool and swung version of “Hold Watcha Got” was on the menu.  Really dug this interpretation of it.  And so did the dancing crowd!  Another treat for all of us…more Flatt and Scruggs — “No Doubt About It”.  I was certainly getting into this whole yesteryear vibe tonight.  Which meant that the final, ultimate, final, completely, final (did I say final?) closing song of the 42nd Telluride Bluegrass Festival was Bill Monroe’s “Uncle Pen” which they absolutely crushed.  Hard drivin’, fast pickin’, classic singin’ right until the beautiful end!  Hats off to this trio and their band for an amazing set.  Hats off to the organizers of the Festival for all their incredible efforts.  Hats off to the technical support army that makes these things happen.  Hats off to all the bands and artists for all the unparalleled joy and music!  And, hats off to all the festival goers who made my first Telluride so special, so unique, so memorable, and so good that I’ll see you next year!!

Ricky Skaggs, Ry Cooder, Sharon White, and Friends

Ricky Skaggs, Ry Cooder, Sharon White, and Friends

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