The last month has been tough on me; many things are calling for my attention, and writing has had to fall by the wayside. I have been listening to some great stuff- the new Peter Rowan, the Frank Solivan, some great Steve Forbert music from the past. The Gibson Brothers’ new album They Call It Music is spectacular, and my review of it has been posted at the Lonesome Road Review.
I’ve posted my review of the Tina Adair Band’s new album Born Bad over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass. I was very impressed with this collection, a set that marks a return to bluegrass recording for Tina Adair and her husband, Tim Dishman. The review can be found here. While researching the piece, I found this concert footage of the band from a couple years back; select songs from Born Bad are featured.
My review of 1945 has been posted to the Lonesome Road Review.
Track down this one.
[I've revised this piece, adding more details.]
Back home now, and back to work. The last half of my week in Kansas City didn’t live up to the first part, but did have its highlights.
My trip to southern Missouri was brilliant. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and home place were well worth the eight or so hours on the highways of the state. I absolutely loved my experiences in the Mansfield area. I believe I may have been born in the Ozarks, only we called it the County of Parkland- beautiful, rough land that just felt like home. Walking in the footsteps of history; it was wonderful to walk through the homes of Laura and Almanzo. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum was equally impressive, albeit in an entirely different way. While I knew most- if only in a superficial way- of the Ingalls Wilder story, I learned so much about the history of baseball while at the museum in the 18th and Vine area of Kansas City. The displays were very informative, and much of the museum was very well done if beginning to show some wear around the edges, an affliction it shares with the Ingalls Wilder museum.
I got back to the city too late that evening to start my Map Fest experience, but I did catch a reggae band at The Levee, a club near my hotel. The served a real good burger, too.
The Middle of the Map festival in KC was most obviously not designed with me in mind. I decided to branch out and catch some acts removed from my roots/Americana world. I can’t say I was impressed by anything new I heard within the ‘indie pop/indie rock’ catchall, a genre without distinction beyond muffled, indistinct vocals. Every band reminded me of either the Lumineers or REO Speedwagon, often simultaneously. Canadian Owen Pallett was the exception- rocking the traditional violin-based, loop-fired power trio format, Pallett was pretty impressive and, more importantly, enjoyable. Other (and apparently popular) bands didn’t fare as well to my ears- the appeal of The Joy Formidable was lost on me, and don’t get me started on Whiskey Breath, an outfit that made cowboy thrash a genre I don’t need to encounter again any time soon.
I’m guessing I just don’t have enough facial hair. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen so many ill-nourished beards as I did at Middle of the Map venues. And what is it with folks to talk, tweet, and listen at the same time? Never have I felt so old; it was as if I was surrounded by the youth of a different species.
A pair of KC based roots acts impressed more than the indie rock/pop outfits. Blackbird Revue’s brief set contained an unusual male-female vocal blend that I quite enjoyed, and Cadillac Flambe were a rockin’ roots outfit; I picked up their recordings. A very impressive band were featured at Gustos on the Saturday afternoon: power-pop is alive with John Velghe & the Prodigal Sons- energetic, fresh, and dynamic. Shades of Dwight Twilley. Brass, too!
The only Roots performer that came close to reaching the levels of Rex Hobart/Bob Walkenhorst was Joe Pug. “Diana” and “The Great Despiser” were just two of the songs that make me think of Pug in the way I am confident hipsters thought of Steve Forbert around 1979. I had been quite familiar with his music prior to his set; hearing him live made me a fan. I will continue to follow his path.
I enjoyed my time in the city.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Rex Hobart and his band…whose name I’ve completely misplaced in the increasingly cluttered filing cabinet of my mind…played a terrific pair of sets at The Record Bar Tuesday night. Hobart plays the Westport establishment the first Tuesday of every month, and while he hasn’t released an album is way too long he continues to sound wonderful. I was very impressed by the performance I witnessed, a 75/25 split of covers and original material. He and his band- Darrin on pedal steel, as well as drums, guitar and Craig on bass (and I can’t remember the guitar player’s name- a very nice man, as were Darrin and Craig)- allowed me to sing along with just about every song…from the back of the room- from Tom T. Hall and Wynn Stewart, to Dwight Yoakam and Freddy Fender. The originals were equally impressive, songs like “Here Comes Nothing” and “The Tear I Left Behind.” Wonderful stuff. Rex was kind enough to chat with me for a bit, and updated me on the life of a traveling minstrel after the glamour of the road loses it appeal. I was most impressed by his life view- no bitterness about not getting over that final hump toward broad-based success, and fully content (and no small bit grateful) to play a few times a month, work as a theatrical carpenter and set designer, and raise his child.
If you are in the area, I heartily recommend catching Rex’s show. And the hummus pizza was absolutely incredible.
Bob Walkenhorst and Jeff Porter played The Record Bar tonight, Wednesday. Having appreciated the music of the Rainmakers since my University days, and having listened to scores of Bob’s live shows posted to the Live Internet Archive, I knew I was in for a wonderful evening of music. The duo didn’t disappoint, with Norm off on the road with The Elders, Steve Phillips’ band. They played an extended two-hour set and were absolutely brilliant. Jeff took the lead on several songs, including “Savannah” and “Still She Waits,” two songs I never tire of hearing, as well as the ‘almost’ standard “15 Miles.” As much as I appreciate that Bob and Jeff truly share the stage, I was there to see and hear Bob (and that has nothing to do with the fact that Jeff doesn’t like bluegrass for more than two songs!)
Appearing more than a little scruffy with a semi-fresh growth of facial hair, Walkenhorst was in terrific voice and appeared to be in an even better mood. He and Jeff barely paused all evening beyond greeting visitors and acknowledging the familiar crowd. I wasn’t really prepared to be welcomed as a never-before-met cousin by the legion of Wednesday night regulars, but I was. Thanks to all who made me feel part of the family. I even shared a table with Iris DeMent’s yoga teacher, and Jay’s brother Terry. Great folks.
Opening with (I think, and I’ll be terribly embarrassed if my memory has failed me this badly) “I Shall Be Released”, Bob sprinkled in several covers (but perhaps fewer than usual?) including “Sympathy for the Devil,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” a verse of “I Started a Joke,” as well as songs culled from both the Rainmakers and his own catalogue. “Like Dogs” was performed by request, and “Small Circles,” “One That Got Away,” “Wages of Sin,” “Hoo Dee Hoo,” and others kept the dance floor filled for much of the night. Personal favourites included hearing “Turpentine,” “Jan Vermeer,” and “No Abandon.” I’ll be downloading this one as soon as I get back home; if the count on the site is accurate, this will be the 500th Bob show to be posted there. A shout out to Jay for keeping this tradition alive. Many thanks.
If you are a Walkenhorst/Rainmakers devote, and haven’t made the pilgrimage to the Record Bar, I highly recommend the trip as being well worth the effort. I am very pleased that I was able to experience the show live, and was most likely the only person in the place seeing Bob for the first time.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Insert Wilbert Harrison cliché at your leisure.
I was fortunate this past winter to have one of my supervisors suggest a course of training. Upon investigation, I discovered the only session being offered over my spring break was in Kansas City! As a result, not only do I get to do some much-needed professional development this week, I also have the opportunity to extend my stay and explore the music- and food- of a city that has increasingly intrigued me for several years.
In addition to the workshop that will benefit my professional growth, I get to finally (if the river doesn’t rise in the next two days) catch Bob Walkenhorst at The Record Bar Wednesday evening. I’ve written about my admiration of Walkernhorst (and The Rainmakers) before, and I am thrilled to have this long-held wish finally come to fruition.
I spent this afternoon exploring the area around my hotel, and while the streets still seem to go every which direction, some of the landmarks are beginning to look familiar. Should you see a pasty Canadian wandering the streets of Westport this week, feel free to point me in the correct direction. I must have walked fifty blocks this afternoon, and this comes on a couple of hours of non-restful sleep on the redeye to Toronto and a pair of commuters to Chicago and finally the City of Fountains (I learned that one today.)
I found The Record Bar on my second trip- went west (I think) this time instead of north. I was pleased that the bar looks and feels almost exactly like I had imagined it while listening to many Walkenhorst broadcasts from the venue. It is in a strip mall, beside a dollar store, an Ace Hardware and a Half-Price Books and Records store. The bartender is an affable guy named Clarence, and he recommended a tasty beverage for a warming afternoon.
Upon entering the Record Bar, I discovered that another favourite- Rex Hobart- has his monthly gig tomorrow evening, so I’ll be back in for that. As well, I have my Middle of the Map fest ticket ready, and while I don’t know how many shows I’ll be able to catch, I do know I’ll be back at The Record Bar for Joe Pug. By the time I leave the city this weekend, perhaps everyone will know my name. As well, Amy LaVere is in town this week, so I’ll need to find Knuckleheads.
While my days will be filled with heavy lifting as I develop additional skills, my evenings should be rich in roots music. And I can hardly wait to taste my first meal of Kansas City BBQ, as recommended by Dr. Winnie Dunn.
First up though, a nap. I am running on empty and have full days facing me. Wish me luck!
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
I’ve added a second story to my ongoing series The Story Behind…over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, part of the Country Standard Time site. On this final day of March, I share James Reams’ recollections on how he came to use the Barnstormers name. James has posted a trailer for his Pioneers of Bluegrass film which will soon be released on DVD. Those of you who purchased his Troubled Time CD have seen some of the footage already, and I am eagerly awaiting the release of the completed project.
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald