The Special Consensus were a late addition to the 10th season of Waskasoo Bluegrass, but proved to be a highlight. The venerable Chicago-based band, augmented by members from Nashville and Kansas City (I think) demonstrated that they should be considered for any and all bluegrass stages.
Unlike some bands that are too pleased with themselves, The Special C- led by Greg Cahill since 1975- is a modest, self-confident group without a lick of arrogance. The current edition of the band, featuring David Thomas (bass and vocals), Ryan Roberts (guitar and vocals), and Rick Faris (mandolin and vocals), as well as Cahill (banjo and vocals), is one of the more vocally sound bands I’ve heard in recent times. Combine that with tasteful and expressive instrumental chops, and a winning lineup is on stage.
The band presented a polished, professional show without the trappings of overly rehearsed antics.
Roberts shone in his home country, playing with the Special C in Canada for only the second time. As the band’s token Canuck, he made family of all in the audience- quite a feat as Red Deer is some 5000 km from his Glace Bay hometown- heck, his Nashville home is closer to Red Deer than Cape Breton Island! His natural charm and talent made the remaining copies of his solo album disappear before the intermission was half over.
The band borrowed from a range of writers, delving into the Irving Berlin, Hank Snow, Louvin Brothers, Michael Martin Murphey, Ronnie Bowman, and Ron Spears songbooks. They also preformed several band written tunes, some of which will be featured on their upcoming 35 album on a label to be announced soon; I don’t think it is my place to break that news.
It was a wonderful performance, and the band receives the highest recommendation to all festival and concert promoters. (Self-involvement alert: I handle the bookings for the club, and therefore dealt with Greg in all aspects of the gig; the man has it together- a very low-maintainence band.)