Grateful Fred's @The Atkinson prides itself on being the foremost venue for authentic roots music in North Merseyside and they don't come any more authentic or rootsy than tonight's very special guests Mike Compton and Joe Newberry.
This two-man string band are a living compendium of traditional American roots music - old-time,gospel, bluegrass ,blues and early country music , it's all there .
Mike Compton is a master of Monroe-style mandolin . He was a founder member of the Nashville Bluegrass Band and has played with everyone from Ralph Stanley to John Hartford to Elvis Costello.He was also one of the original Soggy Bottom Boys who performed on the soundtrack to the wonderful Coen Brothers film "O Brother ,Where Art Thou".
Joe Newberry is an award-winning songwriter, whose songs have been recorded by Ricky Scaggs and The Gibson Brothers amongst others. Joe is also a talented multi-instrumentalist ,equally at home on guitar and banjo. Together, Mike and Joe are a formidable duo who charm audiences wherever they go. Tonight Mike and Joe took us on a magical musical tour of the Southern States of the 1930's and '40's, more of which later.
Before the headliners, we had strong sets from two local, home-grown songwriters . First up was Charlie McKeon ,a superb guitarist with a most appealing vocal style. Charlie started his set with some innovative interpretations of the traditional "John Henry", "Sail Away Ladies" and "Pretty Saro", which highlighted his dexterous guitar technique. Carlie's original songs ,including "King Hullabaloo's Jamboree" and "I'm Going To Join An Army" showed that he is also a fine songwriter.
Next up we had the ever-popular Mark Pountney making his third appearance at Grateful Fred's.
Mark is one of those rare breed of British songwriters who can write songs that sound like authentic country songs: songs such as "The Diamond Of My Mind", "I Won't Let You Down" [a gunfighter ballad] and "God On My Side"[which wouldn't be out of place on a Spaghetti Western soundtrack].Mark was joined by Jimmy March on fiddle for several songs including the excellent "Teardrop Trail".
Charlie and Mark set us up nicely for the main event ,Compton and Newberry ,who acted as tour guides as we travelled [musically] through the Southern States ,with "Tennessee Breakdown", "Texas Gals", "My Alabama Baby" ,"Mississippi Breakdown" , "Charleston No.1" and "Rocky Island" from Kentucky ,all of which were played with great vim and vigour ,not to mention sublime skill.
We were also taken to church with religious songs ,including The Stanley Brothers' "Righteous Pathway" and The Monroe Brothers' "What Would You Give Me In Exchange For Your Soul". Joe has also made a significant contribution to this genre with his composition "Singing As We Rise",which was written in the style of The Carter Family and was recorded by The Gibson Brothers.
On the secular side of things we were treated to covers of two songs by The Mississippi Sheikhs "Please Baby" and the wonderful "Sittin' On Top Of The World".
All too soon their set was over but for an encore we had a captivating performance of Joe's moving tribute to his mother "I Know Whose Tears".
It was such a pleasure to listen to these two masters of what they [ever so modestly ] called "home made music". All I can say is that I wish that I could make music like that in my home!
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many gigs we can get to. We'd really like to expand our national coverage of the live scene as it remains the life blood of music.
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