Five minutes before tonight's entertainment at Grateful Fred's was due to start, I was stuck in a business meeting.Luckily that meeting was at Southport Town Hall, so I was able to rush next door to The Atkinson in time to catch the first notes of the first song by the excellent opening act, Gary Maginnis and the Like. I must say that I was most impressed with Gary's songwriting, singing and his acoustic-rock band ,the Like. Gary was also thrilled to be playing at The Atkinson , "the nicest place that we have played". Gary treated us to a selection of songs from his EP "Ghost Town Blues" [including the catchy opening track "The Way I'm Thinking"] as well as some new songs , notably the charity single "Black Jeans and Cigarette Smoke". A most enjoyable set from Gary and the Like.
Next up were our very own Grateful Fred Trio [actually a quartet ,with the addition of the excellent George Hitchmough on drums]. The GFT were celebrating the recent release [at last] of their rather tasty debut album "Further Down The Road". From that splendid disc we had a selection of Grateful Fred's Grate-est Hits ,including the sprightly rockabilly of the title song; the slow-burning blues of "Denver Railroad"; the harmonica-led country shuffle of the album opener "Friendly Fire"; the delicate Spanish-flavoured "Say You Will Remember" and the Sunshine Pop of would-be-single "What I Didn't Learn At School". This was certainly one of the most polished performances yet by the GFT , which set us nicely for a stunning show by tonight's special guests, Corn Potato String Band from Richmond,Virginia.
Corn Potato String Band are trio of superb multi instrumentalists -Aaron Jonah Lewis, Ben Belcher and Lindsay McCaw who interchangeably play fiddle,banjo and guitar ,whilst gathered ,in true Old Time-style ,around a single microphone.
The fact that the band had spent an inordinate amount of time on the English motorway system whilst travelling to this,the first gig of their UK tour, did not dampen their enthusiasm to play some wonderful Old Time Appalachian Folk Music ,which they render in such an authentic and spontaneous way that "you can't help but get happy".
The musicianship of this fantastic trio was simply amazing on classic numbers like George L.Cobb's "Russian Rag", "Trombone Rag", "Cigareets and Whisky and Wild,Wild Women"and "Chesapeake Bay". Sometimes we had twin fiddles ,other times twin banjos ,as on the title track to their latest album "Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet" and the familiar tune of "Nola".
Particular highlights [of many] were the charming "Washington and Lee Swing County" and "Stop Teasing Me Little Coquette".
Seeing this band is like attending a living history lesson ,particularly when they performed a wonderful "Cranky Show" with a "paper television" which illustrated the cautionary "Tale of Rattlesnake Mountain".
Another showstopper was a fabulous version of Abraham Lincoln's favourite song "Listen To The Mockingbird" , complete with incredible bird impressions played on the fiddle by Aaron. How could they follow that?
Follow it they did by inviting all of tonight's musicians on stage to play "Lonesome Road Blues" with them. Considering this was unrehearsed , it was remarkably together.
A great end to yet another wonderful evening at Grateful Fred's .
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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