There have been many memorable nights of music at Grateful Fred's over the years but tonight's show ranks with the very best of these. Where else could you see , on the same bill, a duo consisting of two of Nashville's top bluegrass musicians/singers/songwriters supported by a stunning harmony vocal duo from Liverpool and a mandolin-wielding songwriter from London?
This auspicious evening commenced with Mandolin Jack [ aka Chris Tulloch] who entertained us royally with his own brand of mandolin-driven Americana . Chris has travelled widely and his evocative songs tell of his travels in the USA in a Cadillac Coupe Deville ["White Wall Tyres"] and fishing in Australia ["Mud Crab Blues"]. Chris cites his influences as including Hank Williams and Chuck Berry as demonstrated in his own song "Lonesome Road" ,which included a nifty, extended mandolin solo. His set was all too short and left the audience wanting more . Some of us did, indeed ,get more as Chris took out his mandolin and instigated a sing-song on the train on the way home ,more of which later!
Next up were the duo of Jenny Coyle and Calum Gilligan who perform under the name of Limerance. They played a support slot at Grateful Fred's last summer and blew everyone away with their amazing harmony singing. They proved so popular that they were immediately re-booked for tonight when they put on another superb performance of songs from their debut EP "In The First Place" ["My Old Sky" and "Shine On"] together with some new ones, including their new single "Along For The Ride". Jenny's and Calum's voices blend so seamlessly and with such purity that their singing recalls such great harmony duos as The Everly Brothers , Simon and Garfunkel and ,more recently, the Soderberg Sisters of First Aid Kit.
Headliners for tonight were two wonderful musicians from Nashville, Molly Tuttle and Rachel Baiman ,who are undertaking their first tour together [two friends having fun on the road, as they put it].
Molly is an amazing bluegrass guitarist and last year she became the first woman to be nominated for Guitar Player of the Year by the International Bluegrass Association and , of course, she won the title. Molly is also an accomplished songwriter, having won this year's Song Of The Year Award in the Folk Alliance International's Folk Music Awards for her song "You Didn't Call My Name" [which ,of course, she sang tonight].
Rachel Baiman is a superb fiddle and banjo player who has played with numerous other artists including Country superstar Kacey Musgraves. Last year Rachel released an acclaimed album "Shame" ,which was produced by Andrew Marlin of Mandolin Orange.
Molly and Rachel gave us a selection of their own compositions interspersed with select covers including John Hartford's "Madison ,Tennessee" and "Gentle On My Mind" [as a tribute to John and Glen Campbell. Rachel covered Andy Irvine's "Never Tire Of The Road" on "Shame" and tonight she and Molly sang it beautifully, adding a coda of Woody Guthrie's "All You Fascists Bound To Lose". Another highlight was Rachel's slowburning song "Something To Lose" ,about the "terror and horror of falling in love".
Molly took a solo spot to showcase her astonishingly skilful guitar playing. First ,she demonstrated her clawhammer guitar technique on "Save This Heart" from her EP "Rise". Following that , we watched with dropped jaws as Molly launched into Townes Van Zandt's "White Freightliner Blues" at breakneck speed. Incredible.
As I said at the beginning ,this was a memorable evening but it didn't end there as some lucky Fredheads [including me] were treated to an impromptu performance by Mandolin Jack on the Last Train to Liverpool ,much to the astonishment of our fellow passengers. Great stuff.
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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