Life’s full of trade-offs, and one price we’ve paid as a society for the micro-targeted, ultra-personalized media world we now inhabit is the end of the galvanizing national TV event. It’s incredibly rare that any one cultural moment is seen live and simultaneously by most Americans. One of the biggest ever of course was The Beatles on Ed Sullivan February 9, 1964, when 73 million Americans watched at once. Pop culture took a quantum leap forward and kids started bands by the hundreds.
It’s reasonable to assume that Barry Tashian and his collegiate friends who formed The Remains were in that Ed Sullivan audience, and I’ll certainly ask him when he plays MCR with his wife Holly and their E-5 Band this week. Because he really lived and participated in the musical tidal wave that followed. Barry and The Remains played Ed Sullivan themselves in December 1965, and a half a year later, they became the opening act on what would be the last tour The Beatles made. Plus, we appreciate and take inspiration from Ed Sullivan. He always promised a “really big shewww,” and by gosh we’re going to try once again to bring you one too.
The E-5 Band brings together Barry and Holly with another prosperous roots rocking, songwriting duo of Al and Emily Cantrell. They’ve played all the hip folk and roots shows and made music with Nashville’s acoustic elite. They make a great compliment to the Tashians who’ve been stalwarts around these parts for a long time, with spots on the Grand Ole Opry and Prairie Home Companion and songs on the recordings of Gram Parsons and Kenny Rogers among others. Rounding out this band is dobro buddy Al Goll. And we can expect bluesy country, great songs and a timeless discernment that comes from having been there and done that. You know, opening for the Beatles and all.
Also on our lineup, in a late breaking development, is rising Oklahoma country rocker and intense songwriter Jared Deck. From a dusty farm upbringing through work in the oil fields to a long stint playing piano for services at an African-American church, this guy’s had a fascinating journey. He joins a cadre of more-than-OK Oklahoma discoveries like John Fullbright and Parker Millsap, and he has a similar focus of spirit and delivery. American Songwriter says: “when Deck lets loose on the bluesy gospel-soaked “Sweet Breath,” complete with powerful Hammond B3 accompaniment, you get the sense he could be, with a little luck and some more songwriting under his belt, in a league with last year’s breakout Americana artist Chris Stapleton.”
Our pals in the fine North Carolina band Red June have taken a hiatus and the two thirds of that group who are married couple Natalia Zoe Weinstein and John Cloyd Miller have joined their middle names and kept their Appalachian mastery on the road as Zoe & Cloyd. He’s a multi-instrumentalist and award winning songwriter who is carrying on a family tradition. He’s a twelfth generation North Carolinian whose granddad played fiddle with Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs. She’s a fiddler and singer/writer who transplanted from the northeast to the NC mountains. Together, they bring something pure and airy and very Blue Ridge. They’re living proof that one of the essential threads of Americana has jumped another generation, and I’m betting that their baby girl gets in on the act before we know it. Zoe & Cloyd released their duo debut Equinox last year. It begins with liquid fiddle and banjo and courses through some wonderful songwriting and close harmonies. This is the distilled good stuff.
Also from the This & That department, we’ll also experience the moody folk minimalism of Penny & Sparrow. Andy Baxter and Kyle Jahnke were roommates at the University of Austin who began writing and performing together in 2011. Their third full-length album was produced and released by former Civil War John Paul White, and it has some of that duo’s southern fragile melancholy. It also reminds me a bit of the contemplative close harmonies of the Milk Carton Kids. Their own note introducing their current project tells fans that “these songs were inspired by the love we all desire, and by everything that seems to sabotage us along the way. Including ourselves.” Baeble Music spotlights the song “Bed Down” as “elegiac and full of mournful melancholy that is leavened with human hope and transcendence.” Recently they’ve done a Garden & Gun session, played Merlefest and made the rounds of hip indie music media. So this week we get an early peek at this group on the make.
Ed Sullivan was a giant who presented authentic music to the public whether it was ready for it or not, from Bo Diddley and Buddy Holly to some down home local entertainers from Harlem, where Sullivan grew up. He kicked off sponsors who griped that he was too cordial and deferential with African American artists. Let’s dedicate this week’s really big shewww to him.