There’s a particular sound audiences make at the end of songs by the Quebe Sisters. It’s as if they’ve been holding their breath for five minutes. And when the trio’s harmony-drenched swing songs end, everyone lets it out with a startling roar. I’m told by authority Eddie Stubbs that the Quebes were the only showcasing band at last fall’s international bluegrass convention in Nashville to get a standing ovation. They are not, it should be said, a bluegrass band. Really, they favor vintage music, drawing from Western swing and 1940s big band standards, but this group from Fort Worth is one of the real buzz bands in acoustic music right now. They were our Vietti Chili “emerging artists” tonight, but even though sisters Grace, Hulda and Sophia are clustered around the age of 20, they sound like veterans and we were proud to have them.
That’s not to say our crowd didn’t have a lot of love for all the other talent on the Music City Roots stage. I’m suspecting many of them weren’t familiar with the mellow and melodic roots rock by the Coal Men, but I’m also suspecting they sold a few CDs after their performance. Leader Dave Coleman told me in our interview that they’ve been together for a decade now, and I’ve been wishing for most of those years that more folks knew about their universally appealing music.
I was thrilled that we got to host Peter Cooper and Eric Brace, a duo of fine fellows and fine songwriters who each have made at least part of their livings and reputations as music journalists. Peter said on stage that revving up his writing/recording/touring career in recent years has made him a better and more aware music writer, and I get exactly what he’s talking about. The boys kicked off with an appreciative cover from the Seldom Scene, a band very influential on them both. And I’m really fond of Peter’s song “Suffer A Fool.” I’ve always loved that phrase.
Dale Ann Bradley is a wonder – tons of good energy channeled through a bluegrass voice that’s very unique and personal but also relatable. In that respect, she reminds me of Dudley Connell, a fellow veteran bluegrass singer who also had to wait too many years to win an IBMA vocalist award. Dale Ann also has a knack for assembling songs. She capped off a righteously hillbilly set with a grassified “Me and Bobby McGee.” Pretty much all of the gazillion musicians who made backstage a very exciting place got on stage for a finale of “Sitting On Top Of The World.”
And here’s where I’d normally say we were sitting on top of the world and sign off, but we had a nice show-extending bonus last night. Pam Daley, an excellent singer who spent more years than she wanted away from music, offered a sampler of her singing/songwriting ways, with a band of stellar acoustic pickers. It’s great to have her back on the scene and with a beautiful new album coming out in January, we should be hearing a lot from her in 2010.
After the show I got home and checked out the new Grammy nominations and discovered we had all kinds of honorees in the house but I didn’t know it at the time. Our own best-dressed host Jim Lauderdale was nominated for best bluegrass album. Banjo master and Compass Records founder Alison Brown, a regular guest at Roots, got a nod for Best Country Instrumental Performance. And who’d have thunk it but John Oates was hanging out, and HE got a Grammy nod yesterday in the pop vocal duo performance category. The lesson: Come out to the Roots. You might win a Grammy.