This past Wednesday was a sweet and light affair, with no drums, two small acoustic bands and one string quartet. We opened with a set from a legend. Mac Wiseman was more than charming. He showed us how to pare songs to their essence, with deliberate phrasing and loads of heart. Peter Cooper, our guest emcee for the night, conspired with fellow guitarist Thomm Jutz to bring the band they’d assembled to record Mac’s new album Songs From My Mother’s Hand. Personally transcribed from the radio in Depression-era America by his mom, the repertoire comes straight from our national songbook. “Will There Be Any Stars In My Crown” is one of the prettiest gospel songs ever, while “Old Rattler” is feisty like Mac himself.
The rest of the lineup, all Australians in town for AmericanaFest, showed great range and skill. Kevin Bennett brought a rich and rugged baritone and evocative songs that spoke to his rural Aussie upbringing. Brooke Russell sang true country songs in a plaintive voice as blue as her hair and dress were red. The Mae Trio was precise and polished with scintillating three-part harmonies and string arrangements. They were truly one of the folkie discoveries of the season for me. Falls closed the show with refined yet passionate folk pop delivered with a string quartet. This duo has got big label support and ties with big-time bands like The Lumineers, so watch for them to make a lot more noise stateside in the coming year.