What a crowd. Not just a big one, and not just a loud one, but a talented one too. When Matt Combs of the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble invited folks to sing along, our Loveless Barn Tabernacle Choir offered up the prettiest, mellowest version of “White Christmas” you ever did hear. I went from a 7 on the Christmas Spirit Index to an 11. Well done people.
But it was like that all night, whether it was the standing ovations or the older dude who got up and buck danced like a whirling dervish to the fiddle tunes of Mountain Heart and Cherryholmes. It really was a great way to close out the first season of MCR, with a lot of good vibes and a double blast of progressive bluegrass.
After the NME, and before our powerhouse headliners, Chris Volpe offered up some elegant, troubadour worthy folk songs, embellished by a fine trumpet player and a couple of cooing support vocalists. He’s rough and sincere, and I loved his song “I Changed My Tune.”
Mountain Heart showed us how far they’ve evolved from the traditional bluegrass band of ten years ago. Original fiddler Jim VanCleve told me in the chat room that they’d stretched and pushed to find their sound, one that keeps the bluegrass ripple going but that also “mashes” (their word) with the intensity of rock and roll.
Cherryholmes is a different kind of intense, with their family harmonies and ultra-tight instrumental attack. But it was also fabulous hearing Cia perch on a stool and sing a stunning ballad called (I think) “River of Lies” while strumming almost an old-time Dolly Parton style lonesome banjo and with sister Molly playing delicate fiddle. That woman has an amazing voice and it doesn’t always get to shine with such subtlety. Meanwhile, father and bassist Jere gave WSM and MCR the nicest possible endorsement from the stage, and we appreciate it.
So what can we say? Thanks for supporting Music City Roots, either by reading this humble blog, tuning in on the radio or internet, or especially coming out to the show. We’ve had an incredible time on this inaugural run, and we’ll be back on January 6 with a huge night featuring Tim O’Brien, Donna The Buffalo and much more. Our team is terrific. The barn is perfect. The sky’s the limit.