We love them so much we had two “parades” at the Loveless Barn last night, worked into a larger parade of talented and diverse artists who once again lit up the place with joy, blues, passion and pathos. The David Mayfield Parade opened the show with surprises, laughs and shocking energy. Miss Tess and the Bon Ton Parade returned to Roots for a third time, showing remarkable growth and evolution. And our other (non-marching) bands were no less worthy of the crowd’s love and attention, which they gave in abundance. We didn’t have giant balloon floats, but we did have spectacle.
We knew Mayfield would bring it. He’s a born showman who will go the extra mile for a smile and he’s got a surreal streak too. He came out a-wigglin’ and a-weavin’ with his acoustic guitar as his band slammed into the poppy nectar of “I Just Might Pray,” the single I guess you’d say from his debut album. Flanked by beautiful women on fiddle and bass who sang magical three-part harmony, the bearded one projected a voice that’s at once sweet and loud, calm and stormy. On the one minimal song of the set, “Breath Of Love,” backed only by acoustic guitar, the voices were chill-inducing. Then they rocked all over creation on “Trapped Under The Ice,” a song from Mayfield’s Cadillac Sky days, climaxing in a perfect move in which fiddler Kristen Webber climbed up on Shelby Means’s upright bass and shook her tambourine. And at last David plunged into the aisle and ended his set with a somersault. He’s so subtle.
You may know we sometimes shift gears harder than a trucker on a mountain road, so it was little surprise we’d follow that with a down home string trio. Red June drove out from their Asheville, NC home, where they’ve been impressing their discerning regional audience with their smart update on old-time. A tidy set featured Will Straughan’s honest voice on the melodious “Soul’s Repair,” a fine original fiddle breakdown by Natalya Weinstein and then all three voices a cappella on an old Stanley Brothers gospel tune. They were rewarded with much applause. And that led into a debut Nashville visit from the L.A. duo Ladies Gun Club. Sally Jaye and Sarah Roberts brought a robust band that fleshed out their lovely voices for a driving classic electric/acoustic Americana sounds. I don’t think my song titles are correct so I’ll just say that they brought soul, a fascinating vocal blend, sharp writing and a feel for earthy country that would indeed sound refreshing on their Tinseltown home turf.
Miss Tess brought her parade to the stage next for a set more spiked with vintage rock and roll and sparking energy than in the past. Tess’s voice, a silver-throated pleasure, was uplifting on the opening swinger “I Never Thought I’d Be Lonely” and smooth and cool on a new original called “If You Want To Be My Man.” (That one and others was also highlighted by smoking guitar from Will Graefe.) But the song that really caught me – my favorite of the night I think – was a song inspired by her relocation to New York City called “People Come Here For The Gold.” She said she cooked it up in her head while jogging and it had that brisk tempo, but it also had smart lyrics and a captivating rhythmic catch that elevated the tune – and the whole band – to a new level, if you’ll pardon the cliché.
Sliding into home was easy with James Intveld. He’s like a blue chip stock or the best restaurant in town. You know you’ll get quality and you know what’s behind it. Fronting a proper cowboy hat wearing country band with Tele and steel by the amazing Mike Fried, Intveld sang like the spiritual inheritor of Marty Robbins. “Remember Me” was brimming with dark twang and lonesome soul. “Let’s Get Started” must be a big dance floor filler in the music halls of Texas. We loved it. And finally, intrepid guest host Peter Cooper brought the throngs out for a nod to the West Coast country music that fuels the James Intveld sound, Buck Owens’s “Love’s Gonna Live Here Again.” Of course they were singing about some other place, not the Loveless Barn. Love never left the building.