How’s everybody feeling? Lazy? Full? Temporarily and blissfully anesthetized by turkey tryptophan and wine? Well you deserve it. It’s been a long year. If you are part of our tribe, as I suspect you may be, your holiday feast came with four hearty helpings of great music at our Thanksgiving Eve show. Since then it’s been all quiet on the home front. And having a little extra time to reflect on the artists from last and next Wednesday has been fabulous. I wish I could give all of them more attention here, but as always, these dispatches are designed to merely start your journey. Follow the links. Listen to these remarkable musicians. Replay MCR on demand. And mostly, come join us for our final three weeks of the year. We’re offering so much for so little you’d think it must be Christmas.
Our 11.23 show flowed like silky gravy from laid back country soul to harder honky tonk to sanctified rock to folk cut with legendary R&B. Derek Hoke gets noticeably better ever time I see him – deeper into the warp and woof of the songs, not to mention his guitar chops. His glowing, skittering solo on the ballad “This Old House” got its own ovation and it wasn’t the only one. Moving on, my Oklahoma-raised, country music-loving mother in law said Todd Grebe & Cold Country was her favorite act of the night. And why not, with his languid lyricisms and wife Angela Oudean’s fluid fiddle? Todd spotlighted an obvious influence by covering Roger Miller. David Long played spicy Monroe-esque mandolin.
Mike Farris brought the full compliment of the Roseland Rhythm Revue (plus bonus Kenny Greenberg on guitar and Ashley Cleveland on some harmony vocals) to this performance, as well as his usual charisma and full force commitment. New songs from an upcoming album were glorious and full-bodied. That comprised the show’s energetic climax while John Oates set was desert, coffee and drinks, with not an ounce of cheese. He fingerpicked beautifully on “Stack-o-lee.” John’s new Christmas single “Santa Be Good To Me” felt timeless and swinging with Guthrie Trapp’s always smart and tricky guitar acting as the lights and ornaments.
But folks we have another feast in store and it’s just a few days away. Wednesdays in December are always bright at the Factory and we’ll kick this week’s entertainment off with the charming and versatile duo of Darin and Brooke Aldridge. They’re familiar to our crowd with several appearances on MCR that were each different from the one before. After 2013’s smooth country album Flyin’, the couple pulled their North Carolina bluegrass roots to the fore (they share a home county with Earl Scruggs) and made Snapshots. It’s got some well chosen covers like a yearning take on Gillian Welch’s early song “Annabelle” and a Brooke-led version of “Tennessee Flat Top Box” that earned praise from Rosanne Cash herself. The Aldridges’ band has been touring with John Cowan and preparing a new album coming soon that involves a certain veteran musician named Vince.
Closing the show will be the precise and economical roots rock of The Coal Men, featuring the gloriously chiming and musical electric guitar and rich baritone voice of leader Dave Coleman. While certainly Americana, I’ve always felt Coal Men connection to the Southern power pop that shaped my teens, that of Let’s Active and The Connells and the dBs. It’s got grit and beauty, melody and snap. With more than 17 years together, they’ve got the coherence and seam-free connections to show for it. They tracked their newest album Pushed To The Side while in Key West for an annual residency, and the warm oceanic setting suits the soothing ambience of the record.
In between we’ll hear emerging artist Larissia Murphy, a native of eastern Kentucky now in Nashville who’s happily and rewardingly mingling classic Studio B style country music with her fascination with 1970s Laurel Canyon songcraft. Her voice is exceedingly warm and nourishing, and songs like “No Town” on her 2015 Speak Your Mind EP are a clinic in meshing melody, meter and smart lyrics with sneaky rhymes. The title track is simply beautiful.
I’ve saved for last here (but third on our bill) a band that hits me in my music nerd wheelhouse and continues a thread we’ve chased this fall in innovative bluegrass-inspired instrumental music. From Joe K. Walsh to Kyle Tuttle to Jordan Tice we’ve flowed, and now we achieve zen master level stuff with Chessboxer. The Nashville trio began as a side project when fiddler/violinist Ross Holmes and banjo player Matt Menefee were in Cadillac Sky together. They’ve released only a couple of recordings, but they’ve refined their sound on tours with Warren Haynes and others. Rounding out the trio is the stellar acoustic bass player Royal Masat who recently joined us at Roots in Tuttle’s ensemble. The only thing hampering Chessboxer is that the outrageous talent of its component members keep them busy with major stars on long road swings. But the trio is now in polished form and this will be a tour de force of composing and improvising.
Whew! That’s a lot of information to throw at you in your satiated semi-slumber. But the holidays have just begun. Time to rally. There’s more living and listening to do and we hope that includes this fine Wednesday night lineup.