Photos by Mandy Pichler
Three of the best guitarists on the circuit lined up before a crowd that spilled into the halls and swapped songs, licks and laughs. Redd Volkaert (Merle Haggard), Bill Kirchen (Commander Cody) and Albert Lee (Eric Clapton, Everly Brothers) took turns showing us how it’s done, starting with Albert Lee on “That’s Alright Mama,” Bill Kirchen on his and Louise Kirchen’s own “Get a Little Goner” and Redd Volkaert on Lefty Frizzell’s “She’s Gone, Gone, Gone,” none of which were strictly solo. The delight here came in the interplay among these virtuosos, who all have a great sense of humor. One man would start off a tune, and the other would wisecrack—musically—on his riffs, a folk humor version of call-and-response. The more educated the audience is, the funnier it gets. Each of these three men reside in Guitar God Heaven on Earth, and to have all three playing and having a good time together was a rare treat.
We couldn’t get quite enough of Brad Cole, who treated us to selections from his fine upcoming album, Lay It Down, whose title sounds bluesy, but the music sounds jazzy. Alternately armed with only his guitar or a friend or two, Cole’s breezy charm infuses every song.
Saturday we had the good fortune to walk in on Carrie Elkin’s set before her husband, Danny Schmidt, left for his own gig, so we got a two-fer, however briefly. Separately, the two artists have very different styles, but together, you can see why the marriage works. Last year, Elkin caught our attention sharing showcases with Sam Baker, and clearly her strong vocals will lift any song or any partner up a notch. Elkin’s set closed with an homage to her late father, a man whose lack of vocal skills never deterred his enthusiasm for song, specifically, according to Elkin, the Beach Boys’ music, a bit of a stretch from the music she delivers so honestly.
One-off Dennis Mc Do No Ugh! (Full disclosure: “McDonough” on his Elmore bylines) treated his audience to a few of his hysterical tunes, including “I’m From New Jersey” celebrating the Garden State’s famous native sons, and a twisted tune from the Boss, in character as Bruce Holsteen (a cow). Why this guy isn’t booked into venues and comedy clubs regularly is beyond me…Wait! He is! He’s also from New Jersey.
Appleseed Collective’s version of swing stands a breed apart from today’s standard-issue. With guitar, mandolin, standup bass and brushes on a drum kit, their original songs, with lighthearted lyrics and infectious musicianship, rise above the crowd. Their original “Bad Habit” (“…and that habit is you”) infuses their swing song with a jazzy joie-de-vivre that will bring a smile to the grumpiest square in the room.
To be continued….