I’ve gone on and on about my favorite recordings of 2009 here and here, but live music is the backbone of any good scene. Here is a look back my 10 favorite shows of the past 12 months in chronological order, with excerpts from reviews already published in The Bulletin or on Frequency.
(The Ramblers) were terrific. Their arsenal of stringed instruments rang out crisp and clean. The mix was perfect, with percussionist Dale Largent complementing the pickers nicely. Vocally, the harmonies were shipshape, and I was surprised by guitarist Matthew Hyman’s strong voice. I didn’t realize he’s that good of a singer.
As for the set list, the band flitted back and forth between its favorite styles, from Hyman’s twangy ballads to bassist Dan McClung’s jazzgrass instrumentals to mandolinist Joe Schulte’s more rock-influenced numbers.
One highlight was my co-worker Jenny Harada’s song for her brother, Jason, who died last summer, called “Chasing The Sun.” I’m sure there were dry eyes in the house, but they weren’t mine. Another highlight was a new Schulte song built on a weird, ominous groove and featuring a wicked Largent drum solo, like old-time music meets heavy metal. A genre was born just then, I think: doomgrass.
We also got a raucous cover of the old Stealers Wheel hit “Stuck In The Middle,” a perfectly plaintive version of “Restless,” and what may be the Ramblers’ new signature tune, “Let It All Be Good.” In the latter, when Schulte sang “You’re dancing to our music till your toes start to bleed,” I scanned the wiggly bunch up front to get a glimpse of life imitating art.