|They found a parking space?|
After the usual long wait in line made tolerable by the quirky, wonderful and cool people you get to meet and talk to while waiting, we got in the show and were fortunate to get a table right at the front of the stage. I've been able to sit in those same seats for some fantastic acts (Jerry Douglas, Ricky Skaggs, The Steep Canyon Rangers...) and love being able to not only hear the show, but experience some of the small nuances of the performance that you can only see up close and in person. The fact that a bunch of my friends were sitting near me made it even better. Right on time the band started. From the first note, they sounded fantastic. From a tongue-in-cheek reference to their music being "uneasy listening--where bad things happen to good people" to the onstage banter and lots of little smiles and giggle during and between songs, it was obvious that they were as excited about playing at The Ark as the audience was about hearing them!
|Tammy, Mike and Gary: The Core of the SteelDriver's Sound|
Coming a mere 2-1/2 weeks after the release of their new album Hammer Down, the SteelDrivers Ark Set covered almost all of the new material, and a remarkable number of songs from their first two albums. My favorite songs off the new album were Wearing a Hole, a honky-tonk number written by Nashville country singer/songwriter Deryl Dodd, and When You Don't Come Home, a lyin', cheatin', no-good-husband song done to a feel-good beat that really let's Tammy's vocals shine. It's nice for a man to come out on the wrong side of the "forty-five" for a change too! I can honestly say that I loved every one of the new songs. How Long Have I Been Your Fool, co-written by Tammy and old band-mate, Chris Stapleton, has the kind of cross-over potential that leads me to think you might hear that song on mainstream country radio in the near future.
|Brent Truitt on Mandolin|
I didn't have long to wait. Corn Liquor came up as the third or fourth song and Brent stepped up to the mic to take his break. "Pretty standard mandolin break" I thought as he began. And then, out of his humble mandolin, came exactly the type of dirty, low-down, string bending blues licks you expect to hear coming out of a nicontine-stained telecaster in some back alley bar after midnight. His foot-forward stance, low-slung instrument, faded jeans, well-worn shirt and long bangs covering his eyes (and a couple of fresh bandaids) only completed the illusion. This is not how the mandolin played. It is not what I expected to hear. What is was my friends, was awesome! For the rest of the show, every time he broke out one of those licks, I was giggling like a 5-year old with a new toy. I loved it!
|The SteelDrivers' Press Photo|
I am aware that every show I see at The Ark seems to be my "favorite" show. This one was no exception. This time however, it has less to do with the fantastic staff at The Ark, who seem to know how to match great artists with their unique audience and setting, and more to do with the fact that the SteelDrivers were my "first love"--the first bluegrass act I really latched onto. This show was special to me. They are not really a traditional bluegrass band ("SeMiBluegrass"? Hmmm...). For me, the show had an element of weirdness, like seeing you high-school sweetheart at a reunion. I was excited, yet oddly apprehensive before the show. It's exactly the type of show that usually lets you down (no band can be as good as they are in your memories, right?). The SteelDrivers, however, proved to be the real deal and did not disappoint. I really need to see them again. They've got a few shows coming up that sound fun (the Bluegrass Underground and the Station Inn in March, St. Joe's MI in May). Anyone want to go see them with me? You should. They are an amazing live band.