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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Live, Local Music with The Corktown Popes CD Release @ the Magic Bag

The Corktown Popes are not your typical Detroit rock band!
I've covered my wife's favorite local band, The Corktown Popes, before.  This eclectic group of veteran Detroit rockers continues to make outstanding music that defies conventional boundaries of Genre.  Sure...they're got an Irish voiced lead singer...but they're a Detroit Rock band, right?...with and accordion, which makes them a Tex/Mex Tejano band, right?...and a mandolin which makes them country/roots band, right?...and uileann pipes (they're NOT bagpipes) and we're back to Irish band?.  Whatever they are, they are tremendous performers and wildly popular, so, with a second album--The Body and the Blood--ready for release, the band booked the Magic Bag in Ferndale, invited some friends to share the stage with them and promptly filled the joint with their loyal fans.  My wife and I met some friends there for an evening of live, local music and had a great time.

The Brunswick Brawlers
First up were the Brunswick Brawlers.  Occupying that delicious zone between jazz and blues where  swing, rockabilly and jump blues thrive, this honky-tonkin' dance band got the crowd up on their feet and dancing. Each member of the band took turns singing their favorite songs, adding complex harmonies and swinging rhythms to each tune.  Smokey jazz songstress Liz Mackinder killed it on 40s and 50s era ballads.  Jazzy guitarist Niko Pittman was equally comfortable singing lead and ripping off unexpected, yet excellent blues leads and fills.  The doghouse bass stylings of Rudy Varner were--of course--a crowd favorite, as was his deep-cut cover of a Johnny Cash tune.  Jarrod Champion on the keys added a little western swing / boogie woogie vibe to the set, as did his rich, lush lead vocals.    Loney Charles was everything a jazz/swing drummer should be--quick, light touch staying in the background, but providing the perfect accent when needed.  At one point in the evening, I was watching him on the brushes.    You knew that crash cymbal hit was coming to end the phrase...but he held off until the last possible millisecond, letting the anticipation grown until, with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face, he reached out, cat-quick, for the tiniest little tap on the cymbal, releasing the crowd and starting the process over.  It was perfect.  This was a fun band to watch  and a perfect selection to open the night and get the crowd up and moving.

This is what perfect harmony looks like!
Ryan Dilliaha and the Miraclemen too the stage next for a set of driving, original Downriver Rock.  As blue collar as can be, and with just the tiniest bit of country twang from the superb telecaster for of guitarist Jason T. Portier, this band brought their A-game.  The pulsing and driving rhythm of drummer Jesse Soriano and bassist Chris Diener kept the songs moving along at a crisp pace as keyboardist Jarrod Champion built the energy and excitement.  This background provided the pefect canvas for frontman Dilliaha to paint his songs of Working Class; whiskey fueled adventures and bad decisions; and the never ending pursuit of love, meaningfulness and friendship that makes us who we are.  What truly makes this band is not the musicianship--though it is excellent and Portier's solos are as good as you will find--but rather the stunning two-part hamonies that the band employs.  Dilliaha and Portier sound like they've been singing together since they wore diapers and the truly lush and complex structures of their arrangements are pure joy to listen to. 

All Heart an Soul with Burns and Brown
Of course, everyone was there to see the Corktown Popes.  As drummer Ron Pangborn laid down a groovy beat, the members of the band filed onto stage one-by-one, joining in and laying down the background for a high-voltage cover of David Bowie's Panic in Detroit which saw Popes lead singer Terry Burns joined by Detroit vocal icon Greg C. Brown.   The party kept rolling and the band kept the crowd on their feet with a great mix of original music drawn from their first two albums, and some late 80s/early 90s cover tunes.   All songs are performed at 110% with everyone in the band keeping things rolling.  Mandolin player Steve Taylor  was all over the stage, obviously enjoying his gig as the newest member of the Popes.  There just isn't anyone cooler or more professional on stage than bassist Takashi Iio.  Paul Goodmen continued with his usual outstanding harmony vocals and the accordion/keyboard licks that define the Popes sound.  Jason Kuehn--as always--wears his passion for electric guitar all over his face and didn't disappoint with powerful and cutting fills and solo work on every song.  I really liked his 12-string electric work on "Paint it Black"--somehow able to mimic the classic Stones sound, yet in a totally modern way.  And it just wouldn't be a Popes show without the authentic (yet electrified) sound of "Mighty" Tom Donohue who's inclusion on the uileann pipes gives more than a little credibility the band's Irish roots in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit and likewise is essential in defining their sound.  Even guest musicians Gary "Indiana" Czabot on blues guitar and Johnny Evans on saxophone threw in a little bit extra to make the evening special.  As always, you don't go to a Pope's show, you experience it.  Get out and see some live, local music.  There's plenty of it around here!

Pictures from the show below.  Feel free to use, share and tag freely with credit to SemiBluegrass.com.  Like us on facebook for more great bands and reviews of live, local music in SouthEast Michinga (SeMi).

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