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Foghorn Stringband/Evie Ladin and Keith Terry
The Greystones took full advantage of what seemed like the early arrival of summer tonight, at the very beginning of what looked like a hot Spring Bank Holiday weekend ahead. Families spilled out into the beer garden in front of the pub, which on a clear day such as this, overlooks the city from its high vantage point. Whilst pizzas were being served by the more than capable Nether Edge Wood Fired Pizza Company, the bar staff dealt with the sudden influx of visitors with a raging thirst to match their insatiable appetite for great American Old Time music. Inside, the final preparations were being made for tonight's double bill featuring the Foghorn Stringband and their pals Evie Ladin and Keith Terry. A banjo rested on top of a bar table onstage whilst no less than two upright basses reclined in familiar pre-gig mode, ready for action. Doors were flung open to let some air in as every seat in the house was busy being taken leaving standing room only; and did I mention how hot it was?
There always seems to be an atmosphere of pure joy before a Bluegrass or Old Time music gig and tonight was no exception. After an introduction by True North Music's Maria Wallace, the California-based duo Evie Ladin and Keith Terry were greeted with a thunderous Sheffield welcome as they not so much walked but danced onto the stage. The duo's talents were immediately evident as the two demonstrated some fine percussive step dancing and syncopated body slapping, performing Jump Back, after which Evie commented "it's hotter in Sheffield tonight than it is in California!"
A multi-talented singer, songwriter, clawhammer banjo player and step-dancer, Evie brings to the stage her love of Appalachian music and dance, with such songs as I Love My Honey, Down to the Door and the jazz-infused Have It All, with a vocal coda that features the clever mash-up of the Stones' You Can't Always What You Want, Jimmy Cliff's You Can Get It If You Really Want It and Badfinger's Come and Get It. Keith Terry, as well as playing upright bass and a home-made five-tone harmonica that he found in a junk shop, has a penchant for slapping anything that comes to hand, from the cajon to his own torso by way of his legs, feet and cheeks, and is also no mean spoons player to boot. As the set progresses you get the distinct impression that this is how they spend their evenings at home, in fact Evie spoke of her father's influence, supplying his family with "great friends and good music" whilst singing Carter Family songs at home from an early age, such as Honey Lou, which the duo sang tonight.
With songs and stories from the Appalachians, together with no small measure of warmth and humour, and the occasional irreverent comment from her partner - after Evie described singing Precious Days at two close family memorials, he quipped "niche markets", which drew a gasp from the audience - the duo's set came and went all too quickly, leaving the audience wanting more.
Described as coming from all four corners of the USA, the Foghorn Stringband took to the stage, opening with a fiddle tune that soon had the entire audience clapping along, creating an immediate rapport with Sheffield. Innocent Road followed immediately after, with each of the musicians offering their own vital contribution to this tight and highly infectious music, from the fiddle and mandolin leads, courtesy of Stephen 'Sammy' Lind and Caleb Klauder respectively, to the all important rhythm of the guitar and upright bass, courtesy of Reeb Willms and Nadine Landry.
Specialising in a wide range of traditional American musical styles, from old time Appalachian fiddle tunes to Bluegrass and Honky Tonk foot stompers to Louisiana Cajun, such as Nadine's convincing Sud De La Louisiana, the band's skilful playing is the focal point of every performance; you just know that when either of these musicians step up to the resonator microphone, three on this occasion, the fireworks are guaranteed.
It's not just the top drawer musicianship though, it's the harmony voices, which are convincingly raw, especially on Reeb and Nadine's take on Ain't Got Time To Stop and Tarry, together with their unique a cappella version of Cathy Jordan's beautiful What Will We Do? Other highlights of the set were Fall on My Knees which Caleb described as 'Hillbilly Haiku', and the band's reading of Only the Lonely, not to be confused with the Roy Orbison hit of the same name. Finishing with the traditional Sitting on Top of the World, the band invited Evie and Keith back onstage to join them for the encore, All the Good Times, which everyone in the audience joined in with, creating a wonderful community spirit for these times.
The Greystones was the closest to a Southern States honky tonk tonight with some of the best music heard there in a good while, Andy Seward confirming that it was the best gig he'd attended in ages when I bumped into him after the show. The sweltering heat added to the atmosphere, on a night we won't forget in a hurry, that's for sure.