LIVE: The Earls of Leicester @ the Music Haven, 7/17/16
Review by Greg Haymes
Photograph by Stanley A. Johnson
There’s simply not enough room to list all of the awards and honors that Dobro master Jerry Douglas has accumulated throughout his illustrious career. So let’s just say that he’s a 14-time Grammy Award winner. That’s right, 14 Grammys…
So it was no surprise that there was a huge crowd filling the Music Haven in Schenectady’s Central Park when Douglas led his latest band, the Earls of Leicester, in a knock-out concert that also celebrated their brand new sophomore album, Rattle & Roar, which was released two days earlier.
The band name is, of course, a play on the names Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, who along with their band, the Foggy Mountain Boys, brought bluegrass into the musical mainstream back in the ’60s with themes for both the hit TV sitcom, “The Beverly Hillbillies” and the hit movie, “Bonnie and Clyde.”
“We play the music of Flatt & Scruggs,” Douglas explained, “and that’s what we’re gonna lay on ya for the next hour and a half.”
“Nothin’ but Flatt & Scruggs for y’all,” added lead singer and guitarist Shawn Camp.
And that’s just what they did, squeezing more than two dozen Flatt & Scruggs classics into their 90-minute show. None of that newgrass stuff – just old-school bluegrass fueled by Charlie Cushman’s Scruggs-style banjo picking.
It was, in essence, a tribute band, and a mighty sparkling one at that.
From the opening instrumental “Shucking the Corn” to the set-closing favorite, “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” the acoustic sextet covered all of the requisite traditional bluegrass topics – trains (“The Train That Carried My Girl from Town”), prison (“Doin’ My Time”) and mother (“Mother Prays So Loud in Her Sleep”).
Fresh from several shows at the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill earlier in the weekend, they slathered the blues on their bluegrass with “Big Black Train.” They offered a waltz or two and a few gospel quartets (most notably “Let the Church Roll On”). Fiddler Johnny Warren stepped up to sing “Blackeyed Susan” and saw his way through the instrumental “Durham’s Bull.”
Douglas, for the most part, was content to let his bandmates soak up most of the spotlight, but when he leaned in to fire up a solo (like the one he uncorked during “Flint Hill Special”), you knew you were in the presence of greatness.
Local 518 favorites Jim Gaudet & the Railroad Boys kicked off the free concert with a too-short set of tunes that nimbly danced between bluegrass and folk, opening with “Goin’ on Downtown” and closing with a wicked cool cover of Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life,” both songs featuring dynamite duels between mandolinist Sten Isachsen and fiddler Tucker Callander. Gaudet is a master storytelling songwriter, and he delivered his musical tales with a relaxed confidence, utterly charming wit and a style all his own.
This review was originally published in The Times Union.
THE EARLS OF LEICESTER SET LIST
Shucking the Corn
Why Did You Wander?
The Train That Carried My Girl from Town
What’s Good for You (Should Be Alright with Me)
Big Black Train
Pray for the Boys
Let the Church Roll On
The Girl I Love Don’t Pay Me No Mind
Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down
Dim Lights, Thick Smoke
I Don’t Care Anymore
I’ll Go Stepping, Too
Doin’ My Time
Mother Prays So Loud in Her Sleep
All I Want Is You
Martha White Flour Theme Song
Flint Hill Special
Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms
Down the Road
Foggy Mountain Breakdown
JIM GAUDET & THE RAILROAD BOYS SET LIST
Goin’ on Downtown
Handle the Truth
The Wind Blows Cold
I Ain’t Gettin’ Up
Walk of Life (Dire Straits)