All posts tagged: Institute of Musical Traditions

They Can Do This With Their Eyes Closed

Monday evening’s Institute of Musical Traditions concert featured the Scottish folk music institution Battlefield Band playing to an enthusiastic full house.  From the first notes from Mike Katz’s Highland pipes to the last notes of the encore, this thoroughly entertaining and professional group took the crowd on a delightful tour of traditional and contemporary Scottish folk music. Battlefield Band has gone through a variety of personnel changes over the 40 years since the group was formed. Besides the bearded multi-instrumentalist Katz, the core of the current band features fiddler Alasdair White (who has been with the band since 2001, when he was 18 years old), and vocalist/guitarist Sean O’Donnell. The band ripped through a strong first half which concluded with a “big set” of tunes featuring the pipes and twin fiddles. Then Katz came out solo to begin the second half, mesmerizing the crowd with the haunting sound of the pipes before being joined by his band mates. Then, as O’Donnell began singing a song about bagpipes, everything went dark. As in, the power went …

Bare to the Bone

Folksinger Carrie Newcomer played to a packed house at a “rare Monday night Institute of Musical Traditions concert on Saturday night” last evening in Rockville.  As emcee David Eisner pointed out, it wasn’t your usual IMT crowd, but those in attendance kept up the high bar for IMT audiences as they were both knowledgeable and appreciative. This was my first time to see Newcomer live, and I encouraged Candice to join me, given the singer’s bent for writing from a Quaker and progressive spiritual perspective.  As Newcomer says on her website, Every day we are living moments of grace and wonder, shadow and light. These are the moments I write about. Saturday evening didn’t disappoint.  Playing her beautiful Taylor guitar (with an inventive use of capos); singing with that expressive, lyrical, and deep voice;  and accompanied only by keyboardist Gary Walters, Newcomer didn’t hit a false note the entire evening.  Beginning with I Believe, she sang songs from her soon-to-be-released CD A Permeable Life (such as A Light in the Window) as well as old …

For the Love of the Music

The last time I heard John Jorgenson play, it was this past summer under a beautiful Shenandoah Valley sky, where his quintet awed us all with a dazzling set of gypsy jazz. Tonight, Jorgenson was back – this time at the Institute of Musical Traditions – playing a dazzling set of bluegrass. And all this from one of the great Telecaster masters of his generation, who once spent six years on the road with Elton John.  It boggles the mind to think one man can switch so effortlessly between technically difficult genres and still make great music. Thank God Sir Elton paid him the big bucks so he can now play all the music he loves. Jorgenson was clearly having a good time tonight, singing and playing bluegrass with singer-songwriter-guitarist Jon Randall and bassist Mark Fain – both from Nashville – and his old California buddy – and west coast bluegrass/roots music legend –  Herb Pedersen.  The band definitely had the “west coast bluegrass” sound going – with smooth harmony singing (minus the twang) and …

A December Celtic Tradition

If it is early December, you can count on “Celtic Guitar God” Robin Bullock heading up a holiday concert for the Institute of Musical Traditions. So tonight, Candice and I joined about 150 other traditional music fans for the 2012 edition of the IMT Celtic holiday concert. Bullock was joined this year by Scottish champion fiddler Elke Baker and hammered dulcimer player Ken Kolodner. The evening was filled with traditional Christmas carols as well as Scottish and Irish old time music, all played with great enthusiasm and musiciaenship. Baker and Kolodner played several beautiful duets, including two of my favorite holiday tunes:  the haunting In the Bleak Midwinter and the French carol Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella.  All three joined together for extended sets of Cape Breton, French Canadian, and Celtic fiddle tunes. However, my favorite parts of this concert each year focus around Bullock’s solo guitar work. Tonight he had beautiful arrangements of The Wexford Carol and a great mash-up of classical carols as played in the style of Mississippi John Hurt. But one …

Claire Lynch: A Wonderful Songbird Keeps Singing

At one point in Monday night’s thoroughly satisfying concert by The Claire Lynch Band at the Institute of Musical Traditions, the band leader mentioned that she started in the music business 33 years ago.  It doesn’t seem that long ago when I heard her play at the Shenandoah Valley’s Oak Grove Music Festival, but in fact it may have been two decades since I saw her with the Front Porch String Band. Thirty-three years is a long time to be on the road, but Lynch and her band of hot young phenoms supported by veteran bass man Mark Schatz, had the energy and sound to more than satisfy the sell-out IMT crowd. Lynch has been an impressive band leader, prolific songwriter (truth-in-advertising: some co-penned in the past with my musical cousin, Hershey Reeves), and all-around pioneer in the acoustic music world…but she’s still most impressive as a singer. She showed us all time and again on Monday evening why she won the 2010 IBMA Female Singer of the Year award. Standouts from a wealth of …

A Celtic Yule

On a blustery, cold evening in suburban Washington, a full crowd was warmed by the 11th annual Celtic Yule concert of Robin Bullock and Amy White & Al Petteway.  Hosted by the Institute of Musical Traditions (or IMT), this annual concert is like much of the holiday musical scene – familiar yet welcome. Bullock has a wonderful tone coming out of his Taylor guitar and sounds better with age.  The second half opened with his haunting In the Bleak Midwinter/The First Noel/It Came Upon a Midnight Clear medley.   His solo mandolin pieces exploring the Bach unaccompanied violin and cello suites are a new (for me) part of his show, and they demonstrate his impressive chops.  The Cello Suite #4 is technically demanding (the E-Flat major transposes into B-Flat major on the mandolin), but Bullock made it sing on his beautiful Gibson A-style mandolin from the 1920s.  Check out the video below of Bullock playing solo guitar, and then imagine that it sounds twice as good live. Al Petteway and Amy White played holiday tunes (including …

Terrific Roots Music Coming to Washington This Fall

We’re into fall here in the Washington region and that means that the acoustic music scene is busy pointing toward those holiday concerts.  But before December arrives, there are a few highlights for lovers of bluegrass, Americana, and roots music in the District of Columbia. This Monday, the Blue Moon Cowgirls and flatpicking champion Orrin Star are featured at the Institute of Musical Traditions concert in Rockville.  I’ve heard Star before, and he’s a treat for those who like the old flat top. Country singer extraordinaire Patty Loveless will be at the Birchmere on November 1st.  She’ll no doubt be featuring tunes from  her new album, Mountain Soul II. The original Mountain Soul was a terrific album, and the follow-up begins with a great version of that old country classic, Busted. (Well the bills are all due and the babies need shoes, we’re busted…) Sure to be a great show. For those who don’t mind a bit of a drive, folksinger John Gorka is playing on November 20th at the historic Avalon Theatre in beautiful …