Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Shirt Off Their Backs

In the rant I posted yesterday you may have noticed a little mention of this guitarist I saw Saturday night, Tony Rice, and that not too old Bluegrass Boy, Peter Rowan (pictured above in 2001).

Did you think I was going to let that one slip by? HA.

I hadn’t planned on writing about it but decided that for a few reasons I might as well. Fans of various Rice Brothers, searching out news about the recently departed Larry Rice, have stopped by and set a spell. I appreciate that, even if you don’t share your comments.

Another is that I felt badly not promoting the show beforehand, and Tony Rice is a player that everyone should see regardless of musical taste. The third is that Pete and Tony are touring with two top female talents, the incredible Bryn Bright on upright bass (she’s now Davies – uh oh, what’s up with that?) and the amazing Sharon Gilcrist on mandolin (when I grow up, I want to be her).

Not a single moment in the show was wasted. Four players acting on pure synchronicity and peerless musicianship, playing as smooth and flawless as a fine silk wrapping us in ribbons of sound. This wasn’t just a show. This was stewardship.

No mention was made of Larry’s passing, nor any suggestion that anything was amiss. Tony Rice took the stage in that quiet unassuming way he does, provoking a cascade of gracious appreciation from a predictably warm Kent Stage audience (the house was nearly packed; it was an accident that I nailed a second row seat). Folks had driven from Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania to see this show. There was no cold on any shoulder that night.

Pete Rowan is always an equally gracious showman. Brought up as a member of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, he is a warm and generous performer, a mix of Bluegrass boy and Southwestern cowboy, easing us from tune to tune. To look at him is to know a kind heart, to listen is to welcome a warm, gentle spirit

I give Tony and Pete enormous credit for presenting alongside them women in less traditional, less glamorous band roles. Sharon is recognizable as mandolin player from Uncle Earl; with these guys she flexes her bluegrass mando muscle, inspiring me to come home at midnight and practice (but not too loudly and not for long). Bryn is just a gift. She is unafraid, and pours herself out in her bass playing. She is exceptional.

At one point during the long single set (broken only by the three encores we demanded), I sat back in my chair, listening to a solo Tony was playing, and felt my eyes well up. Was I unhappy? What were these feelings? Why now? And then I realized that I was feeling completely grateful. I am grateful, grateful for Tony Rice’s playing which always brings me peace and inspires me to work harder. I’m grateful that I have had the opportunity to see him play in person. I’m grateful for the recorded treasures he left behind as a singer before cancer claimed his voice. I’m grateful that he’s still here showing us what it means to lead peacefully.

Be sure to catch this quartet if they swing near you. You’ll be grateful, too.

Enjoy one of the most beautiful songs you'll ever hear by clicking here:
Shirt Off My Back (Pete Rowan and Tony Rice)

Listen to Larry, Wyatt, Ronnie, and Tony


At May 23, 2006 8:13 AM, Anonymous Fearless Heart said...

I have always admired this guys. I thought that "Pushed Too Far" was one of the best songs on "Blue Grass Jounry."

At May 23, 2006 8:13 AM, Anonymous Fearless Heart said...

Or "Journey" as the case may be...

At May 23, 2006 11:32 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

I dunno, Fearless, sometimes it feels more like a "jounry."
;-) Nonetheless, agreed.


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