Sunday, November 16, 2008

Another Good Day at the KSU Folk Fest Workshops

On Saturday I spent another great afternoon with Brothers Jeff and George, and friends Carl, Tony, and Penny at the annual Kent State Folk Festival Workshops.

Unlike past years, I barely left the sessions in KIVA auditorium, except for a couple of quick laps around the third floor at the Student Center to scope out any good hallway jams. The crowd there seemed thin this year, but I did catch a couple of minutes of some great music by a dulcimer/fiddle duet.

The main action this year was in KIVA. First up was a workshop on song arrangement with Rio Neon, a fine Kent-based acoustic quintet who ran through a set of interesting arrangements of some familiar folk and country tunes, like "Sixteen Tons."

While the musicians in Rio Neon are top-notch, I found some of the arrangements a bit busy.  But the band was in superior form on the jazzier numbers in the set. I'd see them again.

Next up was The Rhondas, hosting the harmony workshop.  The  three lovely young women who comprise the Rhondas sing like... well, like angels, a cliche that is well worth dusting off for these amazing vocalists. Their set mixed sweet romantic ballads with bawdy, double-entendre-laced up-tempo numbers.  This is a great live act, well worth seeing. 

The blues workshop once again featured the All Star Band, and act assembled each year for this event by Blue Lunch member Bob Frank (guitar, vocals). The band includes Blue Lunch bassist Ray DeForest,  Blue Lunch alumni Norm Tischler (sax) and a keyboard player and drummer I did not recognize and whose names I did not catch -- which is a crime because they're damn good.

This year the blues workshop repertoire shifted from the usual Chicago blues to the jazz-tinged R & B typically heard in Cleveland nightclubs in the 50s and 60s.  Stand-out numbers in the solid set  included Gene McDaniel's "Compared to What"  and Bill Dogget's "Honky Tonk."   The band's performance on the McDaniels tune had the kind of spontaneous momentum and energy that can only happen when a band hasn't rehearsed a song to death. Based on the surprised comments from the stage, it appeared that the band may have played the tune largely from memory, an astonishing feat given that the tune is far more complex than the typical twelve-bar blues.   "Honky Tonk," a far less challenging tune than "Compared to What," had just as much energy, and the band was clearly having a good time.

Frank took the opportunity to promote the recently-formed Cleveland Blues Society, and organization worthy of support.

My afternoon ended with what has become an Elderly Brothers tradition: a stop at Woodsy's Music to visit a few guitars and mandolins I'd like to own, and then dinner and drinks at Ray's Place. 

Many thanks to WKSU and the amazing Folk Alley for their continued support of the music and the Festival.


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