Remember the late 60s/early 70s “Super Group” phenomenon? You had groups like The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield morphing into CSNY, Cream and Traffic turning into Blind Faith, etc.
On the one hand, it might be hard to imagine a bluegrass/folk/country/blues/gospel super group. On the other, last night at Portland’s State Theatre (great venue!) the seemingly crazy notion made perfect sense with Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White, and Ry Cooder on the stage.
In keeping with the family theme of so many of those genres (think country’s Carter family), there was a strong family presence on stage. For example, Skaggs and White have been married for over three decades and they were joined by Sharon’s sister Cheryl and her father Buck, an awesome 85-year old piano player who nearly stole the show on a few numbers. If you’re a country fan, you may know that the three of them have recorded a number of acclaimed albums under the name of The Whites. (If you’re a film fan, you might recall their version of “Keep on the Sunny Side” on the “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack.)
Although perhaps outnumbered, the Cooder family holds its own with Ry’s son Joachim doing excellent work on drums. Although I’m pretty sure he’s not related to any of the principals, stand-up bassist Mark Fain, a Nashville stalwart, ably rounds out the ensemble.
Truth be told, I was primarily there to hear Ry Cooder as he’s one those musicians where I may well have, at one time or another, owned everything he’s ever released. (That is, if you add all the vinyl, cassettes, CDs, and streaming pieces I’ve acquired/traded/sold/lost since college daze.) With a rack of guitars and varied stringed instruments beside him, he squeezed beautiful tunes out of each and every one of them. Not only did my admiration for him increase during the evening, I was streaming Skaggs and The Whites this morning while reading the AM newspaper.
I encourage you to check these folks out if they come to your town. Rather than present a review here, I don’t think I can improve on the one featured in the NY Times a few days ago. Check it out:
Onward, Malcolm Gauld