Concert Highlights–Carlene Carter at the Cutting Room, 6/12/14

Carlene Carter sang “Me and the Wildwood Rose” midway through her set at the Cutting Room last night. It’s a song from her 1990 album I Fell in Love, which she wrote about traveling as a child with her grandmother, Mother Maybelle Carter, her mother June Carter Cash and aunts Helen and Anita Carter—then billed as Mother Maybelle & the Singing Carter Sisters—and her own little sister, Rosie.

In a big shiny car we’d head down the road
To sing for the miners who brought out the coal
Many a time I slept on the floorboard cold
On a quilt with my little sister
The Wildwood Rose

“It has a lot more meaning for me now that they’ve all passed on,” she said. But with her great new album Carter Girl (I should know. I wrote the liner notes.) she’s taken on the honor and responsibility of continuing the historic Carter Family tradition while adding to it.

She’s focusing on Carter Girl, of course, on her current tour. Accompanied by her longtime guitarist Sean Allen on guitars and lap steel, and on the album’s duets, husband Joe Breen, Carlene played acoustic guitar, autoharp and piano, standout songs from the album including first single “Little Black Train,” “Blackjack David” (Kris Kristofferson sings on the album version), “Troublesome Waters” (Willie Nelson) and her adaptation of the Carter Family’s “Lonesome Valley” (“Lonesome Valley 2003,” with Vince Gill, evoking the passing of her mother and stepfather Johnny Cash).

The Carter Family was further represented by Carlene’s version of “My Dixie Darlin’,” which she had also included in I Fell In Love, and she encored with her own big country hit from that period, “Every Little Thing.”

Speaking of which, she acknowledged that she had “tried all kinds of different things in her career—and I mean that: all kinds of different things!” and hinted at some of them at the start when she announced, “Don’t be scared. I’ve got underwear on tonight! Things do change.”

But her unchanged talent notwithstanding, the laughter turned to tears when she said, also of “Me and the Wildwood Rose,” how she thinks of her departed Carter girls everyday.

“I’m so lucky to still be here and play and be with friends,” she said. “I’m going to start to cry,” she added, and did—then finished, most appropriately and effectively, with the family’s signature hymn “Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By).”

Concert Highlights–Del McCoury Band with David Grisman at City Winery, 4/17/14

Del McCoury said early on that he didn’t want to repeat any of the songs from the previous night’s first of two shows at City Winery. According to Del McCoury Band bassist Alan Bartram, he didn’t.

Alan, incidentally, also mentioned during the show how thrilled he was to see it spotlighted in New York magazine. Turns out he’s a longtime subscriber.

Speaking of magazines, the band had been to Relix earlier in the day, and had already done “a lot of picking,” said Ronnie McCoury. Del noted, too, that he’d spent a lot of time at the Winery “downstairs with the barrels.” He seemed happier about that visit than the one at Relix.

The first half of the show was all McCoury Band. They did their version of Dylan’s “Walk Out In the Rain,” actually from the 1995 album Ronnie & Rob McCoury. It’s as good a Dylan cover as there is, and Ronnie sounds a lot like Del singing it.

Del prefaced the performance of his 2008 album titletrack Moneyland by noting that John Herald’s manager had sent it to him shortly after Herald died (an apparent suicide in 2005).

Herald was one of the major players in New York City’s bluegrass scene, having formed the Greenbriar Boys in 1959. I was lucky to meet him when he was a key part of  Greg Garing’s Alphabet City Opry in the late ‘90s in the East Village.

 

Another highlight came with another McCoury album titletrack—last year’s “The Streets of Baltimore” cover of Bobby Bare’s classic 1966 country hit. As Del explained, he had lived in Maryland for a time, when he was playing with late bluegrass upright bass great Jack Cooke.

Determining after that no one in the audience was from Baltimore, Del opened it up to requests: “You paid to get in here, I didn’t,” he said. “We should do something you want to hear.” It was “High on a Mountain,” his 1972 album titletrack, and then he brought out David Grisman.

Grisman related how he met Del at Del’s first show with Bill Monroe (he played five-string banjo) in the spring of 1963 at NYU, where Grisman was a student. He and Del then sang the Monroe Brothers’ “Nine Pound Hammer,” Grisman on mandolin and Del on guitar. From their Del & Dawg album of ‘90s jams, they performed “Country Boy Rock & Roll.” Marty Stuart also does a great job of the Reno and Smiley country classic:

Also from Del & Dawg came “The Tennessee Waltz,” “Walkin’ the Dawg” and the Carter Family’s “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes.”

Grisman scored by pointing out how late-night TV never mentions the Carter Family, and that “any financial advisor will tell you to put some of your money in CDs.” He was also the most visual guy on stage, a big, gentle bear of a man in gray shirt and slacks to match his long hair and beard, positioned in between Ronnie in a black suit and Del in a light one.

He would turn to his left to share vocals with Del, then turn to his right to trade mandolin licks with Ronnie, rocking physically while Ronnie stood and smiled—a striking balance in appearance and performing style.

Del and Dawg will now tour together, while Rob completes his first solo CD.