Theres something about bluegrass musicians. Maybe its the infectious nature of the music, which at times can cause even the grouchiest among us to tap their hands in time on their knees or crack a smile against their will.
Most bluegrass performers seem perpetually on the verge of dropping cornball jokes or PG-rated double entendres in their between-song patter. Some even appear to have a Rolodex filled with hundreds of groan-inducing puns, all ready to go at the drop of a tightly blocked hat.
Mick Ayres takes this longstanding tradition one step further.
A versatile entertainer whos offered a crowd-pleasing act for the last quarter of a century, hes not only a seasoned musician (this three-time winner of the Florida Old-Time Music Championships plays claw hammer banjo, fiddle and mandolin), but an ace storyteller.
In 2001, he was also named South Carolina Magician Of The Year by his illusionist peers, and he has authored six books on the art of magic.
Ayres shows are a regular attraction at Disneys Vacation Resort on Hilton Head as they were at Floridas Disney World. His upcoming gig at Randy Woods is another in their growing list of family-oriented concerts that offer a true top-shelf alternative to smoky nightclubs.
As Randy himself says, the kids will be overwhelmed and the old will be awed... Fri., 7:30 pm, Randy Woods Concert Hall (Bloomingdale) - for advance tickets, call 748-1930.
Those of you who read Connect with any degree of regularity may have noticed my general lack of faith in the motives of the vast majority of so-called stealth Christian hard rock bands. Many of you may also find in this admittedly cynical mindset the traces of a general distrust in most cross-promotions of organized religion and fashion-oriented music.
Hey, guilty as charged.
While I will gladly admit there are no doubt scores of devout followers who also happen to enjoy screaming their bloody heads off in bars and youth centers around the world, Ill gladly call a spade a spade and say that most of these groups realized a long time ago that professing an abiding love for Jesus was a quick and easy shortcut through the often inhospitable and unprofitable world of indie touring.
A few years back when clergy and youth ministers realized one of the quickest ways to a kids heart was through his MP3 player, an elaborate network of basement shows, teen nights and praise concerts sprang up like wildfire around the USA and young, inexperienced hardcore bands that previously had a hard time finding established clubs to let them climb up on stage now had their pick of an almost unlimited supply of venues, most of which had a built-in following of disenfranchised youth whose parents would rather see them heading to church than to a juice bar even if the Christian bands often looked and sounded just like the Satanic ones.
Savannahs Showbread is one such band that is riding that gravy train to a fair amount of national success which is not to say that theyre not sincere.
Truth is, I have no idea where theyre coming from personally, and they are signed to one of the most prestigious Christian hardcore labels around (Tooth & Nail). Plus, their publicity material has guitarist Matt Davis peppering his ruminations on the bands future with subtle phrases like, Amen, amen.
Regardless of their motivations, it can be said that their debut CD, No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical, is one of the most impressive slabs of brutal, high-energy metalcore thats ever come from our local music scene (albeit indirectly, as they rarely play in town, and this disc was tracked far away under the direction of Tool and Prince producer Sylvia Massey).
The powerhouse septet throws down hard and fast with a spastic stage show that simultaneously embraces and mocks hard rock stereotypes, and their label seems to be throwing a significant amount of bucks behind them (music videos, massive street team activity) in the hopes theyll take off in a big way.
Still, it must be said that their new image of carefully mussed jet black hairdos and matching black and red outfits (can anyone say The International White Stripes Conspiracy?) seems phony and awkward.
Whether the band or their handlers came up with this new look is anyones guess, but if David Byrnes old adage about people remembering you better if you always wear the same thing is correct, does Showbread really want everyone reminded of those young girls in the mall whore trying so hard to look like Britney and Christina that they wind up obviously sad and uncomfortable in their own skin?
They should be happy to know Im praying for them (to pull those ratty jeans back out of the trash). Sat., The Jinx.
1st Friday For Folk Music
Its that time of the month again, when the Savannah Folk Music Society throws an old-fashioned coffeehouse-style concert. As always, theyve booked a mixture of local acts and touring musicians for this no-alcohol and no-smoking showcase, and its free for all ages to get in (though there is a suggested $2 donation to the Society).
This 103rd edition of the series features the 1st friday debut of Justin Beckler, an excellent Atlanta-based singer/songwriter who has previously appeared in Savannah at The Sentient Bean. This will be a solo show just him and his guitar but if he even comes close to approximating the moody, evocative and ethereal Lanois/Dylan/Rob Laufer groove of his exceptional debut CD, the crowd will be in for a real treat. Its one of the most pleasant surprises Ive received from an unsigned artist in the past year.
Also on the bill is the collaborative effort The Savannah Irish Session, a group ranging from teens to seniors playing traditional Celtic story songs on fiddle, flute, whistle, harp, guitar, dulcimer and bodhran.
Rounding out the night will be FOCOROPO, the longstanding local ensemble that offers folk, country, rock and pop (hence the odd name). Theyre regulars at these gigs, and are known for a constantly evolving repertoire. Their lineup includes Al Harris and John Powers, late of the fondly remembered new-grass band Bound & Determined. Refreshments will be available for purchase. Fri., 7:30 pm, Wesleyan United Methodist Church (429 Abercorn St.).
John Williams Davis
Raised just East of the Okeefenokee Swamp on a small creek that flows into the St. Marys River, this former dock worker and Reno craps dealer is no stranger to the mysteries of Southern folk music. After spending time studying Shakespeare and becoming a professor of language and literature at the university level, he decided to concentrate on writing his own music, and before long had met up with bassist Sean Kelly, with whom he has maintained a solid recording and touring partnership.
Since then, he has released his own work to the type of great critical acclaim that only fiercely independent artists can amass. His unique take on the steamy vibe of Faulkners South got him called the tempest from the swamp, and helped him to win 2004s prestigious Kerrville New Folk Award, and the combination of his intelligent, observational songs and heartfelt vocal delivery have earned him comparisons to Tom Waits, Van Dyke Parks and Randy Newman.
Drawing on a piece of sage advice he received from an elderly bluesman he studied with in his youth, the acoustic guitarist says he works hard to maintain a certain sense of playfulness in his music. Thurs., 8 pm, The Sentient Bean.