A LIVE REVIEW OF THE OLD GLORYS
REPRINTED FROM "DISLOCATIONS" A BLOG BY MR. TIM HRK
Just last year, early October, Any Day Parade played a sizzling set at the 4th Street Art Festival. So, I was sad to hear they broke up. The main songwriter and bandleader, Tree (who also goes by the name of M. Jackson and Melissa Jackson, but since I haven’t seen the actual birth certificate I’ll continue to refer to her as Tree) had formed a new Band, The Old Glorys sometime in the Spring. The couple of gigs around town that I had heard about I was unable to make until Groove on Grove, which was one of the last of these outdoor concerts of the season.
This acoustic sextet is steeped in Americana, heavy on the Appalachia. The band features fiddler, stand up bass, banjo, mandolin and a guitar player who also taps a pedal with his foot to hit a bass drum and/or cymbal for added effect. Tree of course also plays guitar. They were an impressive crew, and for the most part were able to be both authentic and original, not an easy task. I really didn’t know what to expect and was greatly impressed. Their myspace page only has three songs to stream, all of them played here, but the recorded versions feature a spare arrangements, live, with the full band, the songs had a rich texture. The fiddle player seemed to be having a great night.
Although many of Tree’s beloved ADP ditties would have benefited from these new arrangements, she only played new material, opening up with a poignant new song, Back to Me, which seems to be about missing a lover, and how the longer you’re away or neglect the relation adds more bitter than sweet to the reunion. A slow song, the mix of mandolin, fiddle and banjo highlighted the high lonesome aspect of this mournful song, creating much more of a lament than their myspace arrangement.
For much of the set, which was short, about 30 minutes, after the opener, Tree let the boys play their own songs. The band is new, still a little rough on the edges, and a couple of the other band member's songs bordered on Americana kitsch ,which I think was unintentional. It’s fragile task, attempting a mountain sound but avoiding the clichés, and for the most part, they were successful. Keep in mind, the band is new, the musicians though skilled are young and it’s Groove on Grove. The clamor of the cars, rucks and buses is relentless, a river of indifferent pedestrians constantly flows past the performers. In fact, something happened to the stage and they were playing at audience level, standing on an Astroturf mat. Any criticism based solely on this gig would be unfair. It is also worth noting, usually the Groove on Grove crowds are small, and half of them can’t shut up long enough to give the usually talented musicians a listen. This night—a late summer evening, dark at 8:00 PM, which was when they started, Autumn apparent, lingering just around the corner—the crowd was quiet, intrigued and attentive. I’ve been to just about every one of these shows, this is not common audience behavior whatsoever.
The band put me in mind of the acoustic roots music of the recent Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women, and the sound track of Winter Bone. Mid-set, the fiddler and mandolin player, who are brothers switched to tuba and trombone, respectively, and played a few new Orleans jazz-inflected Medicince Show numbers, which reminded me of Springteen’s Seeger Sessions band, which combined the folkie strings with a horn section. In the right hands, it works and this jaunty interlude worked. Whenever a tuba and a banjo jam, you are going to have some fun.
The set also featured a scorching number by the guitar player For My Love, which is called a Demo on their myspace, and is really just a barebones. More in the ballad mode, the full band version knocked it out to the park, adding a herky jerkey/stop & start rythmn similar to a Ralph Stanley bluegrass song.
Tree followed with With Time, an incredible song that delves into an honesty and spirituality that showcases not just her talent but how far that talent has been nurtured in the past few months. The song seems a sequel to her earlier song, I’ve Had Time, which is about regret of some past deeds and learning from mistake. With Time has the narrator counting her blessings, noting that even though there is some salt and pepper in my hair, then gives an almost Withmanesque list of things worthwhile in this world, like Guitar Strings when they’re new, Boots when they’re worn; but the most worthwhile is: “there’s no laughter like my son’s.” When she gets to this line, you want to laugh and cry. It’s so sincere and joyful. The song concludes with a Thank You Lord for life, a well earned spiritual conclusion. It’s a masterpiece, comparative to Emmylou Harris (Tree’s voice (and sensibility) resembles Emmylou’s); it would not have been out of place on Red Dirt Girl (perhaps the greatest Country album of the 90s).
A side note, Tree has an awe-inspiring voice. This gal can sing, and it’s not just her range, but how she goes from a brassy holler to sweet and high. I love to hear her voice move. It was a little hoarse around the edges at the Groove gig, but if you go to the myspace page and stream the With Time, notice the ending, when she gets to the Thank You Lord line, she does a vocal gymnastic that is remarkable, it is high caliber singing.
Driving You, an up-tempo, bluegrass inflected number ended the set, showing off the musical chops of the sextet. I felt I was on the front porch of say, the home of Ricky Skaggs after a barbecue with Kentucky Thunder. It was racous and rowsing. Everyone applauded, the band started to leave the mat, the applause continued. The Groove MC encouraged more clapping, Tree relents, straps her guitar back on, and says, this is a cover. Hootenanny time and they go into a foot stomping real folkie song which I think was a Carter Family number but I forget the name but in the middle the band segues into the Carter Classic, You Are My Sunshine. Bring on the New Folk Movement NOW! I've been waiting too long!
Look, either the music industry has really collapsed or there is no justice in this world because this Woman should be signed by a real music label and her songs released to an audience beyond the bars of Jersey City and Brooklyn. Unfortunately, both things are likely true. She is the real deal, singer, songwriter, musician. Her talent and art are truly trascendent.
I love this old acoustic country music (I am a Roy Acuff devotee) style. Old Glorys (why not Glories?) seems to be an interesting double entendre. Obviously the name of the American Flag, it also seems to indicate traditional philosophies, a glory that is tried and true. She and her new band have an understanding and respect for this music, as well as, more importantly, a deep feeling for it. Authentic and original, it’s hard to pull off with any kind of credibility, but when it is pulled off, why come to think of, it’s a kind of timeless glory, isn’t it?
Tree promised an Old Glorys CD in November. They did hand out stickers, their emblem is an American Beauty rose. Make of this what you will.
I didn’t pay attention when the names of the band members were announced. I apologize. Here’s the band from the myspace page:Nick Fierro, Dave Vondollen, Shane V., Thomas Hanslowe, Alec Hanslowe, M. Jackson