Fred Eaglesmith with High Kotton at the Blue Plate Special

How could you improve the live radio concerts hosted weekdays at noon on WDVX for several years now? Add a weekend show, that’s how. Many of us can’t be downtown at noon, but judging from the crowd in the visitor’s center Saturday, virtually everyone can make it on a weekend. The room was packed nearly an hour before showtime and people kept coming. By the time the broadcast began, there was hardly room to breathe. Red Hickey said it was almost without doubt the biggest crowd in any visitor’s center any where in the country that day. I’m not sure other visitor centers are as cool as ours to have regular concerts, but it was a very big crowd.

Fred Eaglesmith, WDVX Blue Plate Special, Knoxville, January 22,2011

As I said in the last post, I would not be able to see Fred Eaglesmith at the Shed, so I jumped at the chance to see him at WDVX on Saturday. I’m not as familiar with his work as I will be within the next few days (I’m buying in big), but I’d heard enough on WDVX to get me pretty excited. If he’d never written anything beyond Alcohol And Pills that would be enough reason to go down and listen.

High Kotton, WDVX Blue Plate Special, Knoxville, January 2011

The opening act was a local group, High Kotton, who told me they have only “been together since October” and, if I understood them correctly, they have “practiced seven times.” Some of them have been friends for a longer time, but the group and vocalist Wendy Crowe found each other through Craigslist. This group, to have been together such a short time displays amazing potential. Wendy’s face is set to default to “smile” and her charm as the front of the band combined with her great country voice and the rich harmony produced by her along with very talented multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Amanda Thomas and other band members will take the band far. It’s hard to imagine how good they can be after they’ve put in the hours required to make a band tight.

Fred Eaglesmith, Knoxville, January 22, 2011

So it was a good opening for the main course of the noon concert: Fred Eaglesmith. I had no idea what to expect. His most recent album Cha Cha Cha features the sound from the David Letterman video below and it was this seductive groove that he brought to the Blue Plate. The sound is augmented and elevated tremendously by The Fabulous Ginn Sisters who are excellent recording artists in their own right. Filling out the band wasKori Heppner on drums, Justine Fischer on bass and Matty Simpson on banjo and guitar.

Fred Eaglesmith, WDVX Blue Plate Special, Knoxville, January 22, 2011

Matty’s banjo playing provides another whole topic for conversation. The banjo looked about as beaten up and down as if it might have been one of the first banjos cobbled together somewhere in Africa. It alternately sounded vaguely like a banjo and entirely like a fuzzy guitar on a smoky night at 3 AM.

Fred Eaglesmith, WDVX Blue Plate Special, Knoxville, January 22,2011

The ragged backing vocals gave the performance almost a gospel feel. The distorted lead banjo and guitar gave the music an element of 60’s garage rock. The rhythmic foundation keep the train on the track and Fred’s gravely, but sure-voiced vocals seeped into the mix to produce a sound unlike anyone I could name. Steady throughout was the excellent song-writing. It was not country music, for the most part, it was what country music should have become. I could imagine Hank Williams being happy to walk the length of Gay Street from the Andrew Johnson Hotel to hear this music which is completely different from anything from his era, yet, I think he would recognize it immediately.

Fred Eaglesmith, WDVX Blue Plate Special, Knoxville, January 22, 2011

Fred played Thirty Years Of Farming which was a number one bluegrass hit for James King, but it was the sound of the new music that was so intoxicating on this day. Delivering the goods was a man who knows his place and feels good about it. He will never be a hit on contemporary country radio, but as he says on his web site, he can draw a hundred or two hundred people almost anywhere in the world who are willing to pay twenty bucks to see him and that suits him perfectly. He also told wry jokes and mentioned his fascinating oil paintings, which are for sale on his excellent web site.

I’ve found an artist I plan to enjoy getting to know very well. Thank you, one more time, WDVX.

Enhanced by Zemanta