Greetings, and welcome back to Reservoir Music Notes! It’s been a fun summer, (especially the last two weeks, which we’ll get to in a minute), but now is the time to put aside dreams of the sun, tighten up, get back to work, and get ready for the winter! In other words, it’s time to start writing this column again! My battery is recharged and I’m ready, willing, and able to rock n roll all night, or at least as long as it takes to write this column!
In the past two weeks, I have seen not one, but two, of the best shows of the summer, and a third that wasn’t half bad either! A man must know his limitations, and there were tons of great shows this summer that I just couldn’t attend, but I’m sure glad I got to these two! It all started August 30 at The Bearsville Theater, a performance I had been looking forward to since the day it was announced! The amazing Albert Lee wowed the crowd in attendance, which should have been much larger, but, hey, if you snoozed, you lost big time! Albert is without a doubt, one of the premier guitarists on Earth, and has been for a long time! I was surprised there weren’t more Woodstock guitarists at the Theater for Albert. When Junior Brown was there, every guitar player in town came out, and all had their jaws on the floor for Junior, as they should have! And as they would have for Albert, but most were conspicuous by their absence! Well, most guitar players could learn a thing or two from Albert Lee. He’s probably my second favorite living guitarist, after Jeff Beck! Go look at his YouTube vids, and you’ll see why!
Albert told us right where it was at with the first song of the night, Fats Domino’s “I’m Ready”, proclaiming his preparedness, desire, and ability to rock all night, and he mostly did, with the notable exception occurring when he sat down at the piano for a few songs, which slowed it down for a minute and gave the audience time to breath!
From there, Albert ran through the gamut of the type of stuff he’s renowned for, country, roots rock n roll, and rockabilly, mostly. Standouts were a couple of Gram Parsons’ tunes (“Wheels” and “Luxury Liner”), but every song was great and all displayed awesome guitar playing and soloing. Lest you think that Albert was the only soloist that night, his keyboard player (and rhythm section) were exceptional, and, as is his habit, Albert graciously handed off the first solo to the other musicians, before stepping up, and as good as he is, he never overshadows the musicians he’s playing with! Rather, he’s complimentary in his playing, and it all fits together so nicely! I would go see Albert Lee anytime I could, and so should you!My thanks to Jodi Sleed and the staff of the Bearsville Theater for making it possible. Keep up the great work guys! You’re doing a fabulous job bringing awesome music to Woodstock!
The following night, I went to my first Midnight Ramble since before Levon passed, which was emotional for me, but the great William Bell called me out and delivered some Stax style RnB, backed by The Midnight Ramble Band, with Steve Forbert opening. Forbert’s a good songwriter and performer, but I would have loved to see HIM backed up by the MR Band! Guess he’s gotten so used to touring solo that it might have just been easier for him to go that route, but Steve may have forgotten the excitement and energy a full band can produce!After a short break, and a few chestnuts from Levon’s band (hope you don’t mind if I still occasionally call them that), Mister Bell hit the stage! Resplendent in a silk suit and shades, and looking every inch the Soul crooner that he is, Bell launched straight into some kick ass Otis style rockin’ soul tunes, complete with horns, backup singers, and Steve Cropper style guitar solos from Larry Campbell and Jimmy Weider! This could have been my moment to die in peace, but it wasn’t my day yet!
After a few minutes, Bell slowed it down and ran through a set of the type of crooner ballads he’s known for, including, of course, his major hit, “You Don’t Miss Your Water”, which was a highlight! All in all, a pleasant night with friends, and a splendid time was had by all.One of the musicians in Crazy Horse injured himself, forcing the cancellation of the rest of Neil Young’s tour, which, of course, meant the cancellation of the Neil Young and Crazy Horse/ Patti Smith Group double bill at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, so all I had left to look forward to was the last great concert of the summer, at a venue I’ve been trying to get to for a long time, Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, for another fabulous double bill – Black Crowes and London Souls, and it was a great experience on many levels!
First off, beautiful location! You think you’re going to Cooperstown, which is itself a lovely, quaint village, but Ommegang is 8 miles outside of Cooperstown in a picturesque country setting! You park in a field and then walk into the concert area, which is in a natural amphitheater behind the brewery. There’s no seats or walls, just a big field and a large stage with a great sound system, and that’s the way I like it!
London Souls, some friends of mine from New York, kicked it off with their high energy brand of Rock n Roll and did not disappoint! These guys are a great, stripped down guitar trio that could draw comparisons to White Stripes or Steve Wynn and The Miracle Three, but they’re really their own men. Playing originals and obscure covers, they were the perfect beginning for the evening! London Souls have opened for Tedeschi-Trucks, Umphrey’s Magee, and Govt. Mule, and they’re playing at Club Helsinki on September 20, so, that’s obviously the place to be, then!
Originally billed as a triple bill with Tedeschi-Trucks, I had not heard the news that they had cancelled, so when The Black Crowes suddenly appeared on stage, the energy level ramped up real fast! The band started off kinda laid back and nice n easy, but started simmering before long and quickly built up to a rapid boil with Crowe stalwarts like “Thorn in my Pride”, “Jealous Again”, and “Remedy”, and covers of The Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Nothins” and Lowell George’s immortal “Willin”!
The original core band, Chris and Rich Robinson with drummer, Steve Gorman, are joined on this tour by the very capable and fluid, Sven Pipien, on bass and vocals, Adam MacDougall on keys, and, most importantly, guitarist and vocalist, Jackie Greene! Jackie brings something to The Crowes that is rare indeed! Not many musicians have this gift. Chris Robinson might, and it’s probably no coincidence that Chris and Jackie have both been hanging out with The Grateful Dead, because what they both have, is what Jerry Garcia had, which is the ability to take you to another level, another world, if you will! One which you might not even have known existed, but could end up more real than the world you think is real now!
When Garcia played with The Dead, listening to his guitar was the best way to listen to the band. Everything fell in place naturally, and so it is with Jackie Greene! I’ve seen him do it numerous times with numerous bands and now it can officially be called a pattern. Jackie Greene can take you to the Promised Land! I will make an effort to go see any project that Jackie Greene is a part of! He separates the men from the boys with Phil Lesh, and tonight The Black Crowes flew to new higher heights on the wings of Jackie Greene’s guitar playing! And Rich Robinson’s no slouch either! Between the two, and London Souls’ Tash, Brewery Ommegang was guitar player’s paradise for a night!
The crowd appreciatively lapped up the juice the Crowes was fe’mentin’, and responded in kind, on their feet, dancing, stompin’, whoopin’ and hollerin’, just like a good Rock n Roll audience should! When the last strains of Little Feats, “Willin” had faded to silence and the crowd was heading for their cars, I don’t believe there was a single unsatisfied fan in the bunch! Can’t wait for next year’s summer concerts at Ommegang! They far exceeded my expectations as a venue. And the beer is delicious too! My thanks to Allison Capozza at Brewery Ommegang for her hospitality.
Fred Perry is the owner of Reservoir Music Center on Route 28 in Kingston, and founding member of Alt-Country supergroup, The Brooklyn Cowboys, is from a 3rd generation musical family and lives in the Hudson Valley, where he does what he can to promote live music.