Classic Tony Rice at Merlefest7 May 2010
Now that he’s back from his southern jaunt, yer pal Curly is wrangling pixels as fast as he can so as to share some of the music and sights he collected in the course of his travels. As with any musical set, it never hurts to kick off with a crowd-pleaser, so here goes:
It’s always tempting— and usually ill-advised— to read into the expressions and body language of musicians. In this case, you can’t help feeling that everybody in the band is a little checked out, no one more so than the great Josh Williams. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of catching Williams leading his own eponymous outfit, then you’ll understand my noting a distinct lack of verve in this performance. Many explanations for this come to mind: 1) It was really hot; 2) He was rubbing his nose a lot, so perhaps he’s allergic to Merlefest; 3) How many times has he played “Wayfaring Stranger” anyway? But perhaps the most intriguing possibility is that he was playing the mandolin rather than his principal instrument, the guitar. Maybe that thousand-mile-stare is really Williams concentrating? Nah— this is a guy who could play a ball of twine without breaking a sweat. I vote for allergies.
Whatever the case, I can attest that this is one of those instances when— at least purely in musical terms— a piece works better just as audio than as video. Close your eyes and listen. Nice, no? Still, there are insights to be gained from watching the picture. I enjoy the way Tony Rice conducts the band with just the barest nod of his head, cuing solos and marking when to start the last chord. It’s such a minimal gesture, and so seemingly nonchalant, yet at the same time so precise. Sort of sums up Rice’s style.
Lots more to come, so don’t wander too far…
Yer Pal— Curly