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Ethereal/Downhome Folk Music

Music review
by Kevin T. McEneaney
Sat Apr 22nd, 2017

The Slocan Ramblers: Adrian Gross,  Alistair Whitehead, Frank Evans, Darryl Poulsen.

One Quiet Plunge performed “Seegers,” an homage to the Seeger family with video and music at the Samuel Dorsky Museum on the campus of the State University at New Paltz. Two video loops were projected on a blank white wall: one displayed flower patterns and one presented the passing of the seasons in nature inhabited by ghostly structures. To this concrete/abstract dialectic that displayed how beauty is the nexus between all things, new contemporary music was played by an ensemble. There were some hints of Pete Seeger's political activism that were expressed.

Chris Beroes-Haigis on cello dominated with strength, expressive feeling, and nuance. Amy Cassiere on oboe contributed a long and notable solo. Joshua Groffman plucked a banjo that sometimes sounded like a sitar. Bob Lukomski back-grounded mood with electronics that reminded me of Phillip Glass yet did contain a singular but somewhat similar four-four base as in Glass.

Often the flower-patterned video projected a synergetic, minimalistic correspondence, such as one continually discovers in Glass’ masterpiece soundtrack to Koyaanisqatsi (1983). But the abstract video loop was far too short for the length of the music. This appears to be an interesting but uncompleted project which needs more work and funding, especially from the video angle. And perhaps more script. The music is rich in thematic layering. I hope more comes out of this project: the music is there to move it forward. The concert will be performed again at the Howland Center in Beacon. Follow our Calendar section for annoncements.

Two hours later in Pawling, the Slocan Ramblers held forth at Trinity-Pawling’s Gardiner Hall. Riding the wave of the recent country and bluegrass revival are four Canadians who have nothing better to do than show-up Americans on our turf.  A big part of their unique sound comes from the frantic finger-picking of Adrian Gross on mandolin. Frank Evans on banjo and most vocals convincingly projects power in American hillbilly slang. Darryl Poulsen on guitar can sing as well as adroitly pick and harmonize when needed.  Alistair Whitehead on bass thumps the bass impressively with the best in keeping solid rhythm.

The lady sitting next to me mentioned that any kind of music, even the most elementary folk music can be riveting, if there’s virtuosity on exhibit.  And here was an excellent example of just that. This was a band that has achieved that higher level of integrated dynamics. This was dancing music without the corn, songs that had spare yet lively plots, music that expressed deep emotion. The very way they moved about the stage was a form of dance. They were loose, confident, at ease, and clearly communicated their joyous contagion. They sang from one of the roots that influence all music, including the classical tradition. I recommend catching them before they face the plight of being on television, or face frivolous sanctions for doing what Americans do best (but they do it better).

The Slocan River is the principal river that winds its way through British Columbia and through the hearts of all British Columbians in Canada.