Tag: award-winning concert photographers

John McEuen Brings “Roots Music” to Knuckleheads with Matt Cartsonis

If there’s a worthwhile storyteller musician, then John McEuen has earned the right to be called one of the best. In an evening that was as much about narrative recollections from a few of his thousands of interactions with the best in the music business, McEuen’s wit and comedic timing charmed his dedicated fans Saturday, January 13, at Knuckleheads.

Opening for McEuen for a few songs was country artist and Kansas City-based Sara Morgan with Carl Butler. A rising star in her own right, Morgan gave the audience a tasty-treat, sprinkled with narrative about her own roots in music. Singer-songwriter Morgan is signed with River Delta Records. Plain Jane, her second LP is set to release January 26.

Kansas City based Sara Morgan performed Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 at Knuckleheads, opening for John McEuen on his Roots Music: Made in Brooklyn tour. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair

 

After Ms. Morgan, McEuen ambled out to the stage accompanied by the affable and perfectly-matched partner in musical legacy, Matt Cartsonis.

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John McEuen and Matt Cartsonis performed Saturday, January 13, 2018 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City as part of McEuen’s Roots Music: Made in Brooklyn tour.

McEuen digressed with stories about his days with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band as well as stories about his buddy comedian (and fellow banjo player) Steve Martin. Rare nuggets, such as the story of how he came to work for singer Andy Williams, were met with appreciation from a crowd who also grew up listening to and watching The Andy Williams Show. It’s quite possible that there may be only a few people with whom John McEuen hasn’t worked in his 50-plus years as a professional musician.

Still as handsome as ever as a silver-haired, neatly-bearded 72-year-old, not only is his music versatility and mastery a part of his legacy – but as much so is his comedic expressions and the flash of a still-boyish ornery smile. Just because he’s a music sage doesn’t mean he had to take growing up all that seriously.

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John McEuen, on his Roots Music: Made in Brooklyn Tour, played January 13, 2018, at Kansas City’s Knuckleheads Saloon. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

Kansas City’s own Riverrock percussionist Daniel Smith was invited to bring his washboard setup on stage to join McEuen and Cartsonis. Smith said he and McEuen have been friends for decades since they met in the 1970s. It was all about the love for music.

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John McEuen played a tune on his SmoothTalker guitar with his longtime friend, percussionist Dan Smith (of Kansas City’s band, Riverrock) on Saturday, January 13, 2018 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

McEuen’s recently released CD Roots Music: Made in Brooklyn is lushly populated with accompanying artists such that there is a long list on the front of the cover.  David Amram’s intro reads:

It is not often that  you have the opportunity to spend two twelve hour days recording and at the end of the day (which as become night time0 want to stay and do more. John McEuen’s album is an experience that all of us fortunate enough to participate in will cherish. Every musician played so beautifully – each take was a breathtaking experience.

The performances were all memorable, and we moved along so smoothly that there was not time to relish the experience until trying to remember each tune we did when we thought about it late at night after all was over. It provided us all with vitamins for the soul.

I know this recording will be an inspiration for all younger tiger-songwriteres, musicians, composers and listeners to realize that it is possible today to create work of lasting value that is always musical, soulful and enjoyable. ~ David Amram, Beacon, NY

McEuen, well-known for his banjo and fiddle playing, also brought with him a gorgeous custom Smooth Talker guitar that in and of itself is worth seeing in action. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
John McEuen bends the strings on his banjo Saturday, January 13, 2018, while playing at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

There should be no hesitation for fans to jump on the chance to see McEuen’s tour in forward cities, which span the country from California to the Midwest, to Pennsylvania to Texas and Florida. The music, the narrative and the sheer happiness that comes from spending a couple of hours with this legendary artist are not only reminders of our youth but, for young artists, a reminder that their own musical legacies hold the promise to endure.

One more thing – be sure to reserve your copy of McEuen’s upcoming book. In the final manuscript stages at the moment, McEuen’s book The Life I’ve Picked: A Banjo Player’s Nitty Gritty Journey is set to release April 1, 2018. This volume is sure to be filled with a rich history of great anecdotes and uplifting stories.

And, just for the record, we all would have picked you, too, Mr. McEuen.

 

 

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Samantha Fish Rings In 2018 at Knuckleheads in Hometown KC

©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

Wrapping up a grueling but fruitful concert tour for 2017, Samantha Fish came home to Kansas City to put on her last show of the year, packing a Knuckleheads Garage crowd willing to drop $90 a ticket for the evening, which included complimentary champagne and a balloon drop at midnight.

The show also included access to two other acts: the crowd-pleasing Atlantic Express gushing the best of the 60’s top hits (“My Girl”; “Chain of Fools”; “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”) and The Belairs out of Columbia, MO, who can put a blues spin on any music genre.

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Delynia Brown with Atlantic Express Band sings “Chain of Fools” Sunday night as the band performed on Knuckleheads indoor main stage for the New Years Eve party. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

It was a little tricky to move between simultaneous shows inside on Knuckleheads‘ main stage and the Garage but once I soaked up several irresistable performances by Atlantic Express, I moved over to the Garage to cozy up to some Belairs blues.

After watching the brothers for several songs, I made up my mind that there comes a time in your life where you appreciate a sharp-dressed man who can handle an axe.

Brothers Dick and Dave Pruitt – who took on a 90 minute set Sunday night for the Knuckleheads’ New Years Eve concert – played everything from slide guitar blues to Johnny Cash.

..and they did so with a style that showed off what 30-year career musicians learn only from gigging all over the country for three decades

“From Austin to Boston” sums up the range these brothers bring to the stage – with Dick’s on-point range of vocals and bass guitar coupled with brother Dave’s gleeful command of lovingly-seasoned instruments that have clearly been distressed the old-fashioned way: by years of beating millions of notes through them.

If it’s the brothers’ style to bring a nod-to-the-sixites, sharp-dressed man look, they do so with the cool and confidence of the Rat Pack. But it’s their command of blues notes which permeates their music and their songs – whether soul, country, southern blues or rock -that satisfied the blues-discerning fans at Knuckleheads this New Years Eve.

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Dave Pruitt performed with the Belairs Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017 for the New Year’s Eve event at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
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Bluesmen, The Belairs, entertained a NYE crowd at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights.

Just before 11 p.m., Ms. Fish came out on stage in a mini-dress that look audaciously like it was coated in glittering mermaid scales (fish…mermaid scales…get it?). The dazzling dress was complimented by knee-hugging black boots which covered what has become famously-known as a pair of the best gams in the music business. Her gorgeous shock of oversize blonde curls above the winged eyeliner and capacious smile finished off the allure to her fans to join her down to the floor – closer to her – in front of the stage for the next two and a half hours.

But everyone who comes to see Samantha knows the essence of her gifts lie in her mastery of and fearless attacks on the strings. While we love her presentation, we love her songwriting and delivery even more.

The show seemed to be a perfect wrap up to one of Samantha Fish’s best years ever as her Chills and Fever album made the New York Times best pop albums of the year list (at #22, alongside such names as Jay-Z, Taylor Swift) just six months before Rolling Stone named Samantha Fish as one of the “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know” in its November, 2017 issue. Perhaps best of all – to her fans – was coming home to Kansas City to let her hometown crowd share in her triumph and ring in an even better 2018.

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Samantha Fish brought hometown fans a high energy show for NYE at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
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Samantha Fish performing “Somebody’s Always Trying” for a New Year’s Eve show at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

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Yonrico Scott quickly became a favorite with the NYE crowd as he brought his inate enthusiasm to the Knuckleheads performance with Samantha Fish. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

 

Blues Insights: What’s hopping, Kansas City?

Kansas City’s blues scene has been sizzling nicely this summer with lots of great acts chilling out the local music venues.

Kansas City’s steadfast blues venue BB’s Lawnside BBQ has seen bassist Patrick Recob releasing a new CD, Perpetual Luau, this spring – and it’s been doing really well. Patrick could be seen accompanying several visiting acts, such as Adrianna Marie, The 44s and Orphan Jon and the Abandoned as these groups hit the Midwest for late spring/early summer tours.

Knucklehead’s was hopping several weekends including a great fundraiser for organ donation that brought in performances by Kansas City performers Danielle Nicole and Brandon Miller; Amanda Fish; The Santiago Brothers; and Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band from Louisiana.

Marcus King, the 21-year-old phenomenon out of Mississippi, blew on stage July 1 and staked a claim for the millennial crowd as one of the most promising up-and-comers yet. Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps opened for Marcus and Walter Trout wrapped up the evening with a solid blues veteran showdown.

Then there was Knuckleheads packed in to hear Robert Cray on July 11 and, out of Memphis, a young blues band with a new debut album by the same name: Southern Avenue, July 14.

I have picked up a couple of new song favorites this summer: One is “Don’t Give Up” from Southern Avenue. And the other is just getting pressed at press time and that’s from Bakersfield blues crooner Jon English of Orphan Jon and the Abandoned: “Leave My Blues Alone”