Brad Ray - One voice with acoustic guitar: a fine combination, but quite a challenge for an opening act at the massive State Theatre. It did not help that I was in the back end of the large balcony with dozens of conversations between myself and the music. But the PA got the songs through just well enough. Ray's voice is more the key than the guitar playing, which is rather perfunctory strumming. There were a couple of songs that had some nice surprise moments in them and all the songs seemed pleasant and thoughtful. But I would need to see this in a more up close and personal setting to really lock into the feeling.
The Christian Lopez Band - This is the second time I have seen Mr. Lopez and his band and he is still not old enough to drink. The West Virginia native is not only swiftly becoming a favorite around these parts, but is busy spreading his music throughout the country by opening for tonight's headliner, Steve Forbert, and others. He and his band are more than ready for it as the rootsy songs easily connect with a variety of audiences. He has a crack rhythm section and a banjoist, who adds female vocals to Lopez' guitar and lead vocals. It is a strong resilient sound that never quite gets overly country, but touches on bluegrass, folk rock, and rock'n'roll. He even straps on an electric guitar and cuts a tasty solo during a couple of songs later in the set. The banjo gets a focus at times, which excites the crowd and offers a further diversity during the set. The vocal work is top notch and the professionalism is quite advanced. I particularly liked how the band extended the opening passage to almost drone lengths while Lopez calmly waited until they got his monitor turned on. The crowd enjoyed the set and this band looked like they could play all night, but more was to come.
Sister Hazel - This is my first time connecting with this long running band. I only stayed for a bit, as the club was full of a whole lot of fans of all ages. You could see why this connects as the band exhibits a catchy strong rocking rootsy sound with plenty of warmth in the vocals and melodies. Guitars rock hard, so it makes for a great live act. It is a bit down the middle of a long highway for me, but I will give them credit for delivering the goods. I would be surprised if I heard anything other than the fans leaving well satisfied tonight.
Record Collecting Update - My record collection has been whittled down to 1,100 records from the 2,200+ that I had a year ago. Drop me a line if you are a psychedelic folk fan and I'll let you know what I have. Maybe in a few years, I will be following Aunt Fritzi's lead with what is left (Was she married to Mitch Miller?)...