Saturday was a beautiful day in NYC and hundreds gathered in Madison Square Park for a free concert featuring headliners Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams with supporting act The Straybirds. The show was part of a series of free shows that Madison Square Park is having for the next couple of weeks. Mad. Sq. Music presents The Studio Series to promote and foster a legacy of American music through free, live music performances on Saturday afternoons. Set against the fall foliage of Madison Square Park, the intimate Studio Series atmosphere creates a beautiful space for artists to share the tradition of their craft.
Opening the show at 3pm was a band from Lancaster, PA called The Straybirds. The members are Maya de Vitry, Charles Muench and Oliver Craven. They showcased their talents through a variety of instruments such as a violin, upright bass, mandolin, and acoustic guitars. Curious fans had gathered on the lawn with blankets, snacks, and friends and it wasn't long until their music was hitting us in the right spots.
"Heavy Hands" was the opening tune and it was very reminiscent of old-timey folk music with Maya on the violin, Charles on the upright bass and Oliver on an acoustic guitar. From here they followed in an uptempto tune titled (I believe?) "Pallet On Your Floor." The next song, "Dream In Blue" was the 1st track off their self-titled debut album and this was the first time during the set that Maya really impressed everyone with her banjo skills and vocal chops. Next was a song that Mya wrote and she shared with us that the inspiration of the song was influenced by her friends relationship with their foster child. Spelling aside, I do believe the song was titled "Addalaid." It was a really beautiful tune that seemed to have touched the hearts of many in the crowd. On deck was a fiddle tune that was an impressive display of musicianship from all three members. The next song featured Oliver on mandolin and was a Townes Van Zandt cover of the classic love tune "Loretta." As expected this was greeted with a few positive reactions from the crowd.
By this time the crowd was nice and warmed up and we weren't sure what they would play next, but we trusted them. The next song was a Jimmy Rodgers tune titled "Blue Yodel #7" and it was dedicated to Doc Watson. The next song, "My Brothers Hill," was penned by Oliver and he shared with us that it was written for the great American bluegrass artist Ralph Stanley. It was a sweet tune that won us over and I'm sure that Mr. Stanley would have been flattered. It was then Maya's turn to shine with a song of her own titled "The Bells." The great Martin Luther King was her inspiration for this song that will be on their next record. Closing out the show was another new one titled "Best Medicine" and it was dedicated to all the record shops in the country. It was a great upbeat tune with a chorus that sung, "That's what music is, the best medicine I sell." It was a very sweet and fitting way to end their approximately 45 minute set as they left to a loud applause of approval.
After a short intermission the duo of Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams were introduced as The Pride Of Woodstock. As expected they received a loud, warm applause from a packed crowd full of curious listeners and old time friends. The opening song, who's title wasn't revealed, showed off Teresa's extremely talented singing. It was a great and powerful opening number that let us know we were in for a helluva show. The next song was kind of a rare one. It was a song Larry wrote for Stephen Ackles' album One For the Moon released in 1995. It was an album Larry also produced and arranged. Larry showed off his singing ability here and, while a different style from Teresa's, was equally as impressive. The next number, "Running Wild" was a nice slow song that was needed and let us all relax in the music and atmosphere. Another song that Larry wrote, "Down On My Knees" was next and before beginning it, Larry and Teresa exchanged some playful words that revealed (perhaps?) a part of Larry's character that is only intimate to her. It was a short but powerful song that Larry took center stage for and we all liked it.
I unfortunately didn't get the name of the next song but I wrote in my notes that it was upbeat. I'm pretty sure by this time I was sucked into the show, as were plenty others, so my notes may be a bit choppy here. Apologies in advance.
"Bad Luck Charm" was good in energy and got some people off their blankets and shaking a leg. The next song got a few people curious as to how they were gonna interpret the Lester Flat & Earl Scruggs tune "All I Want Is You." The crowd approved and Larry took the opportunity to play for us an instrumental Irish song called "Blind Mary." Larry on acoustic is a sweet thing to hear and we were all spoiled as he played. Teresa was next to spoil us though as we witnessed her sing and jumped around like a young free spirit during their version of a traditional song made popular by Grateful Dead, "Samson & Delilah." The next song was a slow number (I'm pretty sure) titled "Did You Love Me At All?" that once again Larry had written. After this, it was time again to dig deep into the music history and they did so by playing a fantastic version of blues great Blind Willie Johnson's gospel song "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning." I'm a huge blues fan so it was a treat for me to hear this.
Unfortunately the time was slipping by us all and it was encore time. For this they brought out the members of The Straybirds to join them and after about 30 seconds into it people recognized what they were playing; "Deep Elem Blues." Since this was the last song (and one of their most energetic) people got up on their feet and shook their hips. It was a most fun way to end the concert and leave us leaving with an energized spirit.
For the rest of the schedule of performers upcoming, check out the official website and get yourself out to one of these shows. You'll thank me later!