It took Deadwood Revival three years and a whole lotta miles to get this album out and it's live. I have to admit to being a bit miffed, not really wanting rehashed live versions of tracks firmly embedded into my head, but they didn't ask me. I mean, after all, I am their preferred audience of one, never haven seen them (a malady I will correct this summer) but having championed their cause in bars at which they've never played, so I figured they should have at least asked. When I heard, I thought, "Live? What the…?" Then I heard it. I was never more wrong.
In the first place, the DwR I fell in love with were two: Jason Mogi and Kim Trenerry. A simple duo with complications (meaning that both are multi-instrumental), they had a touch with their writing and blending of styles which caught my imagination and, man, in the studio… It is a bias I've always had—when it's not broke…In my mind, I envisioned a different future for them—maybe Americana musicians of note, recognized and respected by peers. Truth is, you can't eat recognition and the festivals and pubs are where survival money is, so down the road they went, again, without my consent.
They worked their asses off, those three (oh yeah, they added Ches Ferguson on bass to give them both added musical wiggle room), before accosting fiddler Julie Campbell and locking her in a closet until she also agreed to join. While the twosome was becoming a foursome, I sat in my room with headphones on, reliving This Old World (reviewed here) probably a little more than I should have. Actually, just enough. It kept me company until Sat 730 and though I was leery, the doubt I had popped like the soap bubble it was. Oh me, of little faith…
From note one, I knew I stood corrected. Ain't the Buyin' Kind, impressive in the studio, is equally impressive onstage, maybe even moreso. Ferguson's bass plunges in, a pop dropkick to the country/folk banjo-guitar riffs and shortly after, here comes Campbell. The music is the same and so is the arrangement, but what a difference. The melodic hillbilly Red Rocking Chair carries on and the ride has started. Traditional folk, country, rock and combinations of the three give you a ride you might not have known you wanted but are glad you took. They even throw in their version of the Dead's China Cat Sunflower and make it sound very, well, Dead-like. You'll be impressed.
The highlight of the album and the song which really shows how far DwR has come is Mattie's Jam/Shake the Barnhouse Down, a Dead-style jam morphing into one of the best and rockin'est tracks from This Old World, then morphing into jam, part deux, and then morphing back into a Barnhouse coda finale. This track would not have been possible when This Old World was recorded (without the help of studio musicians, anyway) but here it is. We get Deadwood Revival in the whole here, all 11+ minutes of it, and they get a chance to prove themselves as musicians and a band. While Mogi and Trenerry are the songwriting and vocal core, Ches Ferguson and Julie Campbell are the much welcome added power. The sound is fuller, the musical possibilities greatly enhanced and the level heightened.
Unfortunately, DwR have kept themselves fairly isolated in the Pac Northwest. Maybe they have their reasons (life on the road is not that much fun and, who knows, there may be family), but I would hate to think that they don't travel because they're not asked. I wrote a review of This Old World and said in no uncertain terms that if I was booking a folk festival or needed an acoustic act for a rock festival, they would be at the top of my list. They still are. Now that they have a live album, maybe booking agents will hear it. Maybe they'll get a chance to expand their territory. Know what? This live album was a good idea. If they'd been smart, they would have listened to me earlier.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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