Whenever a favorite artist or band visits our part of central PA (and surrounding areas) to share their wonderful music, we love welcoming them and being at the show to support them when possible. September is proving to be extra special, with enough visitors heading our way to keep us firmly rooted at home, and not heading north to their country for a while. Better yet when the events take place at some of our favorite venues too, and this past weekend in Lancaster, PA, we returned to Chestnut House concerts for a lively evening of contemporary bluegrass from The Slocan Ramblers.
Having caught up with this incredibly talented Toronto quartet late last year in Frederick, MD, we reserved our seats for this performance the moment it was announced. We would later learn that this particular show was to be an anniversary of sorts for hosts Tim and Karen Lehman at Chestnut House concerts, with this being their 100th house concert held in their beautiful home. “We truly are honored to be here for the 100th house concert,” acknowledged Adrian Gross (mandolin). “It’s no easy feat, these things are a ton of work to put on.” Pausing to applaud the gracious hosts, Frank Evans (banjo/vocals) would share his gratitude too. “Not everybody is crazy enough to let four un-showered no good hicks into their home, feed them an amazing meal, and let them drink all their beer,” he joked. “And then ask them back!” – a reference made to this being their second invite to this venue.
Performing two lively 45-minute sets, The Slocan Ramblers shared many popular songs from their three full-length studio albums, throwing a few surprise covers into the mix too. “We hope you all like bluegrass, because the doors are now locked,” Adrian joked, before commencing with “Wild Bill Jones,” which he described as one of the great murder ballads. With Darryl Poulsen (guitar/vocals) and Alastair Whitehead (upright bass/vocals) rounding out the quartet, the band were quick to demonstrate their great chemistry, banter, and impeccable bluegrass ‘picking’ skills; talents that have earned them a 2019 JUNO nomination for Traditional Roots Album of the Year (for their 2018 “Queen City Jubilee” album).
They would naturally share many tracks found on this latest release, featuring “Hill to Climb” and “First Train in the Morning” during the first set, then returning with “New Morning” and “Riley the Furniture Man” later that evening. For those craving music from their 2015 “Coffee Creek” album, the band would oblige, adding popular tracks “Groundhog,” “Call Me Long Gone,” and “Galilee,” an instrumental written by Adrian during time spent in Israel. And lest we forget their stunning 2012 “Shaking Down the Acorns” debut release, the aforementioned “Wild Bill Jones,” and “The Law and Lonesome” were shared from this album too.
With two banjo’s at his disposal, Frank would switch out to his smaller, clawhammer banjo during both sets, adding the distinct sound to tunes such as “Mighty Hard” and “Long Chain Charlie and Moundsville,” both from the “Queen City Jubilee” album. And did we mention some cover versions too? That’s right, the Slocan Ramblers took delight in performing modern bluegrass interpretations of both “The Apartment Song” (Tom Petty) and “First Girl I Loved” (John Hartford), as well as an outstanding medley of “Come Back Darling” and “Hello City Limits,” both popular Flatt and Scruggs compositions. Equally impressive was the ongoing respect and acknowledgement given to the original pioneers of the bluegrass genre, peers who have strongly influenced their own signature style and sound.
Closing with their always impressive and incredibly up-tempo “Mississippi Heavy Water Blues,” these talented four gentlemen more than earned their standing ovation. And with the aisle filled with people cheering them on for more, The Slocan Ramblers were only too happy to add an encore track to send everybody home. With nothing pre-determined on their set list, a quick consultation led to the performance of “Them Way Long Time Ago Blues,” another John Hartford cover. This proved a great closing number to end the show, and a great way to cap this amazing anniversary event for the hosts. Thanks to the band for entertaining us on this wonderful Saturday night, and props once again to the Lehman’s for their lovely and welcoming hospitality. Here’s to many more great events at this charming house concert venue in historic Lancaster, PA – we’ll be back!
- Wild Bill Jones
- Sweet Heaven When I Die (Trad.)
- Call Me Long Gone
- Mighty Hard Road
- The Law and Lonesome
- First Train in the Morning
- Hill To Climb
- Come Back Darling / Hello City Limits
- Riley The Furniture Man
- The Apartment Song (Tom Petty cover)
- First Girl I Loved (John Hartford cover)
- New Morning
- Hillbilly Blues / Deer on the River
- Sun’s Gonna Shine In My Back Door Someday
- *Unknown Title – Instrumental*
- Long Chain Charlie and Moundsville
- Mississippi Heavy Water Blues
- Them Way Long Time Ago Blues (John Hartford cover)