Wednesday, 11 May 2011

News from Belgium

Thierry Schoysmann reports: The best publicity for a band is when people that have seen you perform, talk about it. If that person is a talented musician him or herself, that’s even better.
Here’s a spontaneous reaction by Elly Beurskens (talented multi-instrumentalist and vocalist from The Netherlands) on a Rawhide concert, that she‘s sent me after I requested it, but without any threatening or blackmail from my side.


Rawhide (BE) in action - à capella!
Have they been on a diet? Did they discover where the gym in town is? Did anyone threaten them with physical abuse unless they would toot-sweet change their ways? Have they all become a daddy? Did they abandon the drink (impossible!) Have they Seen the Light? Did Bill Monroe admonish them from the grave? Have they exchanged all their ‘made-in-China’ instruments for real ones?
These were thoughts that raced through my mind as I was sitting open-mouthed, watching  Rawhide’s show at the Strictly Country Farewell Reunion Concert, may 7th 2011. Being familiar with the band's jokes, bizarre musical contraptions and inventive harmony singing, I wasn’t expecting any surprises and was caught quite off-guard.
I walked into the concert room during the a-capella song Jesus Gave Me Water, noticing that their new mandolin player Jeff Cardey, whom I already knew as a sublime instrumentalist, did know how to sing a tune as well and that the band, as always, sounded fine. And then they proceeded with Cat Stevens’ Matthew and Son, and I was blown away by an 8-minute feast of convincing lead singing by guitar player Bert van Bortel and awesome breaks by each individual band member, in a rendition that wouldn’t have been out of place on a Newgrass Revival CD.
"This can’t be happening", was my reaction, ‘No band in the Benelux – or even Western Europe! – can pull this off. And since when has that bass player learned to play like that? Oh, a new one: Dimi Laveren used to live round the corner and actually didn’t play bluegrass at all when the band asked him to fill in for the old bass player when he left. Dimi turns out to be an animal on stage and plays the bass with a drive that fits Rawhide’s made-over style perfectly. About Jeff, a friendly Canadian (a tautology) who plays like a god, I could say the same – except the thing about the bass of course. Whether it’s all due to the new members I can’t tell, but the band seems to have acquired a new shine: they have started to sound like a top band that gives a new impulse to European bluegrass and shows that you can keep on growing as a band, even if you’ve been together for two decades. Their humorous self-depreciation and eccentric approach to music remain, but Rawhide seems to be rejuvenated: the band sounds tight, exciting and hot – without having given up a single pint of beer. Hats off!
Elly Beurskens