Last Night! Jonny Corndawg, Shovels & Rope, Robert Ellis

Robert Ellis – What’s In It For Me
Shovels & Rope – Boxcar
Jonny Corndawg – Shut Up

To be completely honest, when last nights show was announced a few months ago, and I saw what day the show was on (4/1) I thought it was either a very early April Fools joke, or a show that was booked entirely just for me. Three of my absolute favorite acts all on one stage, in a small venue one that I really enjoy. Excitedly, I scooped up tickets and patiently waited for the show.

Teeming with anticipation, the doors to Great Scott finally opened, allowing what was a formidable sized crowd in, not bad for a Sunday night.  Soon after the doors opened, Robert Ellis, a big favorite on this blog, got on stage.  He ran through set at a great pace, thanking the crowd for the attentive and respectful behavior (which was really great).  He commanded a great presence, he was eager and genuine on the stage and filled in gaps with minor banter. Robert was remarkable as he just rattled off fantastic song one after another.  The quick set also included some new tracks including one song titled, TV song, a song about growing up with television..  There was a good balance of his upbeat material, and his more thought provoking troubadour songs.

Second on was Shovels & Rope, a South Carolina band whom I’ve followed for the last few years, both singularly as Michael Trent & Cary Ann Hearst and together as Shovels & Rope. S&R played their set on their ramshackle drumkit as Michael Trent seemed to play just about every instrument all at once, rattling maracas, tapping drums, playing harmonica, and finding time to grab his guitar and sing along the way. The boisterous Cary Ann Hearst sang and swapped places with Michael mid song. These two have something that is missing in a lot of instances. Their chemistry, and high level of dynamism really stole the show for me. I’ve seen them before, but this close, is something really to behold. They have found a way to play a cohesive set of folk rock, honky tonk songs that feel completely fresh, completely spur of the moment, which gives each of their shows a special feeling, a feeling as though you are seeing something extremely special. Its a fantastic sound, and their chemistry on stage is undoubtedly great to see. The two thrilled the set playing songs off of each’s solo albums, as well as Shovels & Rope songs and some new material they will be releasing in July on a brand new record.. Honestly, if they would have played all night long, I wouldn’t have minded, truly a fantastic band that can steal a show and totally kill the audience.

Closing out the fine evening was the venerable Jonny Corndawg. Since the first few times I’ve seen him, his act has changed considerably. Now touting an entire band, Corndawg’s songs have really benefitted from the full band experience, with fiddle player Josh Headley, and Spencer Cullum on the pedal steel his psycho country sound has been fulfilled. But in a spark of brilliance, Robert Ellis played the entire set with Jonny, filling in on lead guitar. I would have never known Robert could rip as he can, the guy is a serious guitarist and at points he appeared to have some kind of metal background, jamming out some screeching solos that were really unbelievable. Jonny’s set ran through all the crowds favorites, the entire crowd lighting up at each turn, singing loud and proud along with Jonny. It’s really amazing to see how he has captured attention with his charisma, his quirky lyrics and just being a damn good guy. And although Jonny’s voice was suffering, the crowd helped him along especially on closer “Silver Panty Liners.”

In all, I haven’t had this much fun at a night of music in a long while. The entire experience was fulfilling, the audience was great, the players came to play, and it was a great night. I’m hoping we can do it all again in July when Jonny Corndawg, and Robert Ellis come to Newport Folk Festival. And who knows, maybe Shovels & Rope convinced some folks they’ve got a place at the table, and need to be heard in front of that audience. I for one, would love to see it.