On one hot and sultry night in Maryland three bands put on a show that would live in the memory for a long time. Racing through the genres of country, rock, bluegrass and old time roots, each band cemented an individual footprint on the evening ahead of intermittently collaborating prior to a storming finale. To witness Dawes, Old Crow Medicine Show and Brandi Carlile on a single evening line up was a privilege and proved the perfect climax to a three week trip inevitably focussing on what music could be savoured while away. For three hours this amphitheatre was awash with superb sounds comprising of outstanding original material and sensational covers designed to set the pulse racing. These were three artists that matter, execute great skill in their craft and showcase American roots music in its grandest form.
This Brandi Carlile and Old Crow Medicine Show tour has been ripping it up across the States all summer, but you would have struggled to find a better third guest act than Dawes, who were the invited ones for this show in Columbia Maryland, just outside the city of Baltimore. The Merriweather Post Pavilion was far from full to its 19000 capacity when Dawes took to the stage at 6:30. Those present were split between the sun drenched lawn and the shade haven covered section, but both in the listening vicinity of one of the most accomplished bands around.
After catching Dawes twice in the English Midlands towards the end of last summer, this Stateside show lent heavily on similar material starting with ‘Most People’ and ending forty five minutes later with the captivating singalong ‘All Your Favourite Bands’. So pleased to hook up with Dawes for this show, Brandi complimented them later by hailing the line ‘may your brother’s El Camino run for ever’ and invited them back on stage to join in on the finale version of Dylan’s ‘Rainy Day Woman 12 & 35’. Apart from their last song, the prime moment was once again ‘Somewhere Along the Way’ with Duane Betts stepping up the guitar input alongside front man Taylor Goldsmith. There were actually people present who mainly came to see Dawes and they would not have been disappointed with their favourite’s performance. However the night was just warming up – literally and figuratively.
‘Wagon Wheel’ has become a modern classic with its multitude of cover versions, but listening to Old Crow Medicine Show play their ultimate creation and watching the audience reaction could have easily been the highlight of what rolled out to be an exceptional evening. Just like Dawes earlier, Ketch and the boys kept the chat to a minimum and made sure their set of just over an hour was jam packed with rucks of great music. Classics such as ‘Alabama High Test’, ‘Doc’s Day’ and ‘Sweet Amarillo’ were delivered in full glory and ‘8 Dogs 8 Banjos’ is the fitting send off. In fact it is hard pressed to hear a bad tune when Old Crow are in full flow with all the lead instrument and vocal exchanges. Their David Rawlings co-write ‘I Hear Them All’ does find real emotion and intrinsically weaves in a sample of ‘This Land is Your Land’ to a song for the people by the people.
Mid way through the set Ketch invited Brandi Carlile on stage and they appropriately sang a version of the vastly covered and much loved ‘Streets of Baltimore’. Once teamed up Ketch wasn’t going to let her off the hook and in this covers segment Brandi helped out on ‘Spirit in the Sky’ and ‘CC Rider’. Old Crow Medicine Show left the stage to a thunderous standing ovation and it wasn’t too difficult to feel that we may see them again later in the evening.
Flanked by the ever faithful and highly talented Hanseroth twins (Tim and Phil), Brandi Carlile strode onto the stage for the headline spot determined to show why she is in the form of her life. On the back of the incredible Grammy nominated album THE FIREWATCHER’S DAUGHTER and a series of other personal highs, a lengthy search would be needed to find a more sincere, proud and gutsy artist as Brandi Carlile. Possessing a wonderfully cracked vocal acumen that splits the fault line of country and rock is just the beginning of her talent. Song after song is written with great emotion whether emanating from just her pen or in collaboration. Also a fabulous band is present to deliver the precise soundtrack to each number whether subtly required or in full on rock mode.
The new material nestled neatly alongside the older songs with Brandi enthusing about her eventual attempt at three part harmony with the beautifully intensive offering ‘The Eye’. This was the highlight when seeing Brandi play a festival a week earlier, but in this amphitheatre setting it was the faster tempo numbers such as ‘Wherever is My Heart’ and ‘The Things I Regret’ which set the tone. Obviously the older pieces are well received including the signature track ‘The Story’ which exposes the rawness of Brandi wrapping her vocals around a rock ballad. One quote attributed to Brandi is that whatever style she sings there will always be a touch of ‘country and western in her voice.’ This was in evident when delivering two songs from the BEAR CREEK record in ‘Hard Way Home’ and the sentimental classic ‘Keep Your Heart Young’. The diversity of Brandi Carlile in 2016 is when she piles into ‘Mainstream Kid’, a raucous sound that she has recently perfected.
No feature on Brandi Carlile is complete without the audience rapport and connectivity that runs deep. The challenge is to keep the eyes dry in the run up to ‘The Mother’ and full absorption of the sentiment will make you believe in Brandi as an artist, a person and a human being.
You knew the reciprocal invite for Old Crow Medicine Show to return to the stage was imminent and to join Brandi for a version of ‘Peaceful Easy Feeling’ was the opportune moment. Not just once did we see Ketch and the boys as they also helped out on a popular covers encore led off by the country classics – ‘Jolene’ (introduced by Brandi as a country punk song) and ‘Folsom Prison Blues’. It was fitting then for Dawes to make the stage crowded and complete for the Dylan finale.
Words and pictures are just a meagre part of this wonderful show. Experience and memories are everything. Setting, line up and perfect weather played their part alongside an exalted slice of Americana that fuelled an evening which if repeated would be more than welcome. Brandi Carlile, Old Crow Medicine Show and Dawes in Columbia Maryland was absolutely a gig for this and all ages.