This was a topsy-turvy show.
King Wilkie and the M Shanghai String Band are both acoustic bands rooted in traditional American old-timey country and bluegrass music, but who write their own original – and often very quirky – songs in those styles rather than relying on the traditional repertoire.
On Saturday night, the Brooklyn musical collective M Shanghai opened the show, but as the evening wore on it became quite clear that King Wilkie couldn’t top – or even match – their charismatic, contagiously joyous performance.
You can read my review from the Times Union.
Here are a few additional observations:
King Wilkie featured not one, but two songs in which guitarist-vocalists Reid Burgess and Steve Lewis served up whistling duet interludes.
The unlikely but thoroughly compelling sound of a clarinet-harmonica duet (by Dennis Lichtman and Steve Lewis, respectively) was certainly another highlight of King Wilkie’s performance.
M Shanghai’s monster harmonica player Dave Pollack sat in with King Wilkie for a couple of tunes near the end of their show, including “Angeline.”
If you want to hear more of King Wilkie’s banjoman-electric guitarist Philips Saylor – who certainly had the most exciting stage presence of the quintet – check out his MySpace page.
As if eight instrument-playing folks all gathered around a single microphone wasn’t dangerous enough, M Shanghai also invited Mister Eck (of Ramblin Jug Stompers) to join them onstage to play jug and mandolin on several selections throughout the night.
Philippa Thompson gets the Miss Versatility Award for the evening. She provided killer fiddle playing throughout the evening and stepped up to the microphone to grab the lead vocals on several tunes – including the rousing, double-time “Manhattan Lover.” But she also played washboard (on the Henry Darger-inspired “Vivian Girls”) and musical saw on the sublime, show-closing “Bus Called Cemetery.”
Saturday’s show was M Shanghai’s first Nippertown performance since their third album, “The Mapmaker’s Daughter,” was released in May. The band was last in town back in March playing at the Ale House in Troy.