Review and photographs by Stanley Johnson
The fifth annual Riverlink Jamboree brought the Nellies, the Bear Bones Project and Tumbleweed Highway to the stage at Riverlink Park on the banks of the Mohawk River on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Amsterdam.
First up on the day were the Bear Bones Project, featuring Carey Ahner on vocals and acoustic guitar, Bill Decker on bass, Sandy Decker on vocals and accordion, Eric Johnson on drums and Pete O’Hearn on vocals and electric guitar.
The band boogied through a set of covers including “You Can’t Do That” (Beatles), “Half-Step Mississippi Uptown Toodle-oo” and “Cumberland Blues” (Grateful Dead), “Wild Night” and “Tupelo Honey” (Van Morrison) “Stir It Up” (Bob Marley), “Willin’” (Little Feat) and “Revival” (Allman Brothers Band), with lots of hot guitar licks by Ahner.
Host band for the Jamboree since its beginning, the Nellies brought a slightly different lineup this year, with singer-songwriters Karen Ann McEvoy Gilpin and Peggy Lecuyer (both on vocals, guitar, mandolin and kazoos), Kevin Maul on dobro, Gene Lemme on stand-up bass and special guest Mark Frederick on fiddle, who traded licks with Maul, kicking the music into high gear.
The traditional “Deep Ellum Blues” and Townes Van Zandt’s classic “White Freight Liner” (played in tribute to the many passing, high-speed trains next to the park) nestled nicely alongside original songs including “Candlelight” and “Amen Allelulia.” “I’ll Be Your Valentine” featured some very pretty violin by Frederick, following a funny take on John Prine’s “Let’s Talk Dirty in Hawaiian.” Maul and Lecuyer’s happiness over their upcoming marriage in a couple weeks may have added a further layer of energy to the performance.
Capping off the jamboree were Tumbleweed Highway, a rollicking foursome of honky-tonkers featuring Nate Gross on vocals and lead guitar, Pat Strain on pedal steel and slide guitar, Uncle Nobby on bass and Nick Wakefield on drums.
The band rocked through a number of roadhouse-inspired tunes, including “Honky Tonk Angel,” “Heavy Load,” “Wildwood Flower Girl,” “Western Winds,” “Drink It Up” and “Safe At Home,” a song written in Room 8 of the Joshua Tree Inn where Gram Parsons died. The band featured several numbers from their upcoming CD, Where Do We Go From Here?, including the title track.
Where we had to go after an incredible afternoon of music like this one was home as the last of the summer light faded in the sky.