Review by Bill Brina
Special to the Times Union, Albany, NY
The Good Ole Boys picked last weekend at The Boulevard to pull off a classic Mr. Hyde-to-Dr. Jeckyll transformation. Friday, their performance might be charitably described as spotty. Actually, 4/5’s of the band — banjo player Tom Stearns, guitarist/vocalist Rick Lyndon, fiddler John Glick, and bassist Bob Jones — were busy trying to hold their own, but leader Frank Wakefield, who’s the best mandolin player on the planet when he cares enough to be was completely lost in the ozone.
For one reason or another, Frank got an early start on the evening and just kept on going, with unfortunately predictable results. His playing proved erratic at the beginning of the evening and rapidly deteriorated completely: missed notes, broken runs, ruined tempos, excessive volume and extreme sloppiness characterized much of his output. Though Tom Stearns, in particular, strove manfully to keep the band together despite their leader’s musical meandering, the results were all together unsatisfactory.
Saturday night, fortunately, it all fell together. Frank turned up in better (i.e. fewer) spirits and came to play. He didn’t turn in the best performance I’ve ever heard from him (his playing occasionally became just a mite sloppy) but he held his own, providing precise, exhilarating mandolin runs and crisp swinging fills. The others, particularly Stearns and Glick, responded with joyful, flat-out ensemble picking and fiddling and several truly outstanding solos. Those high, lonesome harmonies on Frank’s material were as good as ever and Rick, filling in for the absent Dave Nelson, provided warm vocalizing for the “new grass” material that the band occasionally seems to specialize in.
Appearing both nights with the Good Ole Boys was Silver Chicken, a youngish local country-rock quartet that has improved enormously over the past few months. The band clearly derives its inspiration from the Clarence White-era Byrds with spacey, heavily electronicized dual lead guitars, exceptionally powerful bass playing from Rick Bedrosian, and energetic rockish drumming. When the band first popped up late last fall, their ensemble playing seemed chaotic and inchoate, but six-months of woodshedding seems to have turned the trick.
Friday night they cut the Good Ole Boys cold, prompting the latter group’s road manger to request half-jokingly, that Silver Chicken not do that Saturday. They didn’t, mostly because the Good Ole Boys turned in an immeasurably better pair of sets Saturday, but they held their own with a well-chosen collection of Byrd songs, original material and Rick Bedrosian’s rich collection of Dave Torbert’s songs.
Leader Jim Fish played down in Florida last year with the band that became The Outlaws. While Silver Chicken isn’t quite there yet (Fish’s vocal are shaky and the band’s harmonizing is a bit ragged), success that The Outlaws have achieved seems attainable for this band. They’re young, hungry, relatively clear headed — and that good.