This weekend sees Glastonbury but tonight we have Bastonbury! Not for us smoothies made from foraged dandelion leaves or crowd surfing towards the front of the stage. No, we Bastonites are much more civilized, and laidback, we appreciate musicianship of the highest order. So it will come as no surprise that’s exactly what we got tonight, the concert by guitarist Brooks Williams and fiddle player Aaron Catlow being a fine way to end the current season.
Georgia-born but now British citizen Brooks has played here before. Tonight he plays us Dave Alvin’s King of California, reminding us that he is indeed the king of laidback cool, a veritable Peter Pan of style with his smooth and seemingly effortless guitar playing. From the instrumental opener from last year’s Ghost Owl soundtrack album to the raucous Hesitation Blues encore we are treated to great playing. Add to that Aaron’s superb fiddle playing and the combination guarantees surefire success. I must confess to being unfamiliar with Aaron’s work – I must investigate more! His fiddle-playing style is interesting, I can hear English folk, American mountain music, classical style and a large dose of Eastern European and gypsy influences. One minute he can make a devil of a noise, the next he can be as light as a nighttime moth. Aaron can certainly captivate an audience, none more so when he and Brooks play Ernie Carpenter’s Elk River Blues, the introduction to which was utterly mesmerising. We all held our breath.
Their so-called transportation set was a highlight, containing The L&N and CC&O Blues – almost a surfeit of abbreviations! They know how to reference the more familiar – Rab Noakes, Norman Blake – as well as the lesser-known – Pink Anderson and Cheryl Wheeler. Brook’s versatile vocals also deserve a mention. He can throw his head back and belt out a blues and the next minute whisper a song as gently as a summer breeze.
Brooks and Aaron’s dynamic performance, full of verve and fine playing, deserves to be captured on a live recording. Now there’s a thought – ‘Live at Baston’. Perhaps next time – hint, hint! In short, tonight’s concert was another winner (no raffle ticket needed)!
Incidentally, it hasn’t been easy for Alan and Maggie – gradually getting back to ‘normal’ after Covid restrictions has been tricky. Thank you and well done for a superb season of concerts. Happy summer everyone. See you in September!