I coasted on the high from Friday night’s music all day Saturday. (I was also bleary eyed from being up late, and then being up early, but that was worth it.) I figured the weekend’s excitement was over, but then again, this was the Weekend Of The Mecca Ham. Interesting things are afoot. Surprises abound. Two huge presents appeared on my radar for Saturday night: both at Tir Na Nog, back to back, free, and two of my favorites.
It was all even better than I’d hoped.
Mipso Trio was having a great night. They played a long set, all of my favorites, plus at least a couple I hadn’t heard before, plus some fabulous, fabulous covers. These three are man enough (well, men enough) to stand up and do a straight-ahead “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman” and have the crowd sing along, and not bat an eye. When they covered “Careless Whisper,” which is quite something to behold in a mandolin/bass/guitar setting, the bassist picked up the bass and played it like a guitar.
See? Surprises everywhere. Everyone loves a good cover, of course, but their own songs are all engaging and beautifully written and performed with sincerity. Julia, who had come prepared with a couple of posters she had peeled off the door from their show at Duke Coffeehouse, does not have a shy streak anywhere in her, and she got them to sign posters after the show. We loved them even more when we met them. They asked which shows we’d caught, and told some good stories, and made a point to remember our names, and wouldn’t even let me pay for the t-shirt I got, since we are already life-long fans. They invited us to their album release show at Cat’s Cradle next month. Let’s all go!
Seriously, all of that would have been a perfect Saturday night. But there was more. Next up was Tonk. We had dinner and chitchat and bbq’d falafal (who knew?) and then made our way towards the stage and leaned against the lovely stone wall. I scoped out the crowd,
and instantly realized I was standing beside Dave Wilson and just in front of Tift Merritt and it’s tacky to name-drop, but a couple of my all-time favorite performers were in the crowd.
I’ve seen Tonk a couple of times before, and had a great time. But Tonk has been transformed since I heard them last. Jay Brown, who performs with Tift Merritt, is Tonk’s new lead singer. The music last night had a richness, and depth, and authenticity to it that caught me entirely off guard. I was transported back to my childhood, y’all, when Dad would blast old-school country music in the car while my brother and sister and I played rock-paper-scissors in the back seat on family road trips.
They did a cover of “Slide Off of Your Satin Sheets” by Johnny Paycheck, which I probably haven’t heard in twenty-five years, but I doubled over laughing at how that took me back in time. And then there was Conway Twitty’s “I See the Want To in Your Eyes,” and a good mix of covers and originals like “Easy to Please, But Hard to Satisfy.” “True story,” was all the band would say about that one. When it just couldn’t get any better, Tift Merritt took the stage and joined them for a song.
At that point I was just awash in joy at my great good fortune: soul-soothing honky tonk, and new bluegrass bands, and old friends, and a gorgeous weekend in the Raleigh spring, full of surprises.
What do you suppose is next?