Joanne Shaw Taylor performs at the Allman Family Revival at The Fillmore Silver Spring on Dec. 10, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
So, let’s drop all pretense of objectivity: I adore the music of the Allman Brothers Band. The ensemble formed in 1969 by brothers Duane and Gregg took the blues and infused it with rock, soul, and jazz, and invented what would eventually be called “southern rock.” That legendary band enjoyed a career that stretched to 2014, albeit with several personnel changes and multi-year long breaks. Nonetheless, the band were and still are a huge influence on the American musical landscape.
Friday night at The Fillmore Silver Spring, Devon Allman and Duane Betts brought The Allman Betts Band to town to celebrate the Allman Brothers’ music with a who’s who list of guest performers: Eric Gales, G. Love, Robert Randolph, Donavon Frankenreiter, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Alex Orbison, Lilly Hiatt, Lamar Williams Jr., Jimmy Hall, among others. The three plus hour show was much more than a concert, though. For many of us, it was a beautiful reminder of music we grew up with and have cherished for decades.
Christian Sedelmyer, Josh Oliver, Andrew Marlin and Clint Mullican peform at City Winery in Washington DC on Dec. 10, 2021. (Photo by Casey Vock)
Not all solo endeavors are created equal. When an artist can be so prolific as to release two full-length albums in short time, each strong enough stand on its own as an instrumental work of beauty born out of pandemic desolation, it’s a clear sign of a human harvesting a trove of musical possibilities.
Andrew Marlin, the world-class mandolinist who co-leads the folk outfit Watchhouse with his wife and partner — guitarist and singer Emily Frantz — has already earned the respect of fans and fellow musicians far and wide for his achievements over the course of a decade with the band that earlier this year changed its name from Mandolin Orange.
Robert Earl Keen (Photo by EMG/Shutterstock)
Legendary Texas singer-songwriter Robert Ear Keen’s annual Christmas tour is highlight of the holiday season. Built around his fan-favorite “Merry Christmas From the Fam-O-Lee,” every year REK and his band design a show around a theme.
Past themes have included “Country Gold” and the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. This year, the theme was “The Road to Christmas.” Each year’s show presents a collection of REK originals and cover songs fitted to theme, and his recent performance at the historic Lincoln Theatre in DC was no different. Costumes were a part of the deal, too; this year, all involved wore white jumpsuits, meant to suggest mechanics. It was truly a collective performance, as REK let his band members sing cover songs of their choice.
Sarah Borges performs at Jammin’ Java on Dec. 1, 2021. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Sarah and her band, the Broken Singles, rolled into town recently, hitting the Jammin Java stage with Eric “Roscoe” Ambel for another of her typically rockin’ and quip-laden performances. Having seen Sarah previously, I was prepared for a seriously fun rock and roll show. This one, the first in our area since 2020, featured plenty of new additions to the setlist as she road tested a few new songs from her forthcoming release, Together Alone.
Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon (Photo courtesy of Big Hassle Media)
Acoustic guitar pioneer Leo Kottke and Phish bassist Mike Gordon have announced plans for an eagerly awaited series of live dates. The brief tour, which marks the duo’s first live run together in more than 16 years, brings them to Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in DC on Thursday, Dec. 9.
Hiss Golden Messenger (Photo by Chris Frisina)
2021 Grammy nominee Hiss Golden Messenger are having a busy year! In June, the band released Quietly Blowing It via Merge Records, and they announced a tour that brings them to 9:30 Club on Wednesday, Dec. 8.
Then, Hiss Golden Messenger released a Christmas album, titled O Come All Ye Faithful, last month also via Merge.
Deer Tick performs at 9:30 Club on Nov. 19, 2021. (Photo by Casey Vock)
The Friend Ship tour, featuring indie rock bands Deer Tick and Delta Spirit, recently rolled into the 9:30 Club for an early split set. Each band performed an hour-long set before they took the stage together for an encore.
Fronted by John McCauley, Deer Tick hails from Province Rhode Island, and includes guitarist Ian O’Neil and half-brothers Christopher and Dennis Ryan, of neighboring Pawtucket, on drums and bass. The band’s unusual name comes from an experience McCauley, a lifelong outdoorsman, had while hiking in Indiana, when he found one of the titular pests on his scalp.
Los Lobos (Photo by Piero F. Giunti)
One of America’s longest-lived and best rock ‘n’ roll bands, Los Lobos, played the first evening of a two-night stand at City Winery on Thursday. Though they like to humbly refer to themselves as “just another band from East L.A.,” Los Lobos have been hailed by rock critics like Steven Hyden as one of America’s most underappreciated and important bands.
Brandy Clark (Photo by Chris Phelps)
As a songwriter and a performer, Brandy Clark straddles the division between contemporary country and Americana music. Touring behind last year’s Your Life Is a Record, she appeared recently at The Birchmere with her band, where she treated the audience to some of the finest songs being made today.
Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent perform as Shovels & Rope at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis on Nov. 3, 2021. (Photo by Casey Vock)
So much of the best music has been the result of human relationships gone wrong, gone right or our infinite quest to understand our own needs and desires.
Still, it’s rare to actually behold a successfully intimate relationship through music, one put on display for the sake of the songs and emotions that it can yield.
But at a recent stop in Annapolis at Rams Head on Stage, Shovels & Rope showed that it is indeed that kind of outfit, the result of a man — Michael Trent — and a woman — Cary Ann Hearst — who met almost 20 years ago and ignited a flame for one another and for making music together.