8 March 2020 / So Vintage, Te Awanga / By Rob Harbers
Bluegrass: n., a type of traditional music from the southern US that is played on instruments with strings such as guitars, banjos, and violins.
Alternative meaning: a means for an incredibly talented bunch of travelling musicians, known as You, Me, Everybody, to bring a night of pure and clear vocal and instrumentation to entertain at the latest Sitting Room Session.
At the aptly retro So Vintage, we were treated to a display of skilfully played and sung Americana, from a virtuoso ensemble that could hold its head up proudly in the company of such well-known artists of the genre as Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski (the powerhouses behind much of the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack). Formed from elements of Kim and Dusty, The Pipi Pickers, The Frank Burkitt Band and Hamilton family combo Rhodeworks, this will be a band to watch.
Songs played ranged from bluegrass standards, through a left-field cover of ‘Africa’ (yes, the Toto one!) to an impressive amount of original material, showing that this is a unit looking forward, not stuck in a groove of playing the old-timey stuff. Subject matter for the original material was diverse – not so much songs about buildings and food, more songs about death, the road and what a teenage boy does when he has wood at hand (makes guitars, actually, for those of you with minds in the gutter!).
You Me Everybody is described by some as New Zealand folk’s first supergroup, and the pedigree of these musicians backs up that lofty title. Kim Bonnington, otherwise known as half of Kim and Dusty, provides guitar and angelic vocals, with enthusiastic double bass (and whiskey drinking, so I’m told) supplied by James Geluk of the Frank Burkitt Band. While it’s difficult for some to hear a banjo without thinking of Deliverance, Nat Torkington, from the Pipi Pickers, manages to exorcise such associations with his deft fingering, without anybody needing to squeal like a pig (boy). But in many ways the core of the band is the prodigiously talented pair of brothers, Laurence and Sam Frangos-Rhodes, from a long line of purveyors of Hamilton’s other defining trait, after cowbells and STDs-bluegrass, that is! These are two young men whose skills are such that next month they are due to attend the Acoustic Music Seminar in Savannah Georgia, an opportunity provided to only 16 people from across the globe.
Laurence plays guitars (that he makes himself) and is the principal vocalist, while Sam plays furious mandolin and occasional fiddle, and sings the odd tune. A number of the songs played tonight were written by Laurence, and such was their accomplished nature that they sounded for all the world like they were old bluegrass standards.
The interplay between the players was a joy to watch, time in the spotlight being generously shared throughout the show, without a hint of grandstanding.
Truly, then, a kind of magic was woven here tonight, and such is the nature of the Sitting Room Sessions, that it’s a given that there can be more than one, making the next outing, as always, one to look forward to!
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