Folk Reunion April 6, 2007
By Glen Creason
If you remember peggars, cardigans, flattops, Ivy-league fashion, car coats,brillcream and penny loafers there are chances you would have felt quite comfortable at the Performing Arts Center for a sort of folk hootenanny from back in the day. While few of us could still ride on the handlebars of a Schwinn today we can still deeply enjoy the sounds of the Kingston Trio and the Brothers Four who comprised this Folk Reunion on Friday evening. While only one of the seven gents on stage were in the groups from the beginning the music still sounds just as sweet as it did flowing from the old zenith portable phonograph in my Big Sis’ bedroom. That is not to say these are groups merely recreating the sounds, they are more the heir apparent to conserving the marvelous four part harmonies and further uncovering of the great treasure chest of American folk music. Each are linked by blood to the originals.
Appropriately, the Brothers Four busted out with “I Hear America Singing” which demonstrated immediately that they were pristine in their four-part harmony and filled with plenty of folk fervor. Old favorites flowed comfortably and as the big crowd sighed in recognition “Yellow Bird,” “Sloop John B.,” “Marianne” and “Jamaica Farewell” flowed thick and sweet, like a chocolate malt down at Harvey’s Broiler. The old Australian top-ten hit “Tie Me Kangaroo Down” was done tongue in cheek followed by a rollicking Eddy Peabody style ragtime banjo solo and a sea shanty with real pep. You could certainly understand the great popularity of this kind of music as it raged in the 50’s when the bros. crooned “Four Strong Winds,” the exquisite “Green Leaves of Summer” and in encore “Greenfields” with seamless perfection. A lengthy and rewarding train medley finished the fine set and included “Wabash Cannonball,” “This Train,” “the City of New Orleans,” and “Rock Island Line.” The Brothers got a rousing, standing ovation from the huge crowd, moving like the wave at a sporting event from the orchestra to the back reaches of the hall.
The concert was closed by the Kingston Trio and their full satchel of great folk songs. When they launched into “Tijuana Jail” you just had to feel like you were cruising down Bellflower Boulevard in a Chevy Biscayne while listening to KRLA. The were quite animated in their antics but kept to the classic vein with “In the Early Morning Rain,” “Greenback Dollar,” “They Call the Wind Mariah,” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” from the Pete Seeger songbook. The was a new song slipped into the classics but a very fine one indeed by modern songwriter called “All the Hard Days Are Done” coupled with a playful Medieval madrigal in the form of a round. The Trio also pleased the packed house by offering up their classic “MTA” and the all-time big Kingston Trio smash “Tom Dooley” sounding just a good and tight as ever. The harmonies were heavenly, the playing with gusto and the standing ovations followed after a beautiful set of encores including “Road to Freedom” and in an Brothers Four inclusive ensemble hoot of Woody Guthrie’s anthem “This Land Is Your Land” that made you proud to be an folkie-loving American.