The Best of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Sunday, Oct. 7

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Christopher Victorio
Emmylou Harris
See also:

* The Best of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: Friday, Oct. 5
* The Best of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Saturday, Oct. 6
* Slideshow: Onstage at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
* Slideshow: The Faces of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Sunday, Oct. 7
The Knitters recast Los Angeles punk rock
Seminal L.A. punk band X was way ahead of the curve when it shape-shifted into its Americana side project the Knitters thirty years back. So it was no surprise when the updated version of that spinoff group fired up the early afternoon gray of Day Three at Hardly Strictly more than any of the other roots combo we happened to catch this weekend.

Band leaders John Doe and Exene Cervenka breathed powerful new life into the X classics "Burning House of Love" and "The New World," with fresh arrangements and no-foolin' performances. Doe came across like an old-time country star, wizened from slinging songs for too many years in whiskey-drenched roadhouses but knowing no other way and wanting nothing more than to bring his beautiful music to the people. Cervenka flopped about like a devilette ragdoll, a rockabilly housewife with a storied past and a hopeful future. Drummer DJ Bonebrake, another X founder, kicked a washtub for a bass drum, which gave the tunes a homey backporch feel, while Jonny Ray Bartel brought the big bottom-end groove on the upright bass, chugging with Johnny Cash-like locomotion. The star of this badass quintet was lead guitarist Dave Alvin, whose solos snaked in and out of the thump-and-strum like the fiery tongues of black angels. The Knitters were bringing good ol' punk to old-time blues long before the Devil Makes Three climbed aboard the train. It was inspirational to see them still making this music sound like it matters. -- Sam Prestianni

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Christopher Victorio
Glen Hansard
Glen Hansard and the Frames bring every song to a boiling point
The set was billed as Glen Hansard, but it was really Hansard's beloved, venerable original band, the Frames, who greeted a sprawling public Sunday afternoon on the Rooster Stage. And while the Irish singer can do wonders with just his guitar and his vocal cords, the Frames are noted for their dynamics, for being able to slowly build into a dizzying crescendo and then come crashing down into silence instantly. We saw them do that many times on Sunday, on gorgeous songs like Hansard's Swell Season hit "Low Rising," the Frames' "When Your Mind's Made Up," and "Love Don't Leave me Waiting." But it was a couple of covers that bowled us over: First Hansard nearly broke his hand on his old guitar while bringing Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks" to its climax. Then he and the band -- which, as he explained, included a three-piece horn section that used to play with Levon Helm -- closed with a cover of the Band's "Don't Do It." The Frames' lush folk-rock had been leaning into soul territory the whole time, and they finally got there at the end. "Get the hips out for this one," Hansard implored, and many did. -- Ian S. Port

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Christopher Victorio
Del McCoury
Del McCoury takes requests
Of the dozens of acts playing at this year's Hardly Strictly, perhaps none embodies the down-home, festive atmosphere of the celebration like the Del McCoury Band. Backed by sons Ronnie (mandolin) and Rob (banjo) along with bassist Alan Bartram and violinist Jason Carter, McCoury and company had an ecstatic crowd dancing and whooping throughout their Sunday performance on the Star Stage. With its members bobbing and weaving in an intricate square dance around two microphones to spotlight each soloist in turn, the band offered up one of the purest sets of bluegrass bliss all weekend. Grinning all the while as they sang their sweet high-harmony vocals, the quintet lived up to the title of its 2009 album By Request, playing a number of tunes called out by the audience including a spine-tingling version of Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning." -- Dave Pehling

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Christopher Victorio
Dwight Yoakam demonstrates old-school showmanship
We only caught the tail-end of Dwight Yoakam's set on the Towers of Gold stage Sunday, but what we found was impressive: The leader's lanky figure was parked at the head of a band dressed in sparkly suits, wearing plain-looking denim and jeans but for a band of sparkles around the midsection. Yoakam had crew had just gone into "Guitars Cadillacs," the kind of twangy uptempo rocker that reminds you that country music is dance music, too. The groove was irresistible: a sea of mellow Hardly Strictly goers were up on their feet, getting down while Yoakam's shit-hot lead guitar player unspooled a flashy solo. Every moment of the set (that we saw) was marked by a practiced old-school showmanship that felt almost revelatory in these days of droopy floor-gazers and AutoTune: As the musicians chugged along, Yoakam introduced every one of his musicians by their full name, with the whole thing seeming like a pre-conclusion pause in some well-oiled machine. As the set came to a close, we found ourselves wishing we'd caught the whole thing. -- Ian S. Port

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Christopher Victorio
Patti Smith

See also:

* The Best of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: Friday, Oct. 5
* The Best of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Saturday, Oct. 6
* Slideshow: Onstage at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass
* Slideshow: The Faces of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass




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