Monday, February 7, 2011

The Hot Seats - Ashland Coffee and Tea review

(photo by Ed Pennybacker)
The Hot Seats returned to central VA's premiere listening room on Saturday, January 29th for a well-attended show in front of a loose, yet seated, audience. The comfortable and attentive environs of Ashland Coffee and Tea provided an ideal setting to showcase the band's superb musicianship. The setlist was a mix of classic older material, traditional fiddle tunes, well chosen covers, and catchy new original numbers that hopefully will find their way onto a record soon.

Frontman Josh Bearman sang lead on most of the songs and moved effortlessly between mandolin, clawhammer banjo, tenor banjo and bass throughout the two-sets. It's hard to determine which of these he is most proficient at as he plays them all exceptionally. Mr. Bearman also kept us in stitches with the between song banter, which is part and parcel of The Hot Seats' stage show. The newest member of the band, fiddler Graham DeZarn, accentuated the traditional aspects of the quintet with his gritty yet elegant playing. Graham's fiddle is a much welcome addition to the lineup. Despite an injury which limited his 5-string playing for this gig, 3-finger banjo player Ben Belcher still managed to wow us, as always, by straddling the line between bluegrass and ragtime. Of special note is guitarist Ed Brogan who blew many away on this evening with his unconventional licks and dulcet crooning, most notably on the Porter Wagoner cover I'll Go Down Swinging. However the largest cheers, and I do mean cheers, were for reserved for drummer extaordinaire Jake Sellers. It's rare to find a drummer in this style of music that is as integral as Jake is, and when finally given the opportunity to applaud the crowd responded generously.

Old-time music is often cast into a mold. The Hot Seats break this mold with an innovative approach that channels the energy of the best pre-bluegrass stringbands. Fortunately, with The Hot Seats it is not on a scratchy 78 that we have to experience this music but live and in person. I hope they can return to AC&T soon, however, if you missed this show you can next catch The Hot Seats on Tuesday, February 15 as part of the Listening Room Series at the Firehouse Theater in Richmond, sure to be a great show. Or catch them on the road as they travel around the mid-Atlantic and over into Scotland this summer.

Set List (Listen to the show here!)

Set I
Trouble on My Mind
Mule Wife
Everybody's Doin It
Bully of the Town
Jack Wilson - Sugar Hill
Feel Like Growin' Old
Texas Gales
Looking for Money
Yonder Comes a Sucker
Alabama Jubilee

Set II
Killing Time
Hesitation Blues
Go Down Swinging
Betsy Likens
Sam Stone
Don't Worry About the Poor
Come on In>
Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance>
What's the Ugliest Part of Your Body?>
Beefy Cheese Boogie
Evite Gabriel
Sandy Boys

Dirty Baby
Jerry the Junker

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