October 3, 2002

Ramblers on the Road

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This Friday, the Boston-based Tarbox Ramblers roll through Ithaca, stopping at the Haunt to share some of their unique blend of brooding roots-rock and old-time string music. This vibrant and mix has been gaining attention across the country, as critics are praising the quartet’s ability to make such antiquated influences sound so fresh.

I shouldn’t have to bring up the still growing success of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack to prove that old-time Americana has made a comeback. The compilation of old and new artists featured in the movie showed people that bluegrass equivalents of boy bands like the Dixie Chicks and other Nashville-corrupted exports are not all that’s left of the rich folk tradition of lonesome highways and the whiskey-soaked desperation of real life. The Tarbox boys serve the same purpose, and possibly to even greater ends.

The band puts on a strikingly intimate performance as they sit down and sweat out the soul of Delta blues and the sort of gospel full of dark revelations and just enough hope. Michael Tarbox takes lead vocals and slide guitar, while Daniel Kellar’s wailing fiddle floats above, playfully weaving its way around Michael’s voice. Upright bassist Johnny Sciascia and drummer John Cohan provide the low end and the stomp that invite the feet on the floor to start moving. And when said feet start that moving, they don’t seem to stop until the night is through.

The band recently put the final touches on their second album, which they fittingly recorded in Memphis with the masterful presence of Jim Dickinson in the producer’s chair. The as-yet-untitled sophomore release will contain fan-favorite originals and familiar traditional folk tunes like “John Hardy” and “Ain’t No Grave.”

It is certainly a mistake to miss a rising band that has received accolades from respected bluesman Paul Rishell and former Wilco drummer Ken Coomer. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and the cover is $8 in advance or $10 at the door. Put on your cowboy boots, or maybe your dancing shoes.

Archived article by Ben Kupstas