Campfire Trails, Troxy, London
Reviewed by Nick Hasted
Wednesday 22 September 2010
The Stetson-wearing shadow of Dave Rawlings looms in the spotlight, making the art deco splendour of this East End hall dance with the ghosts of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. Rawlings's musical and life partner, Gillian Welch, members of Old Crow Medicine Show – his protégés and tonight's headliners – and Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones are beside him, in a special formation of his band the Dave Rawlings Machine. Mumford & Sons will show up later, somewhat incongruously. Because this last of "indoor festival" Campfire Trails' three nights here is the most coherent, offering a strong dose of old-time Americana.
Welch, usually the star of any show, supportively blends in on acoustic guitar. The rough, fast sawing of their bluegrass stomp has one fan slamming his foot like it's a back-porch hoedown. But tonight's roots in the mid-20th century rock revival of such sounds is shown by the set-list. "Method Acting" blends into a stately take on Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer". Next it's Dylan's "Queen Jane Approximately". Jones adds attentive colour on mandolin, then solos, hunched forward. Rawlings's all-star crew explore and explode the song open in a way Dylan would applaud.
Old Crow Medicine Show's old-time shtick verges on the hokey. But their odes to "wine, women, whiskey, guns" are played with winning up-tempo dexterity. Tongue-twisting, sidewinding songs such as "Alabama High-Test" roar by on banjos and fiddles, with upright bass for the beat. "I've been on that curry all night, boy, I need something greasy," they declare before the harmonica holler of "Mary's Kitchen", showing an admirable grasp of East End cuisine.
Mumford & Sons squeeze on for the encore. Marcus Mumford's middle-class English folk awkwardness and precision on "Roll Away Your Stone" somehow blends in perfectly. The Band's "The Weight" is the appropriate finale, a 1960s Woodstock tall tale from the era from which all of tonight's notes have sprung.
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