Brit Hit Makers

P.D. Kelley 

Last Friday, April 6th, Peter Asher and Albert Lee took the stage at the Rogue and entertained us with their musical knowledge, fascinating stories, and wonderful pop songs from the past.  It was sentimental.  It was sweet.  It was not to be missed.  Asher, the “Peter” of Peter and Gordon, is now a grandfatherly type who still plays a decent guitar and has the waspish wit of a very smart man who has met just about everyone in the music industry on two continents in the last forty years.  He made (and still makes) his money as one of the most successful and prolific music managers and producers of all time.  He recognized the greatness in James Taylor when Taylor was still drifting in and out of heroin addiction but Asher’s instincts were correct as they were about Linda Ronstadt and numerous others.  He still keeps a very busy hand in the mix and has an upcoming project with Elton John as well as a weekly radio show on Sirius XM.  Albert Lee is actually a year older than Asher but looks somewhat like an angelic elf with a nimbus of white hair and a self-effacing persona that is a wonder, given his legendary guitar and piano skills.  He is the guy everyone calls to play on an album or to go on tour or to manage a band.  He has been called “Mr. Telecaster” and “a guitarist’s guitarist”.  He and Asher are old friends and the two thought it might be fun to team up every once in awhile and take their audiences down memory lane.  We heard some of Peter and Gordon’s hits and a nice chunk of the Everly Brothers (whom Lee helped reunite and manage over the course of twenty years) as well as a little bit of everything in between.  Lee is not as chatty as Asher but his gentle voice recounted some great career experiences, not the least of which was the delicate dance of working with Phil and Don Everly who supposedly hated each other.  Asher kept unloading little bombshells of delicious info to include my favorite story about Paul McCartney who lived with the Asher family for two years and dated Asher’s sister, Jane, a famous (at least in the UK) actress in her own right.  There was a song that the Beatles had rejected and Asher thought it would be right for him and Gordon and asked Paul to teach it to them.  He did so but the tune needed a bridge which McCartney hand wrote and gave to Asher.  “A World Without Love” was Peter and Gordon’s biggest hit.  Just as I’m thinking, man I hope he held on to that piece of paper, Asher confirmed that it is in a safe deposit box and “If things go to s—t I’m going to run as fast as my little legs will carry me to Sotheby’s (auction house).”  And so it went…a story, a song, another story, another song.  Just delightful!

Catch you on the flip side. . .

Red, White and Bluegrass

P.D Kelley

American Progressive Bluegrass at Its Best

On Sunday, March 18th, the Rogue Theatre crowd got to indulge in a postmodern Bluegrass extravaganza with two bands of similar temperament and musical style: Old Salt Union is currently touring with, and opening for, Yonder Mountain String Band, and if you’ve ever felt you just couldn’t get enough of this fusion of old time stompin’ and pickin’ with modern harmonies and original compositions, then my prediction is you got your fill on this evening. To quote one critic (and I think it applies to both groups) “Old Salt Union has the groove and the chops of a great string band balanced with infectious rock and roll energy.” Co-founder Ryan Murphy plays the banjo with grit and joy and he has gathered some stellar players around him: violinist John Brighton, mandolinist Justin Wallace, upright bassist Jess Farrar and guitarist Rob Kindle. The level of musicianship is top knotch and I defy anyone to not move a body part when listening to what I would call a thrilling performance.

Ditto for Yonder Mountain String Band. These folks are at the top of their game and have been perfecting their craft since 1998. Co-founder Dave Johnston is also the banjo player and his mates include Ben Kaufmann on the upright bass, Adam Aijala on guitar, mandolinist Jacob Joliff and some feminine energy with Allie Kral on the fiddle. She has a stand-out voice to match her compelling work on the fiddle. One of the band members shared with the audience that she was pregnant (visibly so) and that he watched in fascination as her stomach rippled as the baby moved around. Man, that kid is gonna come out kicking in rhythm, and should be singing before he/she can walk. That’s my segue into how fine and sweet the vocals and harmonies were from all five players. The younger crowd was at the front of the stage and danced and whooped it up from beginning to end. The older generation stayed in their seats and were swaying away. Yonder Mountain said they would be coming back to the Rogue on their next tour so make sure to catch them on the next go round.

Catch you on the flip side.