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mardigrass and urbangrass: The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Del McCoury, Chris Thile & Michael Daves at WNYC’s Green Space

July 23, 2011

On Wednesday, I scored some tickets to see two amazing collaborations of music in less than 60 minutes at WNYC’s Green Space, a studio in TriBeCa with 125 seats for live, on-air concerts and discussion panels.

Soundcheck host John Schaefer kicked off the show with a packed stage that included bluegrass badass Del McCoury and his band, playing with the kings of Nawlins, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (PHJB). On Mardi Gras Day 2010, PHJB released a benefit album with a number of great artists to raise money for their outreach programs. Since then, they’ve been everywhere.

In April, Del’s band and the PHJB released American Legacies, an album that brings the jazz from the streets and music halls and clubs of New Orleans and the bluegrass from rural festivals into a twelve-song album that any true Southerner should own. We need more mergers like this. I’ve been listening to it on my commutes this week and can’t tell you how hard it is not to dance on the subway. Even folks that don’t really care for jazz or bluegrass will get into tracks like the old Hank Williams tune “Jambalaya” or “I’ll Fly Away”, the old African American spiritual. For me, seeing these two bands come together and play a gospel song was like a foretaste of the music I would guess will be playing “on that day.” Pretty powerful stuff…and LOUD, in the best possible way. I wish these guys were going to be in Newport next weekend. They stole the festival last year.

It took all of a minute for Del & the PHJB to clear the stage and for Chris Thile and Michael Daves to get into position. Thile, the former Nickel Creek and current Punch Bros. mandolinist, met Daves,  at a jam session in the Village in 2005 (see the backstory on this from the good folks at The Bluegrass Blog). The two, which have a regularly sold-out residency on Stage II the Rockwood Music Hall, sold out a show at The Bell House in Brooklyn on Wednesday after their WNYC appearance (SIDE NOTE: This was my first time to The Bell House. It’s a gorgeous place to see music. The folks are nice there. I’ll go back.). While the post-Nickel-Creek Thile has pursued a number of progressive projects, his new album with Daves, Sleep With One Eye Open (released in May), features tracks that traditional Americana and bluegrass fans love. This includes Lester Flatt’s “Sleep With One Eye Open,” “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” written by Charlie Monroe, Bill Monroe’s Brother, and my favorite (and the saddest) bluegrass song ever, “Bury Me Beneath The Willow,” made popular by The Carter Family. This album is of a classic status. I’m hoping to get to chat with these guys in Newport next weekend.

WATCH BOTH BANDS AT WNYC HERE. A smorgasbord of other videos for each of these bands is below.

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