Concert Review: Jayme Stone & the Lomax Project

I’m going to be honest, this one was tricky to write. Occasionally when the shows are really brilliant, I hit a wall. What do you say about music that’s really good without sounding clichéd and redundant? Chances are I have not succeeded here at avoiding those perils, but I truly LOVED seeing this group live and I’d be doing everyone a disservice if I didn’t pay it forward. So, without further ado, here’s the low down on my latest live music moment.

Last week I had the great pleasure of seeing Jayme Stone live with his Lomax Project—an incredible collective of tunes that were recorded and archived by Alan Lomax throughout the 20th century, performed by Stone, his band, and many other bluegrass and folk heavy hitters (did someone say Tim O’Brien?). I’ll be honest and say I had NOT really listened to the extensive (20 track!) album before the show—bad Mallory—but in the end it didn’t matter. Stone and his band did a phenomenal job introducing each of the songs, relating stories of their origins, their original recording, and Stone’s discovery of them (the album, which is absolutely worth checking out, comes with extensive notes on all of them).

But the truly captivating bit predictably lay in the performances of each of these pieces. Stone is well known in the bluegrass/folk/roots world as being a virtuouso player, capable of deeply technical and emotional performances. His playing was some of the best I’ve ever seen, all performed with a charming nonchalence. And his band was superb. Margaret Glaspy made a particular impression on the audience with raw vocals that were well suited to the rustic quality of these tunes. Be sure to check out her intense, soulful performance of “Shenandoah,”…it’s made of awesome.I’d also be remiss to not mention double bassist, Joe Phillips whose mastery of his instrument was truly captivating. I often caught myself craning my neck and ears to see him behind Stone and the gang—there was a beautiful marriage of technical skill and profound emotion going on back there. I should add that I spoke to these guys after the show and found out they were running on next to no sleep. It didn’t show at all. And no, Tim O’Brien wasn’t there, but everyone else was so good that I didn’t miss him at all.

If, by some chance you are still on the fence, let me leave you with this: the album is brilliant, the performances are exceptional. True to most traditional music, these songs truly sing when they are performed live—there is a unique quality to them that can never be captured by a mic. (Side note for recording geeks: they had an old fashioned mic that got me REALLY excited when I sat down.) And, while that’s sad for those of us living in our living rooms, it’s a good incentive to get out and see something remarkable. Luckily for us, Stone and his crew will be touring most of this year, so you still have many chances to check him out on the road. If I can offer any advice, it would only be to try to avoid venues with lots of seating…you will appreciate the ability to dance and connect with the group more later. And when Stone or Glaspy invite you to sing, go for it.

Jayme Stone is a Canadian banjo player. You can read more about the Lomax Project here and check out upcoming dates on his current tour here, and find all of his music on his website, iTunes and Amazon.