It had been quite some time since I’d been to Puckett’s. I believe something like two years. Skater friends and I used to go shoot pool there on occasion and drink $2 PBRs. As a matter of fact, I have nothing but good memories of the place. So when I heard last week that the Grievous Angels were playing there this past Saturday night, I thought, “Why not?”
I did not know much about the band. Two of the members – Joe Ciarlante and Thomas Benjamin are professors at the school where I work. Joe told me they were playing Puckett’s. I knew Joe loved genuine rock-and-roll, the blues, motorcycles, and whiskey and that he played the guitar. That was all. Based on this information, I was not surprised by the quality of the show. (I tend to expect a lot.) I was, however, completely happy and fulfilled by what I got.
The Grievous Angels are: Joe Ciarlante (lead guitar), Richard McDevitt (keyboard, some times rhythm guitar, some times mandolin, backup vocals, and some times lead vocals), Tom Benjamin (bass guitar), Jim Gamble (drums), Alicia Akima R Driver (fiddle and occasional keyboard), and Tim Farney (rhythm guitar and lead vocals).
The Angels play covers of all the best rock and roll of the 60’s, 70’s, and early 80’s, and on the wings of each song rides enough unique performance qualities to make it honestly theirs while being totally recognizable and true to form. Depending on the song, this unique sound may be attributed to a voice, Alicia’s fiddle, Richard’s mandolin, or Joe’s smoky blues runs. Though Alicia’s fiddle was a bit too low at the beginning of set one (a problem that was remedied quickly), I did not hear one bad note, one off beat, one hesitation. The Angels played with the certainty and conviction of those whose blood run hot with all that is rock and roll – driving music that feeds the soul and lyrics with heart and substance. Tim’s voice is big, powerful, and pure and is balanced by the Richard’s more weathered, edgy voice. The contrasts push against each other, neither dominating, and blend in a sound that is simply real. Alicia’s fiddle is both mournful and playful at once. Joe’s guitar answers back. Tim’s beats drive home, and Tom’s bass yields the depth that brings it all together. The Grievous Angels echo and reflect all that is beautiful and timeless of those great rock Masters of a bygone day, a day that, while it may not return, will never be forgotten.
HannaH’s outstanding picks of the night’s performance included: The Band’s “Atlantic City”, Van Morrison’s “Into the Mysitc”, Joe Crocker’s “The Letter”, and Lyle Lovett’s “My Baby Don’t Tolerate”. (Actually, I almost came out of my skin when they played “Atlantic City”.)
The Angels play off and on in the Charlotte area and frequently in Davidson, NC and can be found on their facebook page. Like them. Go to their shows. I can assure you, if you love rock-n-roll, you won’t regret it. And, youngsters playing in bands, please take note and learn a few lessons. Chances are, if old guys are doing it, they’re probably doing it better.