A Night of Reckoning – North Star Bar (Philadelphia, PA)
About 50 folks (including The Blazers, who played the next night) made it out as the Dead Reckoning collective of Kevin Welch, Kieran Kane, Tammy Rogers, Mike Henderson and Harry Stinson hit the stage for an updated version of the old-fashioned hoedown. By the end of the two-hour set, about half of those 50 were still around — a “night of reckoning”, indeed.
Despite the circumstances, it was a cool evening of music, with each artist presenting a mix of old treasures and choice covers while highlighting their recently released efforts on the Dead Reckoning label (Henderson’s DR debut is due in January). Depending on the song, you could find anywhere from one to seven musicians (augmentation provided by bassist Allison Prestwood and multi-intrumentalist Fats Kaplin) onstage at any given moment. The selfless camaraderie permeated the performance with a relaxed communal vibe that I’ve rarely experienced in a live setting.
Welch kept the focus of his six-song set on material from his new Life Down Here on Earth disc, mixing the melancholic sentiments of tracks like “Troublesome Times” and “Pushing Up Daisies” with his gift for storytelling via “Wilson’s Tracks” and a raucous “Kickin’ Back In Amsterdam”. He did make one brief detour, obliging a patron who called out for his take on John Hiatt’s “Train To Birmingham” with a grinning response of, “There’s not many people here to argue with you.” He proceeded to toss off a beautiful version of the song, highlighted by Stinson’s background vocals.
Kane opted for an abbreviated career retrospective, framing his set with a pair of old O’Kanes faves, “Rocky Road” and “Oh Darlin’ “. Sandwiched in between were songs taken from his solo debut: the pop twang of “This Dirty Little Town”, the country shuffle of “Eight More Miles”, and a stark rendering of Hank Williams’ “Ramblin’ Man”
Rogers and Henderson also provided some of the evening’s high points. Known primarily for her session work as a fiddle player, Rogers proved to be an charming and charismatic frontperson. Alongside the divine “Rest In The Arms Of Angels”, her lone vocal contribution to her In The Red collaboration with Don Heffington, she also knocked off an affecting interpretation of Dylan’s “On A Night Like Tonight”.
Henderson has always been revered in Nashville for his guitar work, and he displayed his chops throughout the show, balancing adroit flash with subtle nuance. Previewing his upcoming The Edge Of Night release as equal parts blues and honky-tonk, Henderson dazzled with the gospel wail of “The Last Time” and the fretwork wallop of “Guitar Down”.