Beaver Nelson / Jud Newcomb / Michael Fracasso / Adam Carroll – Six String Cafe (Cary, NC)
Shared connections in Central Texas brought these “Four Men From Now” (as they billed their tour) together, and their visit to the North Carolina Triangle’s premier listening room marked the end of a short southeastern US swing. These four songwriters are each very distinct in style and sound, but their combination is all the richer for that diversity.
Except for a hard-charging “Landed In The Mud”, Beaver Nelson’s songs this night centered on the wistful side of his repertoire. Adam Carroll’s economical harmonica accents and Michael Fracasso’s soulful harmonies supplemented the accustomed brilliance of longtime Nelson cohort Jud Newcomb’s guitar-and-vocal contribution to highlight Nelson’s stellar songcraft.
Newcomb was a catalytic agent all night, his guitar accompaniment switching effortlessly from bell-like vibrato on the pop oriented tunes to gun-strapped slide work on the blues burners. His solo turns drew primarily from his recent solo debut Turbinado. There’s a joy torn from pain in his gravelly vocals, which suits well the clear-eyed confidence of his own “Love Is Real”.
Carroll mines the barroom blues, and his Prine-flavored directness easily won over the Six String patrons. “Sno Cone Man”, his updated cousin to Mississippi John Hurt’s “Candy Man”, underscored the evening’s high humor with a harmony chorus of “ooo’s” that teetered on a wavering line between Lou Christie and Lou Reed.
Fracasso made the most of his first visit to the area, bringing all his companions’ strengths and his own considerable skill to two clear highlights. The twin religious/romantic fervor of “Wise Blood” built from the group’s headlong instrumental momentum, and Fracasso’s own heartbreaking tenor, into a sweeping expression of complex passion. “Brazos River Blues” was if anything even more moving, as the four musicians shaped a fever dream of slow-building, hypnotic intensity.
The show and tour ended appropriately with a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Loretta”, followed by Fracasso announcing “That’s Four Men From Now…Gone!” Those in attendance would add: but not soon forgotten.