Viper Central, Brighton, UK, 6 June 2011
Another fine musical evening at The Greys on 6 June. I hadn’t heard Viper Central before but the combination of a Canadian bluegrass band, the venue and landlord Chris’s dependable taste made it seem worth grabbing some tickets – and so it proved.
A warm feel; strong, mutually supportive, ensemble playing; and a generally likeable bunch. Nothing particularly ground-breaking and without the jaw-dropping technique a bluegrass label sometimes signals, but that’s not always what you need.
They’re currently a five piece – fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar, stand-up bass – grouped round a shared mike and featuring a lot of vocal harmonies. They mixed traditional and classic material (eg ‘I Am The Man, Thomas’, Johnny Cash’s ‘Get Rhythm’, a Louvin Brothers number) with their own stuff to good and varied effect, ranging into folkier and gospel areas.
Their own songs were good enough without being knock-out – occasionally a bit generic: ‘Down In West Virginia’, featuring generalised heartland references to North Carolina, East Kentucky, etc, followed by a rueful admission that most of the band hadn’t been to most of the places they were singing about…
Some nice humour, particularly from Winnipeg banjo man Tyler Rudolph (after fiddler Kathleen Nisbet had introduced a singalong number as being in C he added ‘Which is not the key of Canada – that is A’. Eh?… )
I’d definitely go and see them again, but probably won’t rush to buy their records.