American Legacies show review - Savannah Music Festival

March 23, 2012SMF: Preservation Hall/Del McCoury @ Trustees By Jim Morekis

It's been written before but I'll write it again: There are only two American musical traditions worth talking about:

1) The African-American tradition, historically centered in the Mississippi River Delta;

2) and the Scots-Irish tradition of the Appalachian Mountains.

That's it. Everything else that's come out of this country that's worth listening to -- jazz, R&B, gospel, rock ‘n' roll, bluegrass, country -- has its roots in one or the other, or both, of these.

(The undeniable fact that both of them are Southern traditions is yet another reason for you non-Southerners to be happy we allow y'all to stick around here. You're welcome.)

Popular portrayals and conventional wisdom insist that we should consider those two traditions as somehow in opposition to each other. But in another of those adventurous double bills for which SMF Director Rob Gibson is becoming famous, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans and Del McCoury's bluegrass ensemble joined forces at the Trustees Friday night for one of the biggest barn-burners in recent SMF history, one which defied lazy explanation.

While the alliance of the two groups actually happened well before this evening -- with their American Legacies recorded collaboration and a Letterman appearance -- the overwhelmingly rapturous reception of the show was by no means a given considering the generally conservative nature of many typical SMF audience members.

It's true that many SMF audiences tend to skew a bit older, but it's just as true that I can't recall another crowd at the Trustees Theatre -- even for rock shows -- demand an encore in as spirited and vociferous fashion as the crowd did this night.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The takeaway from this show is twofold: A) the Preservation Hall Jazz Band remain a bunch of smiling, genteel killers who can play with anyone, anywhere, and B) it is a very pleasant surprise just how well these two fine ensembles melded America's two seminal musical traditions.

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