I’d heard back in January or so that they’d be touring this year and hadn’t seen any announcement of a tour until I stumbled across it a few weeks ago. The closest they were coming was the Iron Horse in Northampton and there was no question but that we were going. We booked a room for the night at the Quality Inn in Hadley where we’d stayed once in 2014; and as the date got closer we were excited but knew this was going to be a mid-week hassle. Oh well, nothing ventured nothing gained.
Got out to Northampton pretty quickly after picking up Sarah at the West Concord train on Thursday, August 25th. But it was already 6:00 or so by the time we took a small wrong turn walking on a beautiful summer day in crowded downtown Northampton. And the Iron Horse was packed when we finally got there for the 7:00 show! It was set up with all tables and the best we could get was way up in the loft, in the back, but kind of centered on the stage.
This was my first time at the Iron Horse and I found a lot of things wrong with it. It was small and cramped and dirty-funky. We were shoved up under the ceiling (we could touch the tin panels) way in the back and the sound was nowhere near “good” back there. The waitresses were working hard and the food was ok; the beer was cold (Switchback Ale) and food and stuff came on time, and then the band came on and they brought the magic.
Chip played acoustic guitar and harmonica or course, and Carrie stuck to her fiddle and her cowboy boot, which was as good as the shit-kicking heels we’ve seen her use for a percussion instrument lately. They were accompanied by John Platania on electric guitar. Here’s the setlist:
- Keep Your Hat On Jenny
- Let’s Leave This Town
- All the Rain
- Your Name Is On My Lips
- Oh Set a Light
- Do Your Part
- Red Dog Tracks
- Elzick’s Farewell
- Angel Of the Morning
- Sweet Tequila Blues
- Dirty Little Texas Story
- Memphis, Texas
- Don’t Speak In English
- Big Moon Shinin’
- Wild Thing
- We Come Up Shining
These were both very short sets, and the break between them was a little longer than you’d want, though that meant we had time to wait forever in the hot and cramped basement for a turn at the bathroom.
But no more complaints. This was so worth it! You’d have to call what they play a little bit of rock, a little bit of folk, a little bit of Texas music, and a lot of … well, magic. They take their time, they listen to each other, they respond to each other instrumentally like they’re a hive mind of two (or two and a half, Platania was almost there at times). And they sing together like you can’t believe.
They’d done five shows before this one on the tour, and have been singing off and on for the past 10 years since they released Red Dog Tracks and then split up for their own careers. But they sounded like they’d been working on these harmonies for years. Their voices are each wonderful on their own, and they fit together like lovers on a porch swing. But that analogy doesn't describe the range of what they can do together, from whispers to shouting. You have to hear these two.
It was futile to stand up and whoop as far back under the ceiling as I was, and there was plenty of that coming from elsewhere in that cramped room. They ended too soon with their rote cover of Wild Thing, a song Chip *has* to play every time he appears anywhere. We clapped and clapped while they stood there, then gave us one more drop of the magic with We Come Up Shining.
It was only 9:00 when we got out of there! If we’d known it was going to be such a short concert we would have planned to head back to Woburn afterwards. But the Quality Inn was there and we were glad to be able to have a relaxed time for reading and getting ready for bed before our early start the next day. Actually got Sarah back for the 8:07 train from West Concord!