Bruce Molsky is simply one of the finest musicians that I have ever seen. From the first time I ever saw him play solo -- at an Irish bar in Tribeca on the last night ever of their Irish series -- to his room-quieting performance at the formerly-annual Sheriff Sessions bluegrass and old-time festival at New York City's now-defunct Baggot Inn, I have never gotten through a Bruce Molsky performance without experiencing a jaw-dropping moment and without saying, "Yeah!" at least a dozen times.
I've had the pleasure of seeing him with fine musicians like cellist Natalie Haas (at that first gig) or her sister, Crooked Still violinst Brittany Haas, at the Old Song Festival. Add another one to the list with Darol Anger, a boundary-bending fiddler who has worked with David Grisman, Tony Trischka, Psychograss, the Turtle Island String Quartet and the Republic of Strings.
Molsky and Anger together are part of Fiddlers 4 (along with Michael Doucet and Rushad Eggleston), and so one of the opening jokes of the evening was, "Hi, we're Fiddlers 2!"
Bruce switched between fiddle, guitar and banjo over the course of the night (with his time allotted in that order). Darol spent most of his time playing his "chin cello" -- a five-string violin with double-thick strings and some necessary amplification. It ends up having a range approximately an octave lower than a regular violin, and he gets the most wonderfully groovalicious sounds out of it, laying down great bass lines with jazzy fills and funky chops. And then he played some regular fiddle as well.
The setlist looked something like this:
- Opening fiddle set - great counterpoint between the two fiddles and great groove to kick off the show
- "Rove Riley Rove" - Molsky on banjo
- "Evening Prayer Blues" - a DeFord Bailey tune that Bill Monroe recorded and then David Grier learned it and then Darol Anger took it from him - Molsky played guitar, and Anger made it jazzalicious
- "Green Grow the Laurel" - twin fiddles with great "chin cello" accompaniment
- "Married Woman Blues" - Molksy on guitar
- "Blackberry Blossom" - twin fiddles
- Swedish and Norwegian fiddle tunes - twin fiddles
- "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo" - Duke Ellington tune with Molsky on guitar
- "Greek Melody/Polly Put the Kettle On" - twin fiddles
- O'Carolan tune into "Brothers and Sisters" - Molsky on guitar
- Minstrel tunes - twin fiddles - "These tunes prove that Darol and I went to different schools together."
- "Rolling Mills" - Molsky on banjo
- A tune that Darol learned from a friend who had learned it from Bruce - twin fiddles
- "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" - Molsky on guitar
- Some twin fiddle tunes to close the set
- "Cotton-Eyed Joe" - "This is a tune you may never have heard but have always enjoyed."
- "Peg and Awl
"Peg and Awl" is one of my favorites, so it was a great closer to the show.
And then afterward, there was a Branford Folk Music Society jam session in which Bruce and Darol participated!