Lively Times - Live at the Anza Club!
For a touring band any trace of familiarity on the road is treasured. Over time, and upon each return, towns and cities build up a collection of things you can count on – a favorite restaurant or hotel, a record store you always hit, the best coffee in town, or maybe a friend that’ll make you a healthy home-cooked dinner that works around your sound-check schedule. When your days are filled with so many unknowns, just a few of these “sure things” can go a long way in making you feel grounded. This fact is heightened when it comes to venues. Returning to a venue that you’ve played many times, and that you know will have great sound and an amazing audience is just like gold.
This is the situation we found ourselves in on November 25/2019 when we pulled up to the Anza Club in Vancouver, BC. It was the last night of a two-week tour promoting our then new album “Modern Old-Time Sounds for the Bluegrass and Folksong Jamboree”. The Anza had always been “ground zero” for us in Vancouver. It was where the local bluegrass club put on their shows and we’d all played there many times over the years. We knew the place would be packed with familiar faces. We know the sound was going to be top-notch (thanks, Andy). We knew we were warmed up, and we just sort of knew it was going to be a great night - everything was pointing in that direction.
Luckily, we’d arranged to have the show filmed and recorded. We weren’t thinking about making a live album at the time. We were mostly just hoping for some food to feed the ever-hungry social media monster; we needed some video to promote the busy touring schedule we had booked for 2020. Suffice it to say, we didn’t end up having any tours to promote in 2020, and the video and audio got shelved for about a year and half.
It wasn’t until early 2021 that we remembered the Anza show. As we went through the footage, we realized that we’d captured a special night. The band was hot, and the audience was with us every step of the way. It’s hard to believe that in just a few months the experience of watching and playing live music in a packed club would get pulled out from under us all.
We decided to mix and master our favorite tunes from that night, and the result is “Lively Times”. We’ve always thought that old-time and bluegrass music is best experienced live, but the next best thing is the live album. We’re so excited to throw our hats in the ring here and give you a portal to a great night at the Anza from way back in the “old normal”.
Recorded Live on November 25, 2019 in Vancouver, B.C.
Recorded by Andrew Smith www.vancouverlivesound.com
Mixed by John Showman
Mastered by Andrew Collins at Sytesounds
Chris Coole - Banjo & Vocals
Max Malone - Bass & Vocals
John Showman - Fiddle & Vocals
Special thanks to The Pacific Bluegrass and Old-time Music Society for presenting this show, and to Fred Schiffner for a great introduction!
1. The Hills of Mexico – We’ve been playing this tune since the very beginning. In fact, it’s the very first tune on our first album. There are many versions of this classic folk song, but this version owes its roots to the great KY banjo picker and singer Roscoe Holcomb. We first heard it on a recording by The Renegades which featured the wonderful singing of Carol Elizabeth Jones.
2. Laketown Blues - Richard Inman is one of Canada’s great contemporary songwriters. Everyone in the band is a big fan. Laketown Blues is just one in a vast catalogue of moving songs he’s written.
3. Long Hot Summer Day – John Hartford’s style of stringband music, especially his “windows approach” has had a very big influence on the way we play as a band. We also love his songs, which has prompted us to record quite a few of them. Although Coole was utterly aghast to have flubbed one of the first words of this song (“towboats” should be “empties”), we thought the crazy spirit of the performance more than made up for it!
4. The Only Other Person in the Room – Who says you can’t honky-tonk with just a banjo, fiddle, and bass? This song comes from the great Texas duo Noel Mckay and Brennen Leigh. It may not be that old, but it’s already a classic to be sure.
5. Black Lung – A moving piece from the great W.V. songwriter and singer Hazel Dickens about the trials and tribulations of life in the coal mines. This piece was originally recorded (by Hazel) as a acapella, but we have taken some liberties and interpreted some chords.
6. Cluck Old Hen – This version is based on the playing of the great KY (or WV, depending on who you talk to) fiddler Ed Haley.
7. Stone Walls and Steel Bars – Originally recorded by The Stanley Brothers, this song was written by Ray Pennington and Roy Marcum. We’ve changes the chords here a bit from the Stanley’s version to make it even more dark sounding. This is a great example of a song that paints a vivid picture with very few words!
8. Highlander’s Farewell/Monroe’s Farewell to Long Hollow – The first tune in this medley comes from fiddler Emmet Lundy (1864-1953) from Galax, Virginia. The second tune is one that Bill Monroe wrote but never got around to recording. Thankfully, James Bryan save this amazing piece from obscurity by putting it on his album “Lookout Blues” back in the early 80s.
9. Damned Old Piney Mountain - Craig Johnson was an amazing fiddler and banjo player who performed with The Double Decker Stringband in the 80's and early 90's. He was obviously also a great songwriter as he wrote this song based on a conversation he had with an old logger he met in West Virginia.
10. Going to German – This song comes from the repertoire of Gus Cannon who recorded widely in the 20s and 30s with his band “The Jug Stompers”. Apparently, the German in this song was referring to a prison.
11. Big Iron – It’s easy to overlook what an amazing songwriter Marty Robbins was. Even if he’d never sung a note, his catalogue of songs would still immortalize him. This is one from his classic 1959 album “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs”.
12. Too Much Water – Speaking of great songwriters whose singing overshadowed their songwriting ability, this under-known honky-tonk classic comes from George Jones.
13. Cherry River Live/Gauley Junction – The song in this medley comes from West Virginia banjo picker and singer Jenes Cottrell. Fun fact - apart from being a powerful singer and player, Mr. Cottrell was known for making banjo rims using the aluminum torque converter rings from 1956 Buicks. The second tune in the medley was written by John and named for the beautiful confluence of The Gauley River and the New River in Fayette County, West Virginia.
14. Mississippi Dew – We wind things up with another great John Hartford song played in high-gear!