6 Feb 2023
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T-Bone - Gig Review: T-Bone @ The Tuning Fork, Auckland - 03/07/2022

03 Jul 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

Down to Tuning Fork for an early start with doors opening at 5:30 and the whole thing expected to be over by 9:30! I was so glad that Al from Hoop sent me the running times in the morning otherwise I would have missed their set altogether as well as possibly missing the beginning of T-Bone! Tonight, is a school night so guess that is why this is an early show, but it is very different indeed to what I am used to.

Hoop walked through the audience and kicked off with Devil’s Choice with Al on vocals, Nick adding flute, the bass lovely and warm when it came in, totally changing the approach, the violin to the fore and percussion adding just the right amount of stress. This was the third time I had seen them recently but the first time at Tuning Fork and the difference in sound was considerable. It was time for Nick to take up the lead vocals for The Outlaw, switching now to electric guitar to provide a different emphasis to the music. As I have said previously, having two lead singers, who are also songwriters, and are both multi-instrumentalists, allow the band to considerably spread their styles so the music is very broad indeed, yet always steeped in Americana.

There was something about their performance tonight which was settled, mature, and there was no doubt they were making a lot of friends in the audience, with every song being warmly applauded. The bass was definitely higher in the mix than usual, and this provided a wonderful platform for the rest of the band to work against, even though tonight Al was mostly only playing his acoustic and did not bring his banjo out until the end of the night. Their slot was shorter than they would normally play, so they had obviously put thought into potential dead time with instrument swapping, although he did utilise his harmonica for Oblivion. They really shone this evening, with their laid-back style being the perfect opener, and people paying close attention what they were doing even if they had not come across the band before this. They are the guys behind Ministry of Folk and can often be seen there playing support to other bands, so why not check out their Facebook page and support that activity as it is always a great night. While I was writing this a woman came up and asked me if I was writing a review, and when I responded I was she told me I had to say that audience loved them, and I assured her I would, as they certainly did.

I wasn’t aware there was another performer tonight, but then we had Hawaiian-born John Oszajca, who spent time in Seattle and Los Angeles before meeting and marrying a Kiwi and now resides in NZ full time. His first album was released on Interscope, his second on Warner Bros, and after releasing three albums took a step back from music for a while until fairly recently (expect new music soon). Talking with Gerry Paul at a gig he was then invited to play a show, and stayed for the whole tour. This was just him with his acoustic and opening with Where Is Bob Dylan Where You Need Him? he immediately had everyone onside with his Americana/singer songwriter style with a full sound and wonderful lyrical style. For someone who had just got over flu he showed confidence in letting his guitar fade away and finishing the song acapella. Next up was Sinkin’ In from his 2007 album Elephant Graveyard which was far more aggressive, and while the first number had everyone brought in gently, this was more aggressive with a real edge and grit. It Ain’t So Bad is a much more in your face rockabilly number and allowed John to understand he needs to change the guitar strings every two shows as he immediately broke one and had to switch guitars. Just one man and his acoustic, music does not get any more real than this: I was already a huge fan, and we were only into the third song.

John went all the way back to 2000’s From There To Here for Valley of the Dolls, and by now I was realising I was going to be investing in all his albums as there is something about his music and vocals which is incredibly inviting, grabbing attention: he has so many different styles and is totally home in all of them. The penultimate number of the night was the poignant and delicate Angalyne, emotional and powerful, then he totally switched tack to I’m Alive, upbeat, and fun.

Then it was time for the main event, with five guys kicking ass onstage as they launched into Lucille. They have been rehearsing together every week for seven years, so it is no surprise that Gerry Paul, Aaron Stewart, Richard Klein, Michael Muggeridge, and Cameron 'Dusty' Burnell, know what they are doing together and are going to have a blast while doing so. Violin, mandolin, banjo, double bass, acoustic guitar and five singers, what is there not to love? Three of those instruments were swapped for the next song as they launched into T-Bone Rag, taking the music back 100 years, but never dropping the energy. Apparently, their excellent debut album made it to #2 in the national charts last week and deservedly so, I can pretty much guarantee it will be in my Top 10 for 2022 and it is only just July!

Richard sang the first, Michael the second and now it was time for Dusty and Gerry to share the task on Far North, a number which always makes me think this is what Simon & Garfunkel would sound like if they were into Americana and Bluegrass. The banjo cuts through, the mandolin intertwines, the bass lays down the foundation, the guitar lays against that while the fiddle cuts through it all while there are those wonderful harmonies. You Don’t Write Me Letters Back has Richard back on lead, sliding his vocals in a bluesy style which adds yet another element to the sound.

The first three numbers of the set were the first three songs on the album, but now they were mixing it up, and with Dusty singing Come Play Me I was incredibly happy as this is one of the songs which is closest to folk, and I can just imagine T-Bone gracing the Cropredy stage as music as powerful land as strong as this needs to be gracing the finest festivals around the world. Gerry pointed out that Mark Twain said the definition of a gentleman was someone who could play the banjo but didn’t, but that did not prevent Dusty from providing a great introduction to Ding Dong where Gerry took lead, but for the most part there were five-part harmonies, making this such a special song to hear performed live. We even got a small but perfectly formed double bass solo in this which got a huge cheer from the crowd. By now we were halfway through the set and there was no sign at all of slowing down as the band were still having a blast, as was the audience.

By now I had run out of superlatives as every song was a revelation, and as the band warmed up they were getting even more relaxed, with both Steve Bone and I feeling that Michael was by now having such fun that he reminded us of none other than the mighty Pascal Roggen. This is feel good music, and one can see just why the guys have turned up for rehearsals every week for seven years, as this is much more than just a band, this is family. It doesn’t matter what they play, as every song is an absolute delight as they bounce off each other, all smiling and just enjoying the interaction. They were all stood in a slightly curved line, no-one at the back, and they spend nearly as much time enjoying each other as they do looking towards the audience. One can imagine them having this much fun whether there was anyone else to share it with or not as this is all about the music and the camaraderie it entails. We even got a number recorded by Jerry Garcia, Stealin’, and it fitted in perfectly with their own.

Tomorrow afternoon they are playing for 400 children from Kerikeri schools, with a show at Kerikeri later in the evening so tonight was not going to go on for too long, and before 9:00 they announced their last song, I Like to Ramble. Those five-part harmonies kicked in and yet again we were taken on a wild ride. There is something about their music, their mix of zydeco, old-time, blues, bluegrass, and folk with Americana which is vibrant, expressive, and just so damn brilliant.

They were not going to be allowed to get away with that, and John joined them for Minin’ For Gold, the old Cowboy Junkies number, taking the lead vocals and playing acoustic. The night finished properly with the guys working through the New Orleans style Little Liza Jane, but the band looked and sounded as fresh as when they started.

All up this was yet another incredible night down at The Tuning Fork, and I have been to quite a few. The live scene is back and kicking, and there is no excuse for not going out there and hearing some amazing music from wonderful bands. Support your local bands, support your local venues, and if you have yet to purchase T-Bone’s Good n Greasy what are you waiting for?


Photo Credit: Chris Zwaagdyk @ ZED Pics

 

About T-Bone

T-Bone is a Wellington based acoustic music group comprising Cameron Dusty Barnell, Gerry Paul, Aaron Stewart, Michael Muggeridge and Richard Klein. They play an eclectic mixture of styles and instruments within the Americana genre, drawing on their backgrounds in Old Timey, Bluegrass, Country, Cajun, Zydeco and Blues.

Cameron Dusty Burnell is multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter. His playing is steeped in traditional American Roots music. He has toured New Zealand extensively over the last 2 years as a member of The Frank Burkitt Band, The Federal String Band, The Hardcore Troubadours and as one half of the duo Kim and Dusty.

Gerry Paul is an award winning songwriter, musician and producer. An in demand session musician, Gerry has performed and recorded with some of the world’s best known folk musicians including Grammy Award Winning Bluegrass Icon Tim O’Brien, Irish Platinum selling Accordion maestro Sharon Shannon, Indian Bansoori player Ravi Kumur (long-time member of Ravi Shankar's band) as well as his own band of ten years Gráda.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for T-Bone

Releases

Good 'n Greasy
Year: 2022
Type: Album

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