Concert Review: Randy Smith & His Band Of Merry Men
cidermag.com October, 2013
PUTNEY, VT. - Just over a year removed from seeing Randy Smith & His Band Of Merry Men perform for the first time, I had an idea of what I was about to see a couple weeks ago when the band played at Next Stage in Putney. Or did I…?
Photos by Joe Milliken 1. Randy Smith and Roy Brown 2. Scott Campbell and Rich Abel 3. Tracy Lord, Gary Spaulding and Keeghan Nolan 4. Holly May Brown
As it turns out, not only did I once again enjoy seeing this fantastic band up close, but this time around I was also treated to a couple of lovely young ladies with down-right amazing voices in Keeghan Nolan and Holly May Brown, as well as some interesting twists in the set list. Oh, and did I mention also getting to enjoy a member of the Fiddler’s Hall of Fame (and new member of The Merry Men)?
A long-time Vermonter who now resides in Charlotte, North Carolina, Randy Smith recently returned to the area for a string of shows with his Band of Merry Men; Gary Spaulding on drums and percussion, Roy Brown on bass and vocals, Rich Abel on guitar and vocals and the aforementioned newcomer, Scott Campbell on fiddle. Their diverse set featured a selection of Randy’s solo material, a couple songs from Randy’s days with the Vermont-based rock band 8084 and a couple other surprises mixed in including new cover songs and guest appearances from Nolan and Brown.
The show-opening intro featured a frantically fiddling Campbell walking up the center isle as the band performed his original song “Celtic Celebration,” a lively number in a traditional sense that caught the crowd by surprise while Campbell gave the audience a close-up view of his amazing talent. This was followed by interesting treatments of three songs from Randy’s solo release, Bittersweet, including “Learning to Live,” “Cowboys” and “All My Life,” before the band went into a rollicking version of the Hank Williams gem “Jumbolia.”
After another Bittersweet track “Bleed” and a cool version of an 8084 song titled “Home,” the band then pulled off a fantastic cover of the Rod Stewart-Faces classic “Hand Bags and Gladrags.” Next up was another song from Bittersweet titled “Broken,” before the lovely Holly May Brown joined the band for “Go Big Or Go Home,” a song that the 16-year-old phenom has posted on YouTube and gotten over a million views! I understand why... What a great song and voice this girl possesses.
Holly stayed onstage to help with “Yesterday” (also from Bittersweet) before the band kicked into a mesmerizing version of the Kansas classic “Dust in the Wind,” complete with those iconic fiddle riffs! Then, the band performed a cool, Latin-tinged version of the 8084 song “Too Late,” before Roy Brown stepped up to the mic for the lead vocals on “Why Does It Always Rain On Me,” (a cover by Travis) and another 8084 classic titled “Rosita.”
The next surprise was a new song written by Randy called “Counting Pennies,” in which he also announced that the song would be included on a future debut CD release by himself and The Merry Men, hopefully coming sometime next year. Yes, this writer is very much, looking forward to that one!
The well-rounded set ended with another 8084 song titled “Hideaway” and two more numbers from Bittersweet – “Cold Outside” and the title track. For the encore, the band was joined once again by Holly May Brown for a cover of Bon Jovi’s “Who Says You Can’t Go Home,” a resounding way to end an energetic and uplifting performance by all.
Keeghan Nolan’s show-opening set - along with her guitarist Tracy Lord and aforementioned drummer Gary Spaulding - was also quite a treat. Keeghan is blessed with a powerful-yet-soulful voice, and recently signed her first record deal with the Nashville-based label Big Whirl Records. We are also very much looking forward to her first CD release sometime next year.
It truly is a gift to see such a talented band right in my backyard and at such an intimate setting as Next Stage, a great local venue with amazing acoustics and a truly welcoming atmosphere. The music was great, the exposure of different artists was inspiring and most of all, the different personalities all blend together seamlessly. You witness it in person and can just tell they are all having a fantastic time performing together... and for you!
Randy Smith & his Band of Merry Men will be returning to the area soon and it would be my advice to check this band out… right in your own backyard! Visit Randy at www.randotunes.com for more information on upcoming shows.