I've been to too many benefits in the name of local musicians. By very definition, they're not ideal situations. But when you get to attend one where your support directly aids a living person rather than their memory, that's a blessing. At the recent benefit for Junior Bruce guitarist Bryan Raymond (Feb. 20, Will's Pub), he was there, still in deep recovery, but in attendance. So I got to donate and shake the guy's hand. That's pretty much a fairy-tale ending.
More of you probably know Jessica Lea Mayfield (noted solo artist and collaborator to Seth Avett and Dan Auerbach) and David Ray Mayfield (David Mayfield Parade) than their parents David Lee and Valerie Mayfield (Feb. 18, Will's Pub). The children have made good names by skewing alternative with American roots music, but they actually spring from a traditional bluegrass family. The elder Mayfields – now playing as the Bluegrass Sweethearts – hew to heritage.
The Ohio duo played bluegrass with all the attendant rustic grace and fleet-fingered lightning. Rounding out their set was a peppering of some real country music, including some classic covers. More than anything, it was a night of homespun charm and family. In addition to personal stories of family and history, Valerie pulled out a song her famous daughter wrote when she was a kid, long before she was famous. Driving that spirit all the way home was the fact that much of the intimate crowd was actually Florida kin. It all felt like being welcomed into a Mayfield family gathering, which is kind of how all old-school folk shows should be.
Unfortunately, bluegrass and roots music this pure seldom permeate this far into the city limits. But after seeing true practitioners like the Mayfields and getting your soul touched in the way only music like this does, I wish it did more often.
Opening was local Americana standard-bearer Terri Binion, who will be celebrating the release of her first, much-anticipated new album in about 15 years on March 18 at Will's Pub. But much more on that in my upcoming feature story on her in our March 16 issue.
Although she played with only one accompanist, it was the talented and versatile Jessy Lynn Martens, who not only lent fiddle, mandolin and backup vocals to Binion's sound but also a more definitive country edge. Apart from perhaps a pedal-steel player, Martens is one of the most complementary single accompanists to perform with Binion yet. The synergy was exponentially lovely.
AMFMS is a band based in Maryland but with Florida ties strong enough to warrant a record release here (Feb. 15, Will's Pub). That's probably because they're fronted by Tampa son Shawn Kyle, a musician with a well-established track record, from solid work like the beachy indie rock of Florida Kilos to somewhat more regrettable stuff like the stilted Beauvilles. This latest band goes in the plus column for him. Stylistically, their sonorous indie rock straddles '80s alternative and psych rock. Though the combination isn't perhaps the first one to come to most minds, their particular take is a cohesive aesthetic with solid playing and sturdy songwriting.
Opener Timothy Eerie is already a very different band than I saw only four months ago. The young psych band went bigger and even more traditional this time out with at least a couple more members (swirling keys and another singer) and, oh boy, incense. They look to be doubling down on the genre and going more authentically psychedelic in a trajectory whose logical conclusion usually involves sitars. There's nothing wrong with that, especially when done well like it is here. But it is a lot more noodly, which, personally, is only a virtue when I'm eating. More essentially, though, it's very literal, so much so as to be retro. What was initially a band expanding psychedelic sounds with a bright, current edge is now becoming a straight revival act. For fans of previously local Strangers Family Band, however, Timothy Eerie's your next score.