Two groups, it’s easy
Brother Beauty’s Jeremy Cooney smirked at the audience from the stage. “Feeling good, feeling relaxed, and that’s a good way to feel,” he said at the start of his set. This set the tone for a two-group bill at Cafe Nine on Wednesday night that paired a new New Haven group with a Kentucky touring number, with pleasant, relaxed, and spaced-out results.
The trio of Cooney, Bobby Dyckman and Rob Galvin – three-fifths of the full group, Dyckman mentioned, and all singing and playing acoustic guitar – used a range of guitar techniques, three-part harmonies and the harmonica. casual to create songs that were alternately full and energetic, complex and delicate, unified by a sense of easygoing positivity.
Between songs, the members of New Haven-based Brother Beauty had the same easy friendliness, as when Cooney asked if anyone had seen The many saints of Newark, the new Sopranos movie.
“Fuhgeddaboudit,” someone said in the audience.
“Actually,” Cooney said, “that’s one thing they didn’t say.” Flaunting his nerdy fandom, he explained how showrunner David Chase banned screenwriters from using the phrase. “They could say ‘whaddayagonnado’, but not ‘fuhgeddaboudit’,” he said kindly.
“Fuhgeddabout ‘fuhgeddaboudit’,” the viewer said.
The trio got even better as their set progressed. Dyckman’s voice rang loudly. Cooney has shown he can get by with the fingerboard of his instrument, wrapping songs in long threads of textured notes. Galvin held on, giving the other two the support they needed to make the songs whole. Brother Beauty, a group who, according to their social media presence, played their first show just a few months ago, were already comfortably more than superficial.
The Wooks’ musicians – CJ Cain on guitar, Harry Clark on mandolin, George Guthrie on banjo, Allen Cooke on dobro, and Jeff Saunders on bass – kicked off their set with a sunny and catchy song that grabbed attention right from the start. first note. ” Thanks guys ! Clark said. “Thanks for applauding for the bluegrass music. I’ll try not to say too much because I don’t know a lot of words.
This was, of course, a lie, as the Wooks spanned a set of originals and covers in which most of the band sang long lines of melody in tight harmonies while showing off perfect mastery of their instruments. At the start of their set, the musicians of the quartet unleashed an instrumental that made someone in the audience shout “shred!” after. They could trade solos as well as any bluegrass band, but specialized in the kind of group improvisation that allowed each of the musicians to explore the possibilities of their instruments.
It was bluegrass with a good dose of jam-band attitude, musically and lyrically. A song at the end of the set, for example, told the story of a friend of the band who out of necessity stole a cheetah-print bodysuit after trying it on in the dressing room and was unable to get out of it. But the group showed their true colors in the music itself. The jokes between songs got shorter and shorter (“here’s another song-” Guthrie said, then stopped by repeating “here’s another song,” causing the laughter). The jams got longer and longer. The musicians let their songs gain momentum, deploying rhythms borrowed from rock, funk and R&B as well as more folk idioms, and carry the audience with them too, without breaking a sweat. It was, as one listener succinctly put it after a particularly steamy improvisation, “fucking unreal”.