Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers & Andrew Combs @ The Hamilton, Washington DC - Aug 30 2015.
A Nashville singer songwriter starts off the evening with full band in tow. The keyboards are the key as they add a spritely sound to a very cliched country accompaniment. Combs has a fine voice and is aided by three backing voices at times, but the material is pretty much straight down the middle of the type of Nashville music that has never resonated with me. There was some nice country rock late in the set and I wish there was some more variety to the typical ballad structure. I have to say it was all slick and professional and performed well. The crowd took to it well enough, so it was a fair start to the evening.
Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers
The Woman in white joins the band in black to add her crisp vocals to their solid foundation of alt country rock. This is yet another case where the California brand of post Burrito Brothers music is fairly easy to spot. This band takes it even further as the musicianship and variety is top notch. There are moments of Byrdsian guitars (as much Clarence White as Roger McGuinn) as well as a Grateful Dead cover. They continue their 'northern California tour' with a cover of 'Somebody to Love', which is pretty much guaranteed to rouse a crowd. Although the crowd was with this band the whole way, as well they should be.
The variety continued with an acoustic sing around one microphone, which is far better than the band going into the audience cliche, as this was fully audible and reasonably balanced. Great guitar solos and that extra snap in the vocals and music that keeps western roots music far more interesting to me than its eastern/southern varieties. This is a real band that has been together a long time and they made that quite clear to all of us tonight.
(1) Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers (unknown/website).