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NewFound Road carries on despite small crowd

Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., November 15, 2007

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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NewFound Road's Boston-area debut didn't exactly result in the bluegrass masses banging down the doors. Far from it with the 20 or so people there for the first set dwindling to a dozen for the second.

The quartet may have been excused if they had mailed in the performance since it's awfully hard to get excited about playing for a few handfuls. But that didn't prove to be the case.

The singing and playing of NewFound Road, which has one album out on Rounder and several others on smaller labels, proved to be first rate in mining bluegrass and gospel sounds. Tim Shelton, who helped found the group, is an understated lead singer. His voice comes across real well, and the group has a few twists and turns along the way both vocally and musically to keep it interesting.

A reading of Freddy Fender's megahit "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" done bluegrass style worked exceedingly well. After all, there would have been no need to repeat what had been anyway. Ditto for Tom T. Hall's "That's How I Got to Memphis."

Shelton did not take all the leads as Jr. Williams on banjo and upright bassist Randy Barnes also contributed. Both also are quite capable singers with Williams more effusive, particularly on gospel number "Jesus Sure Changed Me."

The playing all around, particularly Williams on banjo, Joe Booher on mandolin, who joined about three months ago from his family band The Boohers, and Justin Moses on Dobro and fiddle spiced the performance time and again. Booher and Moses turned in a sizzling instrumental with the other members off stage with Booher quoting liberally from Django Reinhardt's "Minor Swing."

Maybe it was the size of the crowd, but the band could have livelier on stage. The show wasn't dull - the quality of the music avoided that - but Shelton et al could have used more sparkle and outward energy.

NewFound Road is not full of flash and pizzazz like some of the bluegrass groups touring about, but in their own understated way, Newfound Road showed they were a worthy band.