By Sarah Spencer
Outside it was a dark and stormy night, complete with deadly lightning and hail, but, on April 14 at Maxine’s Pub in downtown Hot Springs, Ark. it was all clear for a thunderous, acoustic show inside. The ample and anxious crowd was ready for the music to begin. At a little after 9 p.m., the “lite” version of the rustic blues and country inspired band, Sad Daddy, whose self-induced hibernation has long been felt this winter at Maxine’s, took their places on stage. Arkansas’ own favorite sons, singer/songwriter, Brian Martin, with his blue-eyed soul and gritty growl on vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, kazoo, and percussion along with singer/songwriter, Joe Sundell, with his unique and unmistakeably feel good vocals, playing banjo along with his own blues harp were welcomed back with open arms. Notably missing was the star bassist and singer/songwriter Melissa Carper who normally slaps the upright bass for the trio.
Their easy going, conversational, and natural-born story-teller’s demeanor made for a very personable and intimate show, just as if we were sitting in their living room throwing back a few PBR’s together. Their set began with everyone singing along to “Georgetown One-Stop.” This song makes me want to go there, have some catfish and get a blow-pop on the way out. Nearly midway through their 17-song performance, much of the crowd got up to sway to one of my personal favorites, the contemplatively sexy ballad, “A. M.” from their self-titled debut album. The fans remained on their feet ready to dance as Joe announced, “It’s a hoedown! Get ready to dosey doe!” Joe got help from the ladies in the audience as they sang the chorus on “Minnie the Grinch,” which is “loosely” based on Cab Calloway’s “Minnie the Moocher.” Next, Brian and Joe churned out their southern soul version of Lead Belly’s “Linin’ Track.” The party was brought to a climax with the Sad Daddy classic “Big Boned & Butt Ugly,” which laments the plight of finding a good woman and states her requirements of “15 tattoos, 14 crooked teeth, 13 cavities, 12 convicted felonies, 11 jellyrolls and 10 ways to make a man cry.” Maxine’s had definitely been missing their Sad Daddy and, although willing to share, their Hot Springs’ fans hope to never be separated for such an extended period ever again.
Next to perform were the popular Canadian trio, Elliott BROOD, a roots-rock band consisting of Mark Sasso with his throaty rasp on lead vocals, a vintage acoustic guitar, electric guitar, banjo, ukulele, and harmonica, Casey Laforet on another delicate vintage guitar, backing vocals, bass pedals, and ukulele along with drummer, Stephen Pitkin, on percussion and backing vocals.
The band has been known to define it’s own energetic style as “death country” or as some refer to it as, “folk rock” or “alt-country.” Other creatively named genres in which they have been categorized have been “black grass” or “urban hillbilly.” But, whatever label is chosen to identify them, they have an unforgettable musicality all their own. Judging solely on their typically “country” instruments, one would be surprised that their passionate sound is more rock than country. Elliott BROOD’s stage presence was attractively polished and handsome with all three in dark slacks and button-ups.
Before they began their performance they expressed their gratitude in being back at Maxine’s with sincerest sentiments and promises of repeating the “blast they had last time” they were there. By plugging in their acoustic guitars, banjos, and ukuleles they were able to use reverberation to have their patchwork of sounds blend together in a beautiful harmony with an emphasis on rock and roll. Along with their original works of anecdotal songs of history, Elliott BROOD paid homage to some of the artists that inspire them, including Bob Dylan, with their version of “When I Paint My Masterpiece.” Sasso’s raw fire in his belly, Pitkin’s corrosive beats and the rhythmic dexterity of Laforet during their get up and move bar-room anthem, “Write It All Down For You,” off their 2008 album Mountain Meadows, had a unifying passion that connected the entire audience together. It was a beautiful and powerful experience. The trio continued to surge forward with amplified sounds that wonderfully complimented their acoustic resonance with perfect balance. When the audience greedily chanted, “One more song!” they graciously complied with Neil Young’s “Roll Another Number” to close the show. As the storm outside continued, Elliott BROOD’s live performance was a musical hurricane which left a cool refreshing breeze that raised the goose flesh on arms and planted smiles on faces.