yhe Michigan Daily
Tuesday, January 20, 1981
Redbone heads otherwise folksy festiv
By JENNIFER GAMSON
The lightsdim and the 1930s ragtime
sound fills the theater. Onto the stage
slinks a slight figure, dressed
meticulously in a gray three-piece suit
and an Irish tweed hat. He walks with
the deliberate steps of a frail old man,
yet his sly, elusive smirk gives him
more the air of a detective incognito.
Leon Redbone's entire personality is'
a disguise. His age, his background, his
personal life are so effectively hidden in
his eccentricity that he is an
anachronism, almost a parody of him-
self. His music spans generations,
reviving old 1930s and 40s ragtime and
blues, al well as the versatile styles of
past guitarists such as Lonnie Johnson,
ig Bill Broonzy and Blind Blake. His
vocal skills demonstrate unpredic-
tability with hums, yodels, grunts and a
whole series of other surprises.
defined "folk music" no worse than
others performing in Sunday's Fourth
Ann Arbor Folk Festival. But when
sharing the show with Michael
Cooney's audience rapport, Andy
Breckinan's ludicrous, self-
deprecating humor, or the Henrie
Brothers' family charm, Leon Redbone
' seemed out of place. His removed man-
ner seemed inconsistent when con-
trasted with the other performers'
more personable styles. Redbone's
presence in both the afternoon and
evening performances had the disorien-
tilg effect of a very subtle joke; it left
you wondering bewilderedly whether
you "got it."
The 2 p.m. show was opened by one of
Ann Arbor's favorite "Ark" enter-
tainers, Michael Cooney. After a
somewhat awkward beginning, Cooney
carried the audience through a pleasing
sample of songs from his collection of
hundreds, including Melvina
Reynold's "We Hate to See You Go"
("The bankers and the diplomats are
going in the army"), and "Old Blue," a
story/song aided by Cooney's masterful
Following Cooney was Margaret
Christl, who, despite her tendency
towards the painfully over-theatrical,
highlighted the afternoon show. When
she sings, her hands are alternately
clenched then limp and aimless, but the
voice is a powerful, chilling one.
Christl's songs had the audience atten-
tively with her, whether they were
chuckling at her "symbolic" songs
("It's a nice way to say "Dirty Songs,"
she explains,) or compelled by the
,moving lyrics of "And the Band played
Waltzing Matilda (Erik Bogle)."
The Henrie Brothers includes five
brothers, ages sixteen to twenty-six,
who, combined, play guitar, bass, ban-
jo, fiddle and accordion. Their
bluegrass. numbers were flavored with
hideously loud shirts, various colors of
berets, dark glasses, and bizzare man-
nerisms-the Ramones Go Bluegrass.
Headliner Leon Redbone followed
this youthful exuberance with a mellow
amateur guitarist dabbles with.
(Breckman insists "I refuse to play in
another key until all the hostages are
released.") What he lacks musically he
miraculously makes up for in wit. His
'songs are creative, bizzare and had the
audience yelping with surprise and glee.
. Stan Rogers, accompanied by
brother Garnet Rogers and David Alan
Eadie continued after Breckman.
Rogers, a booming Canadian lumber-
jack type, performed sea songs,
poignant ballads, and, most notably, his
own compositions; "The Xerox Line,''
and "I Wanna See Your Smiling Face
Forty-five Years from Now."
I doubt if the Ann Arbor Folk
Festival, whose purpose is to raip4
money for the Ark, was able to achiev4
anywhere near the goal it had in mind.
Neither of the two shows in the Powe
Center were anywhere near full; but
even worse than the empty seats is that
pang of remorse which reminds us that
practically the whole audience could
have fit into David and Linda SigliW
(the Ark co-managers) comfortal
\coffee house, and enjoyed all the pert
formers, in a more intimate att
mosphere. All the performers, that is;
except Leon Redbone. I have a feelixg
he prefers Power Centers to living
rooms. This way no one will get w%
when he does his "World Famo@
HAS WORK ROBBED YOUR TIME AND YOUR VERVE,
AND PRESSURES DESTROYED YOUR CALM NERVE?
go down to the League
and end the fatigue Lunch 11.3c
A NICE BREAK IS WHAT YOU DESERVE! Dinner 5:00
i"1" Corirl lUVY rt 1('PQc rF
Leon Redbone, featured attraction of the Ann Arbor Folk Festival, is caught
in a rare moment of eye contact. Redbone, known for his ragtime and blues
music, alternately amused and bewildered Sunday's "folksy" audiences
with his illusive style and gimmicky performance.
10 to 1:15
and oh-so-eccentric act of his own. In
his forty minutes he employed a variety,
of gags, as well as simply accom-
panying himself on guitar for "Harvest
Moon," "Champagne Charlie", and
others. Two Polaroid pictures of the
audience-and that was the extent of
our interaction with Leon Redbone.
The second performance of the
festival offered Redbone in the same
detached style, but the dynamism of the
other three acts made it a more
satisfying show overall. Mick Moloney
and Eugene O'Donnell, both from
Ireland, started out the show. Moloney,
playing guitar, banjo, and mandolin,
was a former member of the John-
stons, while O'Donnell is known as both
a dancer and fiddler. The tWo have been
playing together since 1973, a fact
clearly displayed in their ability to
blend their music together with
seemingly effortless precision. Their
slow, soothing airs, and rousing hor-
npipes alike had the audience
sThe Ark has traditionally been a
place which will take chances on
unknown performers. One such pertson
is Andy Breckman, who was at the Ark
for the first time this fall. Breckman,
an unmistakably Jewish boy from New
Jersey, knows the four chords every
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