I first heard Joe Walsh at Caffè Lena in 2008. I loved his crisp-as-a-fall-apple sound. Sweet but with a kick. I start this post by focusing on the mandolin Joe acquired in late 2010 and his performance at Merlefest’s Mando Mania this year.
- Mandolin: Gilchrist Model 3 built in 1993 with modified “A” body shape, Englemann Spruce top, Red Maple back and sides, radius fretboard, X bracing and all black varnish finish. In the words of the Australian luthier, Steve Gilchrist: “Combined with the softer spruce and maple and X brace, the tone was intended to be thicker but clear and very responsive.” “Lonesome Moonlight Waltz” was passed among some of the best instruments and pickers in the world at Mando Mania. Walsh summoned a Talmudic grail of bluegrass sorrow and resurrection from the Aussie in a solo akin to Monroe’s “My Last Days on Earth“. Minus the string section, chorus, and seagulls.
Fellow fan John Mercer graciously shared his videos of the Gibson Brothers’ afternoon and evening performances from Jenny Brook 2012. The band is en fuego. As you can tell from the first paragraph above and my review of Joe’s 2nd solo album, Sweet Loam (2011), Joe’s playing causes me to reference food. He spikes the Gibson Brothers’ auditory umami with his eight-string extracts. Artists with whom Joe plays when not working his main gig are also included.
- “That Bluegrass Music” and “Red Letter Day (for the Blues)” (peppery): Popping. Spicy and heat hot. “Pave Your Driveway with Big Gravel” which Joe played while sitting in for Mike Marshall in Psychograss hits the same excitement heard in microwave popcorn post-warm up and pre-burning. “Road to Columbus” grabs at the same piquant noting.
- “Walking West to Memphis” and “Long Forgotten Dream” (salty): With a metallic quality like the Avery Island mineral deposits that give Tabasco Sauce its vinegar-y pinch. “Trouble in Mind” and “Weary Blues” are similar as Joe adds his right-handed clarinetist-like bite down on the strings interspersed with Weedwacker threshing.
- “The Other Side of Town” and “Open Up Your Heart” (bitter…-ish): A grouter in musical crevices, Joe inserts unexpected chromaticism, upward inflections, and the occasional incomplete sentence. On rhythm and hot guitar, he brings a similar aesthetic to Western Swing songs, “Driving Nails in My Coffin” and “Just a Little Lovin“.
- “They Called It Music“, “One Raindrop” and “You Are My Friend” (sweet): A well rounded sounded, bright, with double stops and tremolo. His compositions “Emily’s Welcome to Portland” and “One Does What One Can” demonstrate the same. Whether his own melody or another’s, the sound embodies love. Walshean sonnets. Minus the iambic pentameter.
The Gibson Brothers perform at the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival on Thursday, August 16. Gettysburg, PA is a four hour drive from the Upper West Side. The above links plus more can be found on my YouTube channel under Mandolinist Joe Walsh.