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4/17/08 Shakori Hill GrassRoots Festival,
Silk Hope, NC

Big Parade, Wood and Stone, Positive Friction, If You Only Could, Voice in My Head, You're Breakin' My Heart, Hot Tamale Baby (Joe Thrift on rubboard), River of Gold, Conscious Evolution

By Paul Roberge

A gorgeous day here in central North Carolina, which ushered in a cool, comfortable evening, with a nearly full moon overhead. It seemed to me that there were more people for the Thursday opener than in the past. One of the volunteers in the ticket booth told me that they did a brisk business today, and it does seem that the word is out on this festival. Still, this evening's gathering had the intimacy of past Thursday Shakori openers, and for this, I am grateful.

The band opens with "Big Parade," which is one of my favorites and which is peformed with grace and delicacy. I think, for a few moments, that I am one with Jeb's silvery notes, the gentleness of the spring evening, and ambient good will of friends, family, and Herd. (I guess that's a tautology.) I am reintroduced to a daughter of a dear friend, a tenth-grader who is just brimming over with raw talent and who I hope (and expect, if that is still what she seeks) will be a student at my university in a couple years. Her promise reaffirms my faith as an educator.

The moment is fleeting, however, as the band settles into a workmanlike performance of the next three songs. But then, "Voice in My Head" finds some spark, and the set takes off.

I watch Tom Gilbert detail an intricate rhythm with his left hand on the cymbal and high hat during "Hot Tamale Baby." I am for a while riveted to his careful attention to detail.

"River of Gold" is, I think, exactly right for Thursday evening at Shakori. "Conscious Evolution" shows a most intriguing interaction between Jeb and the band's newest member, David McCracken, whose musicianship I have come to appreciate deeply. The eye connection, the trade-off of licks, the respectful generosity of these musical interlocutors all augur well for the future. My daughter, Uncle Don, and I talked briefly with David as we were leaving the venue, and it is beyond doubt that he is a superb succesor of the chair long occupied by Kathy Z.

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