Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mike Stadler and Mary Gibbons Do It Again

You know you like a band when you seek them out and go see them again. That's what I did last night, when I heard Mike Stadler and Mary Gibbons play at the Frog and Fiddle in Alameda, California. Along with Chuck Ervin on upright bass and Jon Mitguard on pedal steel and dobro, they put out a smooth, clean, finely honed country western blend of bluegrass, folk and Texas swing that satisfies.

My friend Bruce and I got there just when it was starting out and heard a long first set from a table right in front. It was my first visit to the Frog and Fiddle, and I found it was a compact, friendly space with Guinness posters and guitars on the walls, a well-stocked bar on the right and intimate table seating in the rest of the place. I visited the surprisingly spacious (and pleasingly clean) restroom before I left and can tell that the place is well maintained.

I didn't write down the numerous tracks the band played, but Mike and Mary are both fine solo singers and a strong duet. Jon sang a few himself while working the beautiful pedal steel and occasionally, his dobro. Chuck kept up a strong pulse and even leaned in for four-part harmony on one number. Mike likes to switch between his acoustic and electric guitars and sometimes puts his mandolin on his broad shoulders for a more bluegrass-style song.

I was once again pleased to hear three songs by a favorite of mine--Hal Ketchum. Mike took the lead on two while Mary led on Past the Point of Rescue--one of Hal's most popular tunes.

Putting the talent up front is a nice draw to pull folks in from the street, but the club is also lining up regular music performances, so Alameda is becoming a real place to go for live entertainment.

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