Walking up Nashville’s lower Broadway on the way to a showcase for Grace Adele & The Grand Band, it was clear it would be standing room only in Robert’s Western World. Phil Harris, of pH Balanced Recordings, and Grammy-winning engineer, put on a party April 14 showcasing a whole lot of talent where the room was filled to the rafters. Literally, the main floor and balcony were filled to capacity that hot, sunny afternoon.
Robert’s Western World is a legendary honky tonk, but this event featured several Americana artists. Grace Adele and The Grand Band is a 4-piece female-fronted string band based in Nashville. On acoustic guitar, Grace Adele fronts Keenan Wade on mandolin, Josh Huber on upright bass, and Kristen Weber joined in beautifully on fiddle in Chase Potter’s absence. They were showcasing their Nashville debut, The Grand Sessions, a 10-cut recording of original material. My basic metric measuring how good a band really is contrasts live performance with recorded material. No one will be disappointed in the live interactive performance. These folks had more than 100 dates on their 2011 touring calendar and their polished show scales very well against their studio work. The difference, of course, is the energy in the room when four acoustic musicians are there to entertain you.
Grace Adele has a natural charm as she invites the audience to participate rather than spectate. No room for dancing on this occasion, I’m sure people often enjoy western swing to tunes like “Town’s Too Small.” Lively and engaging it got people’s attention from the first waltzing measures. Other tunes from the CD included ” Never Lost,” “Over You,” Sweet and Lonesome” “Brown Eyes” and “Something to Say,” highlighting western swing, bluegrass, country, folk, and a touch of indie rock. They covered Ernest Tubb’s “Thanks a Lot” to great affect in the 45-minute set.
If there is one critical point to make about this show, slower tunes don’t translate well in a room like Robert’s. The impassioned ballad, “Over You” is arguably the best cut on the CD. This tune is best left for a listening room in order to feel every tear-stained note. Conversely, another great album cut is “Sweet and Lonesome” which has more color and depth live than the recorded version.
One of the more impressive characteristics of this band is how well relatively young players steep their talent in vintage music styles. Much like Carolina Chocolate Drops, there is genuine craftsmanship in the music The Grand Band makes. And at the tip of the iceberg is the sheer authenticity of Grace Adele’s voice. Whatever the “it” is found in music that works, Grace has “it” without artifice. For those who love the female pioneers of roots music, another is about to emerge, albeit in a totally different era. She’s a ray of sunshine beaming across a sea of female artists attempting to do what she does naturally.