by Mike Redfern
To say that the band’s name, Dead Flowers, is a misnomer was to understate the case last Saturday night at Studio 64. Nobody could have been livelier or louder than this Rolling Stones tribute band who brought the Live at Studio 64 spring season to a resounding finish. The concert, titled “Rolling Through Stones Country” was ostensibly a tribute to the iconic rock n’ roll band but in actuality was a reinterpretation, a re-expression of the Stones’ country-infused songs, mainly from 1969 to ‘72 when they produced their most country-influenced music on three albums, Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, and Exile on Main Street.
The band kicked off with the title track from the Let It Bleed album, a gospel and country-blues inspired song, full of innuendo, that the Stones had release in 1969 following the US tour in which Mick Taylor replaced band leader Brian Jones who died after being fired from the band because he was frequently incapacitated by drugs. This was followed by the country song, Together Again, a Keith Richards favourite originally recorded by Buck Owens, and Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, originally recorded by Sonny Boy in 1937, a number that would be anathema today, in these politically correct times. Lead vocalist, David Morton, made the most of the song’s naughty inferences with a cheeky smile and a glint in his eye.
Morton and backing singer and lead guitarist Victor Cuehlo both had charismatic presence on stage and could easily have stolen the show with their dynamic instrumental work and harmonizing vocals but outshining even them was the quiet seated figure of Dan Beller McKenna, a professor of music at the University of New Hampshire, whose undemonstrative work on the pedal steel guitar elevated every number, both in finger picking solos and rhythmic backing slide work. He was pretty phenomenal.
The band’s line up was enhanced by the solid drum work of Kenton MacDonald and the bass guitar of Studio 64 favourite, Tommy Knowles, who kept the rhythm pounding through a great repertoire of familiar Stones and other artists’ tunes – You Were Never Mine, L.A County, Dead Flowers, Sweet Virginia, King Bee (which had many in the audience up dancing), Shake Your Hips, Evening Gown, and what is probably the Stones greatest country song, Wild Horses. The show ended with the Stones’ version of the spiritual, You Gotta Move, followed by No Expectations and, following a standing ovation, a country finish with Hank Williams’ Honky Tonk Blues. It was a great end to an eclectic season that had previously featured Lizzy Hoyt’s Celtic inspired vocals and the bluegrass band Rotary Park.
MC Keith Nicholas announced that the next Live at Studio 64 series will start early this year with the folk-rock duo Sandtimer kicking things off on August 31, followed on September 21 by the Dirk Quinn funk-jazz band from Philadelphia, blues singer Holly Hyatt on October 19, and Vancouver jazz vocalist Andrea Superstein on November 23.