“What happened to you?” I hear as soon as I step onto the porch. It’s Joe Langley, or Old Joe as I admittedly think of him. He’s referring to my splinted, bandaged finger, on which I recently had surgery.
“Well, it all started with an avocado,” I say, which is the truth, but which is not relevant to this article. The reason I am on that porch is because there was a house concert that night. House concerts at Brad’s are homey and wonderful. Old Joe is one of many awesome Baltimoreans I’ve met through the jam run by Brad Kolodner and his father Ken, both nationally-renowned old-time musicians.
The house is clean, lovely and decorated with plants and instruments. Posters for a myriad of festivals are tastefully distributed along the walls. The Natty Boh man winks at me from one of the potted plants. The house is crowded, and my friend and I are very clearly the youngest there. Most people there are either in their late twenties or their sixties. Everyone has brought food and beer to share. The atmosphere is warm and friendly.
Around 8 p.m. the music started. I had never heard Foghorn Stringband before. They combined old-time and bluegrass music with Creole songs, and did a damn good job of it. Apparently one band member was missing, but you’d never know. Perhaps that’s because I’m used to pretty minimal ensembles. Perhaps it’s because they did a good job of working around it.
Foghorn Stringband is actually based in Portland, Ore., although they have traveled through much of Canada and the United States. One area I felt like they didn’t quite excel in was in communication and in their harmonies. At one point, the bassist snapped a little bit at their fiddler. Tension can be natural but is a little uncomfortable in that intimate of a venue. Their harmonies were lovely when they sang them, but certain songs lacked them and suffered. Either way, they were enjoyable to listen to and fun to talk to afterward. Watching them play with Brad and Patrick was a treat!
It’s worth noting that one of the songs they sang was a Hazel Dickens tune. Hazel Dickens lived in Baltimore starting from the 1950s. In fact, many of her compatriots lived and played music in Charles Village, where we at Hopkins live today. She was a very cool musician, and her songs and the role she played in the folk and bluegrass scene here in Baltimore are well worth your time to check out.
Brad Kolodner hosts several house concerts every spring and fall. They aren’t a part of any concert series officially and depend mostly on which bands are already coming through town. If you ever attend the Baltimore Old-Time Jam at Liam Flynn’s, you can ask Brad about his concerts there. The next one is May 26.
Foghorn Stringband is also playing this weekend at the Hill Center in Washington, D.C. for free this Sunday. All things considered, I’d recommend seeing them if you can!