From Gilmore, a Country Jam

Friday, August 1, 2008

This summer, Jimmie Dale Gilmore has been up in Rhinebeck, N.Y., teaching songwriting at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies. Wednesday's Birchmere show felt more like a master class in presentation, however, by way of a pickup jam session.

Nearly as crucial as Gilmore's crystalline voice were solos from Rob Gjersoe, who plays guitar, and Jenny Scheinman, who usually plays violin but on this night was mostly playing fiddle. She overlaid the two styles of playing the same instrument in much the same way Gilmore adds a quavering splash of New Age to his country tunes.

Gilmore dipped into his catalogue sparingly, favoring numbers from his Flatlanders colleagues Joe Ely and Butch Hancock, classic country songs that his father loved, and "Black Snake Moan," a Blind Lemon Jefferson blues he said he'd learned by way of a Ramblin' Jack Elliott record. It's a "weird Texas song," Gilmore said, and indeed its rickety rhythm kept threatening to crash but always stayed aloft, thanks to Gjersoe's solos and Gilmore's measured delivery of the bawdy lyrics.

If only an extended between-song dis of Vice President Cheney had gone so well. Gilmore's a charmer, but Washington music fans, whatever their political views, must be counting the days until a new administration. With any luck, touring artists will have something new to talk about then.

-- Andrew Beaujon

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