Reprinted from yesterday's late edition.
On that ever-growing teams of jazz/rock fashion violinists Scarlet Rivera, who came to the public eye after touring with Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue, is a barely competent bench warmer.
Her technical skills are evident on her various set pieces, but an ascetic stance makes her music as dull as it is derivative.
The violin is a difficult instrument to master, particularly when electrification destroys its subtle nuances and tonal shadings. As a lead instrument, it needs firm contrasts with at least one other instrument, usually a guitar. Rivera had no such support from a four-piece band at the Cellar Door Tuesday night that seemed content with substituting loudness for authority. As a result, her pieces followed one another in a piercingly shrill monotony.
Rivera, the opening act for the Dillards through last night, could learn a lesson from the headliners. The Dillards have been an entity for 15 years, though only Rodney Dillard and Dean Webb go all the way back. Yet the five-piece group continues to have fun while expanding the range of its music beyond its bluegrass roots. That growth has not been spectacular, but at least the music has been accessible. The same cannot be said for Rivera's music.