In a decade of rock fusion, disco and punk, folk music seems an anachronism. But Saturday night at the Cellar Door, the folk setting was a welcome change of pace-pleasant and familiar. The relief was rather like putting on a pair of old sneakers after a day's struggle to walk on stiletto heels.
Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, and enlisting audience participation through sing-alongs, Noel Stookey (nee "Paul" of Peter, Paul and Mary) recreated the coffeehouse intimacy of late 50s-early 60s folk.
His material replaced political overtones with a religious emphasis, however. A born again Christian, Stookey's songs "witness" his faith. But while repetitious in their smug sentiments (Christian love, abundant spirit, etc.), the numbers were melodically engaging. And, the vibrant backup vocals of Karla Thibodeau imparted an additional dimension of musical vitality.
If Stookey was like slipping into a pair of old shoes, The Red Neck Jazz Explosion, who headlined the 8 o'clock show, was more like trying out a new pair of roller skates-they're meant for careeening, not for walking the straight and narrow. The music of the Explosion ranged from industrial jazz in double-time samba rhythms, space-age rock and jazzy bluegrass.
And did their measure outdistance Stookey? The hares and the tortoises will disagree.