Though people often associate Appalachia with states further south, that region’s rich folk music traditions are alive and well in Pennsylvania. Rural farming and mining communities sprout musicians as fast as they do crops, and Doc Watson’s had plenty of them last Friday night. Lebanon’s The Jayplayers were the first to take the stage. Made up of singer-songwriters Keeley McCue and Chris Weidensaul, who joined forces in 2013, they blend traditional and contemporary folk sounds alternately reminiscent of Johnny & June and The Civil Wars. A brief set of originals and covers showcased their beautifully blended harmonies, accompanied only by Weidensaul’s acoustic guitar for an intimate sound perfectly suited to the few patrons as they trickled in from the snowy night. The comparative locals in Rose Project hail from Kennett Square, an area better known for mushroom farming than perhaps anything else. Though the male/female vocal dynamic was similar, the addition of bass, lead guitar, and drums certainly brought up the energy of the room despite the mellow pacing of much of their set. Fresh from the release of their new self-titled EP five days prior, long-time fans were eager to hear the new material live. One of those four songs, “Sleeper Hold”, was a definite highlight, putting singer-songwriter Bill Rose’s chops on display.
Chris Rattie & the Brush Valley Rumblers closed out the evening on a rock’n'roll high note, adding substantial muscle to the roots music sound pervading the evening. Appropriately for their coal country origins, this was working class weekend music, with lyrics about getting out of town, drinking, and the like. They even had one for their touring situation: “Hotel by the Highway”, inspired by places just like the Holiday Inn Express across the parking lot in which they’d later take refuge from the storm. Bassist Mark Sosnoskie was freshly off tour with Phil Lesh & Friends, and the rest of the band matched his prodigious talent. Lead guitarist Ryan Alford and Rattie himself swapped some incredible riffs and solos, and the room was rocking throughout their set despite the dwindling suburban late-night crowd. At the end of the show, the remaining audience members and bar staff were thoroughly impressed, deriding those that left early for all they’d missed. For those who were snowbound or from their hometown, they’ll be playing again on Saturday, April 4th at Elk Creek Cafe.
By Dave Fox | Philadelphia Ambassador | @philosofoxthedj | Beat-Play and Music Without Labels, LLC