Campfire Songs

David Nelson Band

Bootlegger's - Springfield, IL

[September 27, 1998]

First Appeared in The Music Box, November 1998, Volume 5, #11

Written by John Metzger


On September 27, the David Nelson Band returned to Springfield, Illinois, fresh from the recording sessions for its third album Visions under the Moon. This time around, the group dropped by Bootlegger's, a venue where bassist Bill Laymon regularly performed nearly 25 years ago. It set up its camp in the corner of the converted schoolhouse's outdoor beer garden as a wood fire raged under a star-filled sky. This gave the evening a comfortable, relaxed feeling more like a family picnic than a concert. The mood was only enhanced by the laid-back, bluegrass-based groove of the ensemble's set.

The David Nelson Band opened with a solid rendition of the Peter Rowan classic Lonesome L.A. Cowboy, which was followed by a powerful Freight Train Boogie. The sound of Barry Sless's pedal steel guitar danced its way around the melody of each song like the wind-blown flames of an evening campfire. Freight Train Boogie locked into a western swing cadence anchored by drummer Charlie Crane, who, once again, filled in for Arthur Steinhorn on this leg of the tour.

David Nelson's voice has never sounded stronger as the group took advantage of the intimate atmosphere of the venue to showcase its more country- and folk-oriented material. The band painted a vivid image of the wild western frontier as it covered The Ballad of Casey Jones, an old, traditional tune by Wallace Saunders about engineer John Luther "Casey" Jones. On Absolutely Sweet Marie, Nelson's countrified-drawl carried with it a Dylan-esque sneer as the group made the song its own.

The Wizard's Son featured the first extended jam of the evening as the David Nelson Band flirted with the Grateful Dead's familiar Truckin'/Other One jam before allowing the song to disintegrate into an open, free-ranging space segment. Crane and Sless locked into a rhythm, and the group tore into The Band's New Orleans-tempered Rag Mama Rag, featuring keyboardist Mookie Siegel on vocals. A dark and ominous Snakebit, punctuated by Siegel's swirling Eastern-tinged synthesizer fills, slid into a joyous Cumberland Blues to close out the set.

The second act was short, but sweet. Much to the hometown crowd's delight, it featured Laymon on vocals for two of the six songs. The better of the two was the infectious Kerouac, carried by the passionate crooning of Laymon and tight backing harmonies from Siegel. The Sender merrily bounced through a two-chord jam not all that different from the Grateful Dead's Franklin's Tower. Nelson's articulated, edgy guitar provided a counter-punch to Sless's softer overtones as Laymon undercut the song with a heavy, roving bass line. The David Nelson Band closed out the show with an inspired and transportational Visions Under the Moon, which serves as the title track for its forthcoming album.

Visions Under the Moon is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright 1998 The Music Box