27th May 2018
The Port Hillbillies concert marked the end of a joyous union of four talents that met majorly through Christchurch Folk Club connections. Kris Brown on guitar has taken the opportunity of a ‘dream job’ and will be returning to his old home place in USA, sadly leaving his well tuned musical connections here and looking to forge the same across the waves. It will be no surprise to hear that two of this quartet strongly influenced by Americana and Appalachian music hail from that region.
Both Kris and Justin Rogers on mandolin, were drawn to New Zealand for further education opportunities and have certainly found a niche here. Gary Elford on bass, originally form Australia adds that an age factor that has resourced many of the song choices to add a breadth of interest across genres and decades. The only Kiwi in the group is Steve Stern on banjo and harp, and of course the reciprocal of the legendary banjo jokes, usually timed for when Steve is tuning the instrument between most songs.
We were promised a night of tapping recognisable standards to the more obscure songs, and these promises were well fulfilled. The tunes were catchy, the harmonies solid and the musicianship shone through the like of Rocky Top; Copperhead Road, Caroline, I’ve just seen a face, Galway Girl, Shady Grove, Tear my still house down and 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.
The agility and ability of the instrumentals was never in doubt, the band has increased their repertoire to very capably fill a two hour show. The inclusion of some solos in the songs would add elements of contrast and diversity, offering the opportunity to showcase the individual talents of the band members.
A thoroughly enjoyable evening that certainly had us toe-tapping., congratulations to the Port Hillbillies for a well planned night that as an audience members appeared to run effortlessly.
by Judi Smitheram, Secretary