Stalwarts of the Washington, D. C. folk music scene, Doris Justis and Sean McGhee have been perfroming as Side by Side for 27 years. They were brought together by a love of John Denver's music and have expanded their repertoire considerably since then, covering the gamut of folk and popular music. They have been long connected with Dick Cerri's Music Americana radio show and have performed at all of The World Folk Music Association's annual concerts (26 of them to date, I believe). Doris Justis was instrumental in reuniting the original Chad Mitchell Trio, and Side By Side shared the stage with them in a joint celebration of the Trio's fiftieth anniversary and Side by Side's twenty-fifth anniversary. Doris is currently in the midst of producing a John Denver tribute scheduled for 2012.
Both singers have a lot of fingers in the musical pie. Doris also performs as a solo act and with one or two other singers and lead the Northern Virginia Ethical Society's choir; Sean is also a member of several groups, so both performers are apt to show up anywhere in the D. C. area. Doris has a lilting soprano voice and Sean's tenor flows like honey. The two voices meld together in perfect harmony. Add to that Sean's virtuosity on both the six- and twelve-string guitars, their warm sense of humor, and their respect for their material and their audience, Side by side is a winning combination in anybody's book.
We caught them in concert two weeks ago. The venue was a coffee house located in the basement of an assisted living facility serving mainly the physically and mentally disabled. Over half the audience were residents of the facility and their appreciation of and enthusiasm for the performance was contagious. It's hard to pick a standout for that evening, but when Sean decided at the spur of the moment to do Death in Venice, a long, complicated, pun-laden song which they had not played in over two years, was memorable -- as was Sean's not quite PC lyrics he added to the John Denver/Bill Danoff song Country Roads. It was a great evening of laughter, sing-alongs, and powerful songs such as The Potter's Wheel (one of their most requested songs).
All of the following videos are from a gig at Baldwin's Station in Sykesville, Maryland. The video and the sound are not the best, but they will give you an inkling or the group. With that in mind, here's the duo doing Eric Anderson's Thirsty Boots:
And a song written by Doris, Rainbow Bridge:
And here they channel their inner Beatles:
Sean's mastery of the twelve string adds to the power of The Bells of Rhymney:
Friends with You:
And a John Denver song:
For anyone interested, here's a link to Doris' home page:
Last week we attended a concert by Gordon Bok at the Calvert Marine Museum. Bok, a native of Maine, has long been one of the premier performers of maritime songs. A sailor and a woodcarver, Bok has been on the folk music scene for over forty years. His smooth baritone voice adds to the authenticity of his songs. He has well over a thousand songs in his repertoire.
The audience that night were not tilting to the young side. Most had been enjoying Gordon Bok's music for many years. One woman had him sign a copy of his first album (issued in 1965 and produced by Noel Paul Stookey) during intermission; I was a bit jealous -- my copy of that album went walkabout years ago.
Another magical evening.
Here's Dark Old Waters:
And Stormy Weather:
And George's River:
For many years, Bok sang with Ann Mayo Muir and Ed Trickett. Here they sing Hymn Song with Ed Trickett taking lead vocal.
The Last Kennebek Log Drive:
Here's another from Bok, Mayo and Trickett, with Ann Mayo Muir taking the lead:
The trio does Living on the River:
Here's a jumpy video from a workshop with Bok doing instrumentals from Yaqi Indian melodies:
Despite his many albums, there's very little of Gordon Bok on the web, although there are many covers. But I'm not going to link to any of the covers. Instead, on a completely unrelated subject, here's The Fabulous G-Strings:
For more forgotten music, check out Scott D. Parker.