Review: Cherryholmes live is an amazing experience

Bluegrass/Americana pickers Cherryholmes.

Photo by Erick Anderson

Bluegrass/Americana pickers Cherryholmes.

Cherryholmes is like the star high school athlete who is also great at math and dabbles in modeling. The family acoustic band flutters effortlessly through genres, seamlessly blends a multitude of influences and comes out sounding wholly original.

During a two-hour performance with the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra on Thursday, the Cherryholmes clan jumped from bluegrass to blues to mountain fiddle to gypsy jazz, all the while enforcing a modern sensibility to well-established art forms.

That the band could master these somewhat disparate sounds entirely is a feat in itself. That the family could make them sound so natural together is amazing.

How often do you hear a blistering bluegrass gospel tracks followed by beautifully lilting gypsy jazz? Yet there was nothing awkward about Cherryholmes transitioning from mama Sandy Lee’s chuga-chuga blast “Standing” to daughter Cia’s country chanteuse act on “Just You,” which sounds like a lost track from a Madeleine Peyroux album.

Known for their virtuosity, the Cherryholmes siblings didn’t disappoint. Their intricate playing was the dominant element of the show. Brothers BJ and Skip are the driving current on most songs while the sisters, Molly and Cia, get to be a bit more of the showstoppers, both vocally and instrumentally.

Certainly Molly has come into her own as a force on the fiddle. If audience members weren’t convinced of her prowess during the first half of the show — when she played an octave violin backward because she forgot her left-handed instrument at home — then they were won over by her playing on the Django Reinhardt-Stephen Grappelli classic “Minor Swing.”

Molly dipped and dived through the well-worked-over solos, making them sound as fresh as they did when they were recorded in 1937. Her tone was both muscular and elegant.

The same could be said for the band. They are making bluegrass with almost a modern gothic mentality. Think Bill Monroe meets Evanescence.

Not lost with the audience were wonderful, whimsical performances of Aaron Copland’s “Rodeo” suite and John Williams overture from “The Cowboys” by the orchestra. The pieces brought to mind classic scenes from Hollywood Westerns — to the point you could almost smell pasture grass.

Much praise is lumped on young players who pick Flatt and Scruggs tunes with reverence. But Cherryholmes is the future of bluegrass, boldly playing classic music with a contemporary flair.

You can hear this evolution on Cherryholmes’ albums, but it’s muted. Live, it metastasizes with a sort of primal urgency. Each note moving the band closer to the goal of writing a new template for modern acoustic music.

Connect with Jonathan Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jonathan_foerster

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