Dan Tyminski Band and Tony Rice Unit
Meymandi Concert Hall, Raleigh
Wednesday, March 11
The penultimate performance in Pinecone's 2008-2009 Down Home Series was an evening of contrasts: Venerable flatpicker Tony Rice—his unit a seasoned quartet that included current IBMA guitarist of the year Josh Williams on mandolin and vocals—led with a terrific rendition of "My Favorite Things" that spotlighted each member's instrumental prowess. Bassist Bryn Bright's solo received particularly raucous approval.
While Rice and his Unit made the Rodgers and Hammerstein standard their own, the rest of the eight song, hour-long set never reached the same heights. Rice interspersed jazzy newgrass instrumentals—a sultry duet between Rice and Bright that belonged more in a smoky club than the polished expanse of Meymandi—with extended trad.grass jams. They tackled both The Delmore Brothers' "Blue Railroad Train" and Norman Blake's "Ginseng Sullivan," both from 1979's Manzanita, plugging away at the same tune long after they petered out. Despite a standing ovation, the Unit's formulaic approach—really, do we need four extended bass solos in an hour?—made for a self-indulgent showcase.
Dan Tyminski, then, seemed punk in comparison: Ripping through 18 songs in just over an hour, Tyminski's quartet—nine IBMA Instrumentalist of the Year awards between them, on top of Tyminski's trio of vocalist trophies—rarely let off the gas. Highlights included the three-part harmonies and fiddle 'n' banjo stomp of "This Sad Song," which Tyminski sang on Alison Krauss' Lonely Runs Both Ways, and the obligatory "Man of Constant Sorrow," which Tyminski described as his "Milli Vanilli moment." Even when things occasionally slowed, as on the Jimmy Walker-popularized classic "Mary Ann," it only gave Tyminski's rich tenor more space to shine. Tyminski called Rice his "greatest hero." He and his boys may not have out-played the Tony Rice Unit, but they surely out-entertained it.