|While Kane and Welch are the bands songwriting force, Fats Kaplin is the most virtuosic of the trio; and he traded his fiddle for an accordion on the boogie-stomping I Cant Wait (from their second CD Lost John Dean) that has been recently covered by Canadian legends Quartette. He then took the stage for a solo highlands number transposed to a rural homestead in western Illinois called Maloney Road. Hearing him relate growing up in New York City, telling his mother of a desire to become an itinerant fiddle player in his pleasant Midwestern twang was an all-time Say what? musical moment.
The shows most poignantly lyrical number was The Last Lost Highway, a tribute to Welchs late mentor Pat Long. There were no turnarounds indeed. Although they did turn around to the haunting hill-country blues stomp track to You Cant Save Everybody. Another glimpse into the remarkable persona of this band was Welchs confessing to meditating on psychotic murders as a songwriters diversion, and putting the audience in the palm of his hand as he did it, with Dark Boogie #7 on which he sang in an almost spoken-word cadence over Kaplins smoldering lead.
Early in the second set, Postcard from Mexico brought to mind the sound of another essential American troubadour J.J. Cale. It was followed by another rock-stomper 12 Chimes. Then on Highland Mary Welch took the audience back in time with him to the songs inspirational genesis, a visit to Robert Burns home pub in Scotland.
Dont Try to Fight It was a brilliantly-titled tribute to U.S. troops returning home from Afghanistan, one on which the melody of the song spoke louder than the words in terms of indicating the groups political conscience. Kieran Kane led the following number, A Town This Size a meditation on the lack of boundaries in small-town America has been covered by folk icons John Prine and Charlie Musselwhite.
One of the bands signature songs, Jersey Devil from the first CD was a highlight of the show, a rollicking rock-tempo number with a marvelously polyrhythmic dirge from Kaplin on accordion. Kane poignantly carried Red Light Blinkin, a banjo-fuelled Willy Loman inspired tribute to people who make their livings on the road from the new disc. The compositional balance between Kanes slice-of-life Americana singer-songwriting and Welchs darker, more abstract places of inspiration together with Kaplins brilliance for melodic nuance and Lucas Kanes simple, stripped-down percussive heartbeat truly does give this band a musically richer and more detailed feel than the typical folk experience.
Kaplin stepped to the fore again on he Middle Eastern based melody of Mr. Bones, bringing the crowd to its loudest of the night; and again on the encore 8 More Miles where he used guitar-style picking on the fiddle to stunning effect. Kane good-naturedly jibed that this was the Canadian content for the night based on its single Vancouver-inspired verse. This was the last night of a tour for Kane Welch Kaplin, and Toronto should be honoured to have witnessed the end of another adventure for these roots music masters.