Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
amily bands can be a thing of beauty. There is nothing like family harmonies and a sense of direction from a band simply because of their bloodlines.
That was not always the case, however, for the bluegrass band Southern Raised in a sold-out show.
The playing was there for the quartet with fiddle player Emily X the clear standout of the four. Emily Clayton was the backbone of the group in song after song during their 85-minute set, taking the music to a higher level. In reality, the entire band – bassist Lindsay Killingsworth, acoustic guitarist Matt Reith and banjo player Alex Clayton (Killingsworth, Reith and Emily Clayton are siblings, while Alex Clayton married into the family when he tied the knot with Emily) – all demonstrated their musical prowess.
Yet, this was a concert that fell short. For starters, Emily Clayton took most of the vocal leads, and she was only a passable singer. Sometimes she was a bit pitchy and other times did the songs justice, but she was not a singer that took command ("Rocky Top" was a prime example). Brother Matt sometimes helped out on duets. There's a lot of timbre in his vocal delivery on the group's recent recordings, but that just didn't come through enough in concert.
There just was a lack of engagement with the material for the most part.Rarely did the group ever display a sense of joy in playing. The night felt more like a paint-by-the-numbers outing in a set heavy on covers.
An exception was the tete-a-tete between Alex Clayton on banjo and Reith on acoustic guitar on the classic "Dueling Banjos." As on the original recording, Clayton and Reith went back and forth with each maintaining a sense of humor in the final notes of each "round." The group closed well with the traditional "Orange Blossom Special" with Emily Clayton leading the way on the fiddle-centric tune.
But there were just not enough moments like that. Sometimes blood just isn't enough.