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Everlys, Crickets impress in concert

South Shore Music Circus, Cohasset, Mass., Aug. 24, 2001

By Jon Johnson

COHASSET, MA. - It was a pleasantly cool late summer evening on the Massachusetts south shore when two of the greatest rock 'n' roll acts of the late '50's shared the stage again.

Both the Everly Brothers and Crickets have continued to inspire and impress over the years since the hits stopped coming; the Crickets having worked with the likes of Paul McCartney and, most recently, Nanci Griffith.

And though the Everlys no longer record (due primarily to the brothers' inability to agree on a musical direction), they're still regarded as the torch bearers for a long line of sibling harmony groups that has included the Delmores, the Wilburns, and the Louvins; not to mention Simon & Garfunkel, who got their start as a blatantly Everlys-inspired duo called Tom and Jerry.

And it's worth remembering that both groups, taken together, were easily two of the biggest influences on The Beatles, who took from the Crickets both an insect-inspired monicker and the concept of a self-contained group that wrote their own material. And from the Everlys came the tight, complex harmonies that both acts excelled at.

Backed by the classic Holly-era rhythm section of drummer Jerry Allison and bassist Joe Mauldin, amiable guitarist/vocalist Sonny Curtis was and still is the best of the various frontmen The Crickets have had since Holly's death in 1959. Though Curtis had left the band shortly before the group hit it big with 1957's "That'll Be the Day," he had nonetheless played on most of their early recordings, including his own "Rock Around With Ollie Vee" (oddly enough not performed this night) and has been an extremely successful songwriter over the years, writing such hits as the Bobby Fuller Four's "I Fought the Law" and Keith Whitley's "I'm No Stranger to the Rain," as well as "Love Is All Around" (the theme to "The Mary Tyler Moore Show"; also a college radio hit in the mid-'80's for Hsker D), all of which were performed this evening.

But as one would expect it was the Buddy Holly-era material that the audience reacted most favorably towards. Opening with the one-two punch of "Oh Boy" and "Maybe Baby," the Crickets were in fine form from the start, with Allison's playful, propulsive drumming anchoring the group on "Peggy Sue" and other hits; also taking lead vocals on a cover of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" (though "Real Wild Child," a minor hit for Allison in 1958, might have suited better). And though Mauldin was never as flashy as contemporaries like Bill Black and Marshall Lytle, his playing suits the Crickets' style admirably.

Also worth mentioning is the rendition of Floyd Cramer's 1960 hit "Last Date," featuring some terrific piano work from former Elvis Presley/Emmylou Harris pianist Glen D. Hardin, who did a superb job in augmenting the Crickets' traditional trio lineup, making his presence particularly felt on quieter numbers such as "Everyday" and "True Love Ways."

Judging by the audience's reaction, The Crickets' 45-minute set was regarded as all too brief. A canny booker at the Music Circus would do well to keep them in mind next summer as headliners.

If, as reports suggest, this is the Everly Brothers' final tour, they're going out on a high note. Though rumors persist that the brothers don't get along all that well, rarely interacting offstage, the impression left from the performance is that the Everlys still have as much fun and energy onstage as acts half their age.

Opening with a medley of songs about their home state of Kentucky (including 1967's magnificent "Bowling Green," their final top 40 hit), the brothers fronted a white-hot band of ringers, including guitarist/mandolinist Jamie Hartford (son of the late John Hartford; also singing lead on a spirited rendition of George Jones' "White Lightning") and steel guitar legend Buddy Emmons, plus veterans of their triumphant 1983 Royal Albert Hall comeback show.

More so than The Crickets' set - only half of which was made up of Holly-era material - the Everlys relied primarily on their long string of hits, with the likes of "Bye Bye Love," "Cathy's Clown," "When Will I Be Loved," "All I Have to Do is Dream" and "Love Hurts" making their expected appearances.

That's not to say that the performances were identical to the original recordings. The brothers played around with their phrasing considerably, Don Everly in particular going for a more blues-influenced approach that he would never have dreamed of in his youth. And a high-energy rendition of "Wake Up Little Susie" owed as much to mid-'60's Who as anything else. It says much of the depth of the Everlys catalog that audience favorites such as "Take a Message to Mary," "Bird Dog," "I'm Just Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail," "Poor Jenny" and Paul McCartney's "On the Wings of a Nightingale" (a mid-'80's near-hit) were left off the evening's setlist, with no perceptible grumbling from the audience. Most endearing, perhaps, was a mini-acoustic segment featuring the Everlys on guitars and Hartford on mandolin. "Long Time Gone," from 1958's classic "Songs Our Daddy Taught Us," led into a cover of the Delmore Brothers' "Blues Stay Away From Me," on which the Everlys and Hartford were rejoined by their band halfway through the song. Leaving the stage after a rave-up rendition of Jimmie Rodgers' "T For Texas" (from 1968's underrated "Roots") and "Walk Right Back" (another chestnut from the Sonny Curtis songbook), one couldn't help but be saddened by the brothers' retirement from studio work. Given better material than what was usually available on their hit-and-miss '80's recordings for Mercury, it's hard to imagine that there isn't still a place in the world for the Everly Brothers.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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