Concert Review: Jesse Brock & Streamliner

The Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association kicked off their fall concert season on Saturday, October 5 with an outstanding performance by Jesse Brock and Streamliner. Familiar to many of us through his longtime role as mandolinist for the Gibson Brothers, Jesse Bock relaunched his career as a headliner with this concert. All of us who were there were incredibly fortunate to be present.

Streamliner features guitarist/vocalist Greg Blake, fiddler/vocalist Ellie Hakanson and Bassist/vocalist Nico LaRoche-Humby (who have played together regularly with the band Jeff Scroggins and Colorado) along with banjoist/vocalist Mark Delaney. Each player displayed outstanding mastery over their instrument and the solo vocals from Greg, Ellie, and Nico were all strong in each performer’s unique style. Fills were stellar by all, but especially from Jesse – giving a perfect counter statement both rhythmically and melodically to whatever came just before. Ellie is an amazing fiddler and drew from a huge repertoire of styles to accompany others’ vocal and instrumental lines. Banjoist Delaney was highly effective at gluing everything together with his rhythmic drive, playing with dynamics, never overwhelming but instead complementing the other musicians with his tasteful fills.

The fact that three of these musicians have a history together was part of the joy of this concert; Blake, Hakanson and Laroche-Humby were incredibly tight both instrumentally and with their vocal harmonies, articulating and accenting their consonants together in that inimitable bluegrass way. The audience seemed to especially love the old country songs — by Mac Wiseman, Buck Owens, Jimmy Martin and other songs made famous by Kitty Wells, along with the exuberant energy that flew off bass player Nico whenever he sang a solo. Jesse proved to be not only an outstanding musician but an incredibly gracious band-leader, never hesitating to share the spotlight with his able mates.

I also loved observing all of the human interactions on stage: the personal banter that revealed some of the musicians’ mutual history, both short and long term, the fill and solo dances around a central mike, the way Greg watched Jesse SO carefully towards the ends of tunes to finish last licks together. These interactions, along with the incredible intonation and unified inflections within their three-part harmonies is what brought the magic to this performance for me.

Let’s hope they’ll be back again soon!

Nina Dryer

Nina Dryer, fiddler, also plays viola and cello when she’s away from bluegrass. Nina is a music teacher working in Connecticut public schools.

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