Review: Special Consensus Concert

Special Consensus performed at the Unitarian Fellowship of Poughkeepsie on March 10th, 2023 as part of the Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association concert series. This show was part of an ambitious national touring schedule that takes the band into 2024.

“Special C” has their roots firmly planted in traditional bluegrass, but over their forty-five-year history the sound has evolved with the times. Their music has been described as a “modern classic style.” The current line-up of the four-piece group is comprised of Greg Cahill [banjo], Dan Eubanks [upright bass], Greg Blake [guitar] and Michael Prewitt [mandolin].

Greg Cahill is a recipient of the prestigious Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) and was inducted into the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA) Hall of Greats. Special Consensus has released 20 band recordings and received six awards from the IBMA and two Grammy nominations.

After an introduction by HVBA president David Chernack, the show kicked off with “Long I Ride,” the title track from their 2016 album. It was immediately apparent that the audience was in for an evening of high-octane music. What followed that was a comprehensive review of the group’s extensive repertoire. Material included “Travelin’ Shoes,” “Chicago Barn Dance,” “Lake Shore Drive,” “Ten Mile Tennessee,” and some surprises such as bluegrass interpretations of “City of New Orleans,” by Steve Goodman, John Denver’s “Matthew,” and a delightful version of “My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)”.

Particularly striking was that each member possessed their own unique singing voice and could be considered a lead vocalist in their own right. Together, the combined voices produced a rich, authentic, traditional bluegrass harmony.

The show ran approximately two and a half hours. About halfway through, the boys took a brief intermission and gathered at their merchandise table where they interacted freely with the fans. The band was very generous with their time both during the intermission and after the show.

The performance was well-attended by an enthusiastic audience. The crowd showed their appreciation after each masterful solo with whoops and applause, and again at the conclusion of every song.

The performance space has wonderful acoustics which provide an immediacy and presence to the sound. Overall, the space provided a sense of intimacy and made the listener feel like they were witnessing something special. The live sound mix by Peter Conklin was well-balanced. The acoustic quartet’s sound was enhanced by microphones on each vocalist as well as the individual instruments.

In emphasizing Special C’s Chicago roots, band leader and founder Greg Cahill pointed out that Bill Monroe himself had come up to the Chicago area seeking work at an oil refinery. It was during this time that Monroe appeared on the WLS “National Barn Dance” show, a precursor to the Grand Ole Opry.

Danny DiPaola

Dan DiPaola has a checkered past. He has worked in the music industry as a film composer, jingle writer, producer, recording engineer and studio owner. Additionally he built and operated a restaurant/performance space called “Danny’s” in Ossining, NY. Danny is currently working in healthcare.

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