Friday, August 12, 2011

Rocking Out in Lexington

Rudnick and Friends Bring Zydeco to Massachusetts

The year 2008 was a turning point for Ben Rudnick and Friends. The family-styled jam band's accordion player Mark Yacovone was moving to Mississippi (and leaving the group). Yacovone's final show was for Ben Rudnick and Friends' annual performance at the Town Green in Lexington, MA (site of their very first show). As a bonus, they were joined by saxophone player Rob Lee. What resulted is the new full-length concert CD, LIVE IN LEXINGTON: UNDER THE COPPER BEECH.

The Lexington Friday night concert series has existed for more than a decade. Ben Rudnick and Friends have played the venue since 2001, in front of crowds as large as 2,000 people. People gather on the historic Green with chairs and blankets and food and kids and balloons. "We like to say it's America at its best on a Friday night, sort of a Norman Rockwell image with a little tie-dye thrown in for good measure," Rudnick says.

A studio CD provides a snapshot of where an artist and his band happen to be at that precise moment in time. For Rudnick's CD, EMILY SONGS, Rudnick was engaging his young daughter in the writing and recording process. Some of those songs ("I Like Silver, I Like Gold" and "I Need a Hand") surface on LIVE IN LEXINGTON, where they resound more with his (grown) daughter still contributing vocals.

The concert experience is always different. The arrangements are looser, there are more musical references to songs from outside sources, and energy from the crowd definitely reverberates in the performances. Plus Rudnick and Friends roll out an eclectic collection of cover choices, including Dire Straits' "Walk of Life," Buddy Holly's "Oh Boy," and Hank Williams' "Hey Good Lookin'."

The band infuses true New Orleans jazz and zydeco into traditional numbers "Jambalaya," "When the Saints Go Marching In," and even "Hava Nagila." You can tell that on this July evening in 2008, Ben Rudnick and Friends were in a happy place - figuratively and literally. And they've chosen 2011 to share their positive experience with all of us. "We're down to our last tune, which kind of probably upsets us more than it does you," Rudnick bemoans at the end of the CD. Well, at home, we can just hit REPLAY and relive the concert again.
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