In the course of its relatively brief five-year/three-album run, Chesapeake (comprised of three former members of the Seldom Scene, along with the eminently talented Jimmy Gaudreau on vocals, mandolin, and guitar) made some fine, groundbreaking music. But Chesapeake’s bold, free-wheeling penchant for stacking hefty doses of pop and rock’n’roll on its bluegrass underpinnings, was also apparently a little bit too far ahead of its time. (For some reason featuring a piano in a so-called bluegrass band seemed to set a lot of purists’ teeth on edge.)
To the good fortune of listeners, Gaudreau, Mike Auldridge (vocals, resonator, pedal and lap steel), T. Michael Coleman (vocals, bass), and Moondi Klein (vocals, guitar, and piano), aided by gifted soundman Ed Solomon, recorded many of Chesapeake’s live shows. These twenty fine cuts, drawn from performances at festivals and various popular music venues including the Birchmere and the Station Inn, span roughly a decade.
The earliest tracks are from 1990 when Chesapeake was still a side project for Auldridge, Coleman, and Klein, then still with the Seldom Scene. The most recent are from 1999 when Chesapeake was nearing the end of its run. Quite a few of these previously unreleased performances feature a sampling of the stellar guests who joined Chesapeake onstage at various times and places. These include Doc Watson (heard in all his glory on a 1998 rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Train Of Love”), Tony Rice (who plays exquisite lead guitar runs on the Big Band-era classic “Georgia”), Sam Bush John Cowan, and Larry Atamanuik (who join Chesapeake for a rousing version of “Working On A Building”), along with Sammy Shelor, Rickie Simpkins, and Jeff Little, among others. No less impressive are Chesapeake’s unaccompanied outings on gems such as James Taylor’s “Bartender’s Blues,” Rodney Crowell’s “California Earthquake,” the Alfred F. Brumley classic “By The Side Of The Road,” and the quirky, hilarious “Bill Cheatham’s Tasteless Walk On The Wild Side Of Mission Impossible.”
While documenting a minor yet vital piece of modern bluegrass history and offering previously unheard performances by some of bluegrass music’s legendary figures, Hook, Live & Sinker also makes for delightful listening. (Chesterbury Records, 8404 Harker Dr., Potomac, MD, www.chesterburyrecords.com.)BA