Dirty Linen, February/March 1998
Cherry Tree Music Co-Op,
Philadelphia, PA, November 9, 1997
View the original article
"English Folk-Rock." "Electric Folk." "Electrified Traditional Music."
Whatever you call it, you have to admit there have been only a few American
acts who do a decent job at it. One of those acts, Broadside Electric, have a
strong local following in the Philadelphia area mostly separate from the
usual folk audiences. The band has recently added two new members and thus
expanded their sound. Where once there were only strings of guitar, Chapman
Stick® and fiddle, there is now the breath of woodwinds and the power of drums,
as well. For their recent concert at the Cherry Tree, they seemed to import a
lot of their own fans, people who knew the words to their songs and seemed to
share a lot of inside jokes with the band. At the same time, they gave
members of the usual folk audiences something new to talk about.
Like so many bands of this type, Broadside Electric have a fascination for
ballads with gruesome themes and unhappy endings. They opened their set with
Tom Rhoads' version of "Bonnie Banks of the Vergie," the great old ballad in
which a robber stabs two of his own sisters to death in a case of mistaken
identity. They played a suitably silly version of "With Head Tucked
Underneath Her Arm," on which Amy Ksir, one of the band's new members, traded
her tin whistle for an oboe, and a nice setting of "The Silkie" featuring
lovely Stick playing by Jim Speer. Rhoads emulated Bert Jansch's picking on
his arrangement of "Bonnie Portmore" with quite respectable results, and the
whole band did a good job on the sad whaling song "Wings of the Gooney."
Luckily, this group mixes levity with gravity. Songs like "As I Roved Out"
and "J'ai Vu Le Loup" caught a more festive mood, and a Sephardic love song
added a romantic touch. The band's trademark version of the Animaniacs' song
"Magellan" was also a highlight. In addition to these songs, the many sets of
tunes admirably led by fiddler Helene Zisook and by Ksir added briskness to
the set. Although there was some shakiness in the instrumental numbers here
and there, I suspect this is the normal effect of a band with two newly
- Steve Winick (Philadelphia, PA)
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