That's not a combination you see very often, I think. Yet Asheville's Eleanor Underhill (banjoist of the aforementioned Underhill Rose) easily made it work to satisfying proportions.
She was in town Friday night, performing at High Rock Outfitters for the Lexington release of her first solo CD, "Navigate the Madness". Backing her up were three talented musicians in their own right – Silas Durocher (lead), Matt Lane (bass) and Chris Pyle (drums) – whom she calls Eleanor & Friends and who play fairly regularly at 5 Walnut Wine Bar in Asheville.
Eleanor played five or six songs off of her new album, several Underhill Rose songs, an unpublished tune or two that could eventually show up in the UR catalogue and a bunch of covers ranging from Steve Miller to Prince.
It was kind of a revealing evening. I'm used to seeing Eleanor as one half of Underhill Rose (with Molly Rose Reed the other half) singing beautiful harmonies.
Interestingly, last night really wasn't about seeing Eleanor come out of her musical comfort zone. In my world, it was more about me coming out of mine.
It became abundantly clear to me that musicians like Eleanor are probably filled to overflowing with their art and consequently utilize other avenues of expression to get their musical exploration out there.
I was also impressed with how easily all the talent on the stage glided from one genre to another and how they seemingly enjoyed (eyes closed, brows furrowed) each tune they performed. Their solo bridges, as usual, highlighted their talents, as well as their love for what they do.
I can't do anything musical except listen to it. But even that, as a member of the audience, requires a subtle talent to discern and appreciate what you are hearing. I think that's a revelation that came to me last night. We are the artist's sounding board. They need us and we need them.
That's also why I wasn't sure what to expect from Eleanor last night when we walked into HRO, but when she was done with her show, we came away impressed and satisfied.
Well done, Eleanor.
• • •On a side note, Eleanor's performance was highlighted by the arrival of her parents, Roy and Jane, who were on hand to celebrate Jane's birthday.
Roy, of course, is the host of the long running PBS program, The Woodwright's Shop. It was evident for all to see the obvious pride both Roy and Jane have for their daughter's accomplishments.