Hallelujah and hot-damn if there wasn’t a spotlight shining from above on Amsterdam Saturday night as Dutch Americana virtuosos Dawn Brothers, DeWolff and friends put on a quite extraordinary show to launch their new collaborative EP/album under the appropriately-named, band collective – Next Of Kin.
And standing behind that spotlight were the giants of the genre – Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Joe Cocker, Rick Danko, Gram Parsons and those Burrito Brothers, Leon, Lowell, Jerry….each of them toking on a banana-sized doobie and, with an approving tug of the beard and a wry smile, uttering “hell yeah”.
Standing on the shoulders of these veritable giants of the genre, fourteen virtuoso musicians, comprised of the cream of the Dutch Delta – The Dawn Brothers and DeWolff plus friends and like-minded hobos, vagabonds and thieves, Merel Sophie, David Gram, Stefan Wolfs and Tim Knol.
Opening with half a dozen tracks from their own increasingly impressive catalogue, The Dawn Brothers were then joined on stage by DeWolff for a run through of arguably two of the best tracks from 2018’s Thrust album (“Swain” and “Outta Step And Ill At Ease”). From that point on, a total of 14 musicians graced the stage and treated a sold out crowd of 350 country/blues and Americana aficionados to a night of exemplary roots rock.
With two drummers (both also taking on vocals), two keyboards players, four guitars, bass, three-part brass section, backing vocals and two (yes two !) lap steel set-ups, the entire room was shitting in high cotton – the Last Waltz may have been 43 years ago but this felt like the First Dance of a resurgent era of Americana.
It would not be out of place to say that Next Of Kin are celebrating and repurposing this entire genre of music exactly the way the Stones did with the Delta blues – studying it, exploring it, respecting it but also pushing it further with youthful energy and wildly-accomplished musicianship.
In this world of plenty and instant accessibility, it’s all about the live experience and the evening felt so much like the times way back when I saw Crosby, Stills and Nash and The Band at iconic places like the Fillmore (West). Yes, that good.
The Dawn Brothers and DeWolff should absolutely be checked out individually – but it was the way this all fit together that was incredible….the poppier sensibilities of the former with the harder, bluesier edge of the latter – the chemistry, the camaraderie and the playing, the intertwining jams, the knowing nods amongst band members when everything locked in tight, which it did for two solid hours.
You wanted it to go on all night, these guys could have played until sun-up – it was superb. You were transported but also right in the moment of something extra-special – a hotbed of Americana celebrated in north Amsterdam – and then sent home after a rousing rendition of The Band’s “Don’t Do It”. Respect.
This is a community of friends which you can imagine jamming on the back porch somewhere in the Tennessee countryside, united and bonded in their love of every aspect of Americana – the twangy guitar picking, the natural flow of top quality songs, the simultaneous sweetness and power of Merel Sophie’s vocals, the intricate and goosebump-inducing slide, rhythm and lead work of David Gram and Stefan Wolfs, the country-boy freshness and energy of cheeky-chappy Tim Knol – all feeding off and nourishing each other with astounding precision……and best of all, good fun and vibes.
America probably doesn’t know (yet) what Americana has – a bunch of fine musicians taking us back to the garden, paying respectful homage to the greats and assuring us that what may have been lost to some over the last fifty years, now has a future beyond limits.
When I asked how much work had gone into preparing for this show, one of those humble but feisty Dawn Brothers told me they got together one day the week before…..for a whole morning!! These folks drink the lightning direct from the bottle and I feel very privileged to have been able to experience it.
Five stars for the show, five stars for each person on that stage, five stars for the collective love in that intimate room in north Amsterdam – here’s to the next fifty years of Americana. Leon, Levon and the grandfathers of the genre can rest easy in the juke joints of heaven.
Review by Mark “Mad Dog” Shaw
(* = with horns)
Next of Kin (NOK) = Dawn Brothers, DeWolff, Merel Sophie, David Gram, Stefan Wolfs
NOK+TK = NOK + Tim Knol (who blasted in late but great, fresh from another show the same evening)
1. DB – Stayin’ Out Late *2. DB – Summer Jam 2017 *3. DB – Eagle One *4. DB – Darling 5. DB – Too Many Colors In The Sun6. DB – Yours & Mine7. NOK – Outta Step & Ill At Ease8. NOK – Swain9. NOK – She Turns My Radio On *10. NOK – Let’s Be There There Together *10. NOK – Kill Me Tomorrow *11. NOK – Devil Woman12. NOK+TK – Shallow Water13. NOK+TK – All In Time14. NOK+TK – Silent Whisperer
Encores 15. NOK+TK – Vampire * 16. NOK+TK – Don’t Do It *
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