CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- By the end of the evening, "Mountain Stage" host Larry Groce was joking that you'd never see these particular bands on the same stage again and he's probably right.A brass band, a Neo-traditional Celtic group and an Israeli-born singer/songwriter together in one place sounds like the start of a bar joke, but it was just another Sunday night for the radio show, which returned to the Culture Center in Charleston for their 29th season.It was a good show, a diverse show, that branched in several musical directions, giving the audience plenty to sample from, but it was not a sold-out show. Sell- out shows on Superbowl Sunday, a day kept as holy as Christmas in much of the country, are rare, but a sizable crowd turned off their televisions and came out for live music.What the crowd lacked in sheer numbers they made up for with brute enthusiasm, and there was plenty to get excited about. The evening began with Celtic band Solas then veered all over the map, running through very different singer/songwriters, including Rosi Golan, Jimmy LaFave and Darrell Scott before finally finishing up with New Orleans jazz/funk combo, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
"Mountain Stage" also took time during the show to pause and remember West Virginia poet laureate Irene McKinney, a longtime friend of the show whose works had been read on the program occasionally.McKinney died of cancer Saturday in her home Barbour County. She was 72.
As always, some musical sets were better than others, though each act brought their own particular charms and nobody was hard on the ear. The music of Solas was both thoughtful and rousing. Golan has a remarkable voice that at times conjured up a young Dolly Parton without the Tennessee twang and Jimmy LaFave was just plain charming.His cover of Woody Guthrie's "Oklahoma Hills" was a lot of fun and a nice way to remind people that 2012 celebrates Guthrie's 100th birthday, but Darrell Scott was jaw-droppingly good.Scott performed selections from his new record, "Long Ride Home," an album he wrote as a kind of homage to the country music of his youth and to the music his father also loved. His delivery was incredibly polished without ever seeming slick and the songs were fantastic.Also good was The Dirty Dozen Brass Band who took the evening as far away from country music and singer/songwriters as it could go without actually diving into the ocean. They performed an exuberant set of music that begged for dancing.The whole evening seemed like a promising start for another year of "Mountain Stage." Reach Bill Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org