I seldom do exactly the same show in the basement, but here it was just over a year since the Loves It! duo of Jenny Parrot and Vaughn Walters had last been in the basement and here was Winn Dixie opening for them again. Many of the same folks were in attendance, heck, even the sound guy was the same. It’s hard to ask anyone else to open, because no one is a bigger fan of Loves It! than (honorary Kentucky) Colonel Andy Moore. It would be déjà vu all over again if not for one difference, both bands had added a bass player since their last appearance. In the case of Winn Dixie, Kyle Jacobson (of the Whitney Mann band) sat in for a handful of songs on upright bass, giving their Appalachian folk a little more power. On the upright for Loves It! was Kurt Johnson, a Wisconsin native who now lives in West Virginia via Texas. Whereas Jacobson’s style was more traditional (but still awesome), Johnson was an inventive player, coaxing sounds out of his bass that you don’t often hear.
Just as remarkable as his playing was his amazing collapsible bass. Jenny told me I had to watch him assemble it, and I did the same for a few other folks when it came time to break it down after the show. I should have taken video because in just a few simple steps an instrument as tall as me had been packed into a case half my height. The bridge slides out, loosening the strings and the neck bends backward into the body through a secret panel. It all fits nicely into a specially made case and the whole thing weighs less than fifty pounds, which means no extra fees when flying with it. In fact, Johnson had bought it simply to travel to Europe with the duo, though apparently it could sound better. “If I’d have known that bass was going to be here,” he said, motioning to Jacobson’s instrument nestled under the stairs, “I would have asked to borrow that.”
I certainly couldn’t tell, since, as predicted by Parrot, he made them sound awesome. They’ve grown a lot since their appropriately titled first record “Yay!” which was recorded with a few spare hours of studio time. The new All We Are sounds more like them, every time I listen to it I feel like I’m seeing them in the basement. The show opened with the clever acapella “Katydid” just as the record does. The traditional sounding tune shows off both their voices, and how good a songwriter Walters is. There are some hilariously clever songs, like “(How’d You Like to Be) My First Divorce,” a terrific murder ballad “Western Swing Murder” and any number of torch songs, the latter sung by Parrott in her gorgeously baroque voice. The show ended with a ridiculous number of demanded encores. “We’ve never done this many encores!” Parrott exclaimed when they came back the third time. “This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time,” she said. Given the fact that the band plays around two hundred shows a year, that’s quite the compliment.