- Review by Rob Adams for The Herald, Scotland. September 30, 2015
Corn Potato String Band, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
The terms “instrument swapping” and “communal guitar” take on new meaning when the Corn Potato String Band come to town. Even their name threatens to change, into Corn Potato Swing Band, as Aaron Jonah Lewis, Lindsay McCaw and Ben Belcher delve into the history of American roots music and share their varyingly honest, homespun and virtuosic findings from the tune that was Abraham Lincoln’s favourite through the New Mexican wave, ragtime, Hank and Slim to their own Route 77, a rare original in two dedicatedly researched and lovingly delivered sets.
Lewis and Belcher have form going back some way in these parts, being participants in the madly brilliant, Flatt & Scruggs to Frank Zappa team that was Special Ed & the Shortbus, the Herald Angel winners who thought better of that politically dodgy moniker and mutated into the Hot Seats. There’s no Zappa in the current trio, save for Lewis’s zany humour, but the tightness of arrangements that marked out Special Ed is very much at play as two fiddles and guitar tear up a polka, two banjos and guitar combine to create a kind of player piano effect, three voices blend in emotional longing, and three fiddles converse with rustic fidelity.
In among all that there was heartfelt and harmonious yodelling, rhythmically swinging and musically propellant square dancing from McCaw and a Russian Rag where fiddles and banjo brought both flavours suggested in the title together into something resembling Cossack bluegrass. A fun and enriching evening that even had something for the twitchers in the audience in the shape of the generously bearded Lewis’ compendious and mirthful birdsong impersonations – on fiddle.