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Concert Reviews:
Detroit Country Music revue lays on some twang at the Crofoot

By Gary Graff
ggraff@medianewsgroup.com, @GraffonMusic on Twitte

Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019

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PONTIAC -- Detroit Rock City put on a little twang Wednesday night, Sept. 11, at the Crofoot Ballroom.

To celebrate the upcoming Ken Burns documentary "Country Music," Detroit Public Television hosted an evening of Detroit Country Music, -a spirited two-and-a-half-hour revue whose dozen performances offered an array of entertainment, from the fancy footwork of the Tri-County Squares and the Commonwealth Cloggers to Aaron Jonah Lewis' solo fiddle and banjo songs and the youthful Saline Fiddlers Philharmonic's down-home equivalent to the Detroit Youth Choir's ebullient "America's Got Talent" spots.

The Crofoot stage was decked out with hay bales, wagon wheels and clothes lines for the occasion, and there was probably more vintage-style frontier wear on display than anywhere else this side of the Mason-Dixon line.

The show also offered an excursion into the metro area's largely under radar country music history, including a historical film clip and brief discussion with performers Craig "Bones" Maki and Keith Cody, also authors of the 2013 book "Detroit Country Music." Maki and his band played what's considered to be Detroit's first country song, the York Brothers' "Hamtramck Mama" -- banned in 1939 as too risque, he noted -- as well as early Detroit music hero Jack Scott's 1957 hit "Touch Me Baby, I Go Hog Wild." The Saline Fiddlers' song-and-dance set included staples such as "Georgia Thunder" and "Orange Blossom Special," and Ethan Daniel Davidson essayed Willie Nelson's "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground."

Frontier Ruckus' Matthew Milla powered through his group's two songs with a broken collarbone, while a pair of reunions finished the night -- the Volebeats, on stage for the first time in three years (and currently finishing a new album) and the first performance in eight years by Blanche, the gothic country troupe led by the night's droll host, Dan John Miller, and his wife Tracee Lee Miller with renditions of "Bluebird" and the murder ballad "The World I Used to be Afraid Of."

Most of the other performers joined Blanche for a finale of, appropriately, Bobby Bare's 1963 single "Detroit City" amidst suggestions that the show hit the road to other spots around the state. And Wednesday’s event certainly made a convincing case that that's exactly what should happen.

"Country Music" begins at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15 on Detroit Public TV (Channel 56), concluding Sept. 25. dptv.org.

Web Site: www.dptv.org

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