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Oregon Music News: Oregon’s all-genre music magazine since 2009

07/02/2019

Baby Gramps Time Warp at Laurelthirst Public House Friday, July 5th, 2019 / Preview

By MICHAEL "SHOEHORN" CONLEY // His lyrics evoke bygone magic and parties of the moonshine era, and he has a vast repertoire of folk materials which are nightly poured into various molds and recast as modern Americana.

Writer Michael "Shoehorn" Conley is one of the performers who regularly back up Baby Gramps. -- Ed.

Portland's best-kept musical secret is a long-running First Friday residency at the Laurelthirst Public House by Seattle’s Baby Gramps. Going back about 25 years, Gramps brings his singular vocal stylings and steel resonator guitar each month to the beloved Portland venue. It is rare for any club to extend that kind of support to any artist, and there has to be a reason why Gramps has survived several booking managers at the bar.

Robert Christgau, of The Village Voice, called Gramps "A deep original with a rooting in blues..." which is a complete understatement. Utilizing not only fingerpicks, but extended strumming techniques and an exquisitely elastic time feel, Gramps can “rag” anything he chooses to, but he can also call down the spirits, setting ethereal moods and spellbinding trances.

His lyrics evoke bygone magic and parties of the moonshine era, and he has a vast repertoire of folk materials which are nightly poured into various molds and recast as modern Americana.

Often as not some of the audience will dance, and this can be anything from couples swing dancing to a willowy ingenue’s interpretive gyrations in front of the stage.

Gramps name-drops not only obvious influences like Mississippi John Hurt and Bob Dylan, but plenty of lesser-known musical artists like the hapless NW drifter Rollin’ Joe, and actor Robert Mitchum, who had a rockabilly hit in the 50’s with lyrics about running moonshine in souped-up cars, Thunder Road.
Baby Gramps’ largest commercial success came inadvertently when he was asked to contribute to the hit 2006 compilation Rogue’s Gallery, produced by Hal Wilner and boasting a roster of artists seldom equaled in popular entertainment. Bono, Sting, Johnny Depp, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Bill Frisell, Lucinda Williams,….the list is impressive.

The popularity of the record led to world tours, royalty checks, and appearances on Late Night with David Letterman, where he was backed by members of Dylan’s band. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogue%27s_Gallery:_Pirate_Ballads,_Sea_Songs,_and_Chanteys.

Backed at the Laurelthirst by local acolytes and occasional out-of-town guests, Gramps involves audiences in his show, which is leavened with humor, and full of rhythm, virtuosic guitar work, and a wooly authenticity befitting a Northwest legend.

In addition to July 5th and August 2nd at the Laurelthirst, Baby Gramps will perform at the Oregon Country Fair in Veneta July 12-14.

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Comments

Dana Morgan

I love you Nabt Gramps
Evet somce i used to watch ypu on Vemeeta undet the old oal tree back in oh, 1980~ something.
I am hooing to be there with my son thuss year amd will look for you under the old oak tree
lovesnhugs 😊

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