THE DOC MARSHALLS
The slack was more than taken up by the Doc Marshalls — "a first-rate country and Cajun band," according to the New York Times — whom I joined in 2008 after playing on their excellent second CD, Honest For Once. Led by singer/songwriter/
guitarist/accordionist Nick Beaudoing, the band played a varied repertoire of originals, Cajun and honky-tonk, and garnered good press and regular airplay on satellite radio. We gigged regularly for several years in NYC and Texas, along with club and festival shows in New England and the Southeast. In 2010 we played for 10,000 French country music fans at the Craponne festival, followed by two weeks in Holland and Belgium.
In 2011 Nick moved to Nashville to start a family, leaving the rest of the band in New York. After releasing their third album as the Doc Marshalls, Look Out Compadre, in 2012, the band did two more tours of Texas and the Southeast. But the long intervals of inactivity and being scattered over such a distance took their toll, and although they laid down all the tracks for the next album, bassist Terence Murren and drummer Doug Clark both left for other pursuits. That album, Thirsty Valley, was released in 2015 under the name Runner of the Woods. Since then Nick and I have worked occasionally with a rotating cast of players.
Around 2008 I also started doing shows with Baltimore honky-tonk honcho Arty Hill, and appeared on his CD Another Lost Highway.
In October 2008, the original Mundanes had their first reunion since the early '80s, which was quite emotional and exciting for all involved and rocked fiercely.
During the recording of Look Out Compadre, I got to play with Josh Kaufman, a wonderfully original guitarist and producer (notably on Bob Weir's 2016 comeback album, Blue Mountain) whom Nick had brought in to play on the record. The sounds we made together accelerated the germination of an idea I had had for a long time about a pedal steel–based instrumental combo covering '60s and '70s pop hits, and on the ride back from a Docs gig with Terence Murren, the three of us decided to form The Combine. Josh brought in Brian Kantor to play drums, and we play as often as our extremely busy schedules permit and have done several recordings at Dubway Studios in New York.
THE CRUSTY GENTLEMEN
In 2009 I took up the dobro, which was another revelation. Having an instrument that straddled the guitar and pedal steel realms — and that I could also sling over my shoulder and carry on the bus — was appealing in many ways, and gave me a reason to hang around with some old friends from Providence days, Bob Holmes and Doug Allen, veterans of New Wave country concept band Rubber Rodeo. Augmented by banjo player Jeffrey "Bossy Frog" Friedberg and bassist Roger Moley, we landed a monthly gig playing bluegrass at Cowgirl Seahorse, a charming bar and restaurant near the Seaport, and became The Crusty Gentlemen. We have not missed a month since.
By 2012 I had been wanting to get back into singing and playing my songs for a while, but I didn’t want to start the same thing over again, with the same unshared burden of responsibilities. So when my old friend Kevin Johnson called me to announce that he wanted to get back into music after a 12-year hiatus, and that he wanted to do it with me — 50-50 songwriting and singing duties (likewise expenses and labor) — I was thrilled. And with good reason.
Kevin — a first-rate singer and songwriter with several excellent albums to his name — and I had met in the early '90s when he had taken the initiative to contact me after hearing my first album. He was doing well in D.C. playing a similarly inspired style of rootsy rocking pop, and arranged for us to share many bills on that circuit, specially at IOTA, a venue in Arlington , Va., that is still Linemen Central.
Joining forces gave us not only a formidable back catalog of songs, but also the chance to collaborate on some new ones, which we did with great results. After a few auspicious gigs as the new Linemen, we set about recording our debut album, Close the Place Down, which came out in October 2016 and made the top 50 on the Americana Music Association chart. Besides me on guitar and pedal steel and Kevin on acoustic guitar, the band includes D.C. veterans Scott McKnight on bass, Bill Williams on various guitars and mandolin, and Antoine Sanfuentes on drums and percussion. The band plays up and down the East Coast regularly.