The Carter Brothers and the Deluge at the Blind Tiger

by Ryan Snyder

The Carter Brothers serve up a tasty set list at the Blind Tiger. (photo by Ryan Snyder)

Who locks all the doors to a venue 10 minutes into the show and spl’its? Call it a little bit of divine intervention, I suppose. What was supposed to be a review of the great gypsy jazz master John Jorgenson playing at the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant took a sanctified right turn into a different kind of house of worship: namely, the Blind Tiger to see the great Carter Brothers testify before a decidedly less pious group.

Tim and Danny Reid Carter’s reputation as terrific individual live acts certainly precedes them, but when performing together, it can be a thing of beauty. As string men, Danny is a heavyweight Southern rock guitarist and Tim assumes an entirely new personality every time he switches from banjo to mandolin to acoustic guitar, but it’s their set lists that demand equal praise. On top of their originals like “Road to Roosky” that span the distances between Celtic rock, folk and swamp rock, their cover selections shine a brighter light on their influences. Their affection for country rock bleeds through in their versions of the Byrds’ “Mr. Spaceman” and Peter Rowan’s “Moonlight Midnight,” while appreciation for great songwriters manifests itself in twangy renditions of John Hiatt’s “Cry Love.” They don’t talk about it much, but their Carter Family upbringing has ensconced traditional gospel tunes into their catalog, and in this case, “Don’t You Hear Jerusalem Moan?” got their electric treatment.

As inexplicable as providence can be, there was another band on the bill whose performance would demand an earnest second look. That band was Greensboro’s own the Deluge, whose name only begins to describe what the six-piece is capable of on stage. Their brand of keyed up jamgrass has just enough of the rousing, old-timey sound to trick the traditionalists into thinking they aren’t throwing decorum to the wind by attending a show.

While it takes some bands years to perfect their sound, the Deluge seems to have hit the sweet spot within their first year of existence. While few acts of their ilk have a dedicated vocalist — though to his credit, Knox does play a roaring harmonica — the arrangement seems to allow the Deluge to stretch out and flex their instrumental muscle with greater ease. Knox does his thing and almost like clockwork, he steps back and allows guitarist Shane Lee or mandolin player James Bernabe to lead the attack while bassist John Holder walks a subtle groove and Josh Tench holds the rhythm on banjo and drums. They’re all gifted players who lend their own ingredients to this bubbling Appalachian stew, no doubt, but it’s Lee that most often dropped jaws with his wickedly nimble fingers.

Many might remember vocalist Brandon Knox and guitarist Chris Lord from the similarly countrified, though now defunct Old Stone Revue. While OSR built a faithful following in their time, the Deluge have a chance to reach far beyond the local sphere. They wear their extramusical chemistry in the form of huge grins throughout the show, with all six players stepping up at various intervals as integral cog in the band’s output. Their recent album Cryin’ On the Vine sounds great, but their real impact is made on stage.