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Broadside Electric • 321 Grayling Ave., Narberth, PA  19072
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Dirty Linen, February/March 1998

Broadside Electric
Cherry Tree Music Co-Op, Philadelphia, PA, November 9, 1997

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"English Folk-Rock." "Electric Folk." "Electrified Traditional Music." Whatever you call it, you have to admit there have been only a few American acts who do a decent job at it. One of those acts, Broadside Electric, have a strong local following in the Philadelphia area mostly separate from the usual folk audiences. The band has recently added two new members and thus expanded their sound. Where once there were only strings of guitar, Chapman Stick® and fiddle, there is now the breath of woodwinds and the power of drums, as well. For their recent concert at the Cherry Tree, they seemed to import a lot of their own fans, people who knew the words to their songs and seemed to share a lot of inside jokes with the band. At the same time, they gave members of the usual folk audiences something new to talk about.

Like so many bands of this type, Broadside Electric have a fascination for ballads with gruesome themes and unhappy endings. They opened their set with Tom Rhoads' version of "Bonnie Banks of the Vergie," the great old ballad in which a robber stabs two of his own sisters to death in a case of mistaken identity. They played a suitably silly version of "With Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm," on which Amy Ksir, one of the band's new members, traded her tin whistle for an oboe, and a nice setting of "The Silkie" featuring lovely Stick playing by Jim Speer. Rhoads emulated Bert Jansch's picking on his arrangement of "Bonnie Portmore" with quite respectable results, and the whole band did a good job on the sad whaling song "Wings of the Gooney."

Luckily, this group mixes levity with gravity. Songs like "As I Roved Out" and "J'ai Vu Le Loup" caught a more festive mood, and a Sephardic love song added a romantic touch. The band's trademark version of the Animaniacs' song "Magellan" was also a highlight. In addition to these songs, the many sets of tunes admirably led by fiddler Helene Zisook and by Ksir added briskness to the set. Although there was some shakiness in the instrumental numbers here and there, I suspect this is the normal effect of a band with two newly integrated members.

- Steve Winick (Philadelphia, PA)

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