The Molson Canal Concert Series was transformed into a good old-fashioned hoedown on Friday night as the attendees were treated to a rousing 90 minutes of Southern-fried rock courtesy of the Charlie Daniels Band. The heat was on, the drinks were cold, and the vitality of Daniels’s fiddle playing was enough to entice music lovers to endure what felt like the most sweat-soaked evening of 2009. People may not have known the name of every song, but they sure knew the lyrics once the opening riff hit, so needless to say there was no shortage of audience participation.
At 72 years young, Daniels displays more zest on stage than I would expect and has the innate ability to turn any number into a riotous jam session whenever the mood strikes. Songs like “The South’s Gonna Do It” and “Long-haired Country Boy” showed tremendous bite as the band lost itself in the groove and even the lesser-known tunes were able to bring the crowd to a roaring applause. They could’ve come out and played a country-infused version of “The Nutcracker” and fans would’ve been into it, because the group was exceptionally tight and it’s not everyday that a legendary musician gives a free show in the unassuming city of Lockport.
Then again, it didn’t take much to rile this crowd, because first opener Ransomville delivered a commanding, well-received set that, to me, resembled more hard hock than country. Guitarists John Rosini and Rob Burgio (both former members of Seven Day Faith) each treat the instrument like their own personal playground and somehow find a way to make country music seem less predictable.
Their spirited take on Big and Rich’s “Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)” was impressive, while the original material worked even better than on the album. It might sound strange, but a few of their heavier tunes came off as a twangy Buckcherry at times, so I’m interested to see how they progress in the future.
Second opener Her and Kings County was just as lively as radiant vocalist Monique Staffile led the band through a series of whimsical party tunes that showcased how diverse the event really was. The combination of a unique stage presence and her dynamic vocal ability set the tone for an entertaining set featuring some killer work on both the banjo and steel pedal guitar.
As someone who doesn’t even like country music, I can’t deny the stellar array of musicianship offered by all three groups and wouldn’t mind if they wound up on next year’s schedule. It was the perfect alignment of music, ambiance, and weather, so here’s hoping this Friday’s finale with Randy Bachman is up to the challenge.