Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 4 Reviews

The Crooked Jades
Saturday, Oct. 2, 11am
Banjo Stage
Reviewed by Nick Dedina

"This next song is about a beheading." Add a big dose of old time music to that merrily twisted scenario and you get the Crooked Jades. I saw this San Francisco outfit open up the festival last year and they offered so many unexpected thrills that I wanted to catch them again this time. The Jades really sum up the sound and feel of ancient folk music and group leader Jeff Kazor's role as musicologist has him digging up long lost songs about sin, redemption, blood and dancing. This would be overkill if the band didn't mix humor, grief, and sincerity with such focus that that they're closer in spirit to Nick Cave or Tom Waits than to most other modern bluegrass acts (though their focus is more on how common people once knew how closely they lived to death and the unknown).

After kicking up the dust with the whole band and a couple of dancers, only two Jades stay on the stage for "Feel the Wind," an otherworldly ballad of the apocalypse that starts off paraphrasing "When the Saints Go Marching In" before following it up with the lyric "When the moon goes down in blood." This tune packs a wallop on a cold, foggy morning but the Crooked Jades expertly know how to keep the mood bright with ancient numbers like "Knoxville Rag" that warm up the shivering crowd and send a bunch of neo-hippy girls merrily dancing together in the grass.

Twice I've seen the Crooked Jades open the festival but I still expect to see them higher up on the bill before the saints really do come marchin' in.

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