Dan Tyminski brought bluegrass to Annapolis in live concert
It’s a quaint little waterside town. Touristy, but still picturesque in every way. And it’s where I saw my first concert since the world shut down.
Annapolis, MD is home to Rams Head On Stage, an intimate concert venue that has played host to some big names. It seats a few hundred, and there is not a bad seat in the house. The carpeted floor and thick, heavy curtains prevent sound from getting lost as it rolls off the stage to fill the room in all directions.
Dan Tyminski of Alison Krauss and Union Station took the stage with his four-piece acoustic band a little before 8 pm on Sunday (June 20th). They opened with a rollicking edition of “Stuck in the Middle of Nowhere” and plucked right into “Carry Me Across the Mountain.” Tyminski’s smoke-filled mountaineering vocals soared through the room, ageless and record-perfect.
Tyminski’s band is top-notch. His mandolin player is none other than bluegrass legend Adam Steffey, who has performed with Union Station, Lonesome River Band, and recorded or performed with myriad country music superstars. Steffey sang a few numbers in his own deep baritone, including “No Place to Hide.”
The show-stopper was neither Tyminski nor Steffey. It was the young (younger than his own children, Tyminski tells me) fiddle player Maddie Denton. Her skillful playing and supportive family inspired Dan to write perhaps the most sentimental song of the evening, “My Biggest Fan.”
Bluegrass shows are normally toe-tapping affairs. But the enthusiasm at Rams Head reached beyond the rafters as the pent-up Maryland crowd finally got to experience a live concert for the first time in 15 months. The rowdy applause and eardrum-shattering cheers were almost a foreign noise as I sat grinning from ear to ear. At one point, Tyminski said, “We missed playing for you all.” The crowd shouted back in near unison, “So have we.”
That was the atmosphere the entire night: A joyful reunion among those who take immense pleasure in an evening of live entertainment. Sure, we saw the Oak Ridge Boys during their Christmas residency at Opryland. But that socially-distant ballroom set-up was more dinner theater than concert. The Dan Tyminski show at Rams Head saw people in close proximity, maskless, and back to normal. There was pure, unadulterated joy in the air. It was palpable.
Dan, for his part, is at his best when bearing his soul in his own songwriting. He performed the most riveting of his new material during a solo section. “God Fearing Heathen” will send chills down your spine when you finally get a chance to hear it. “Bracing for the Hurricane” paints a lasting picture of the fears we all have. “Silence in the Brandy,” a song about our inner wars with our own trauma, is also telling of how Tyminski writes from his own subconscious, yet without judgement of the world around him.
Tyminski kept the night Bluegrass-centric, save for the above-mentioned self-pens which seem to defy genre. His time with Alison Krauss and Union Station was present, especially in the “Angry-grass” (as Steffey put it) number “That Sad Song.”
Of course, the night ended with Dan Tyminski’s signature song from the major Coen Brothers’ film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? He joked he told his wife, “You’ll be hearing my voice come out of George Clooney’s face.” She apparently shot back, “That’s my fantasy!”
“Man of Constant Sorrow” has been a constant in Tyminski’s life, performed on stages large and small. But last night, it took on new meaning. That room stood up with Dan, and sang the song with him as loud as we could. It turned into a celebration that our music-less year of sorrow is finally over.
I had a chance to interview Tyminski before the show. That appears on an upcoming episode of The Music Universe Podcast.