After a not-so-savory crossover experience earlier in the evening, this reviewer was very happy to see the old year out with David Parmley and Continental Divide, presented as part of Artsplosure's First Night Raleigh by Pine Cone (the Piedmont Council for Traditional Music) at the First Presbyterian Church in Raleigh.
David Parmley was a long-time member of the Bluegrass Cardinals, and with Continental Divide he offered First Nighters a delicious repast of straight-ahead, traditional bluegrass. Parmley, a warm and avuncular presence, took many of the lead vocals with an attractive baritone, and propelled the group with his rhythm guitar. He was joined by a quartet featuring Bill Hurt on violin, Ron Spears, on mandolin, Dale Perry on banjo and Jimmy Cameron on bass. Several purely instrumental numbers featured the impressive chops and improvisations of fiddler Hurt, and even the vocal numbers were full of tasty licks. What stood out for me were the gospel numbers with the three part vocal harmonies of Spears, Parmley, and Perry (if you like these as much as I did, you will want to get a copy of their latest CD, Church House Hymns, with nothing but gospel). The high tenor solos by Ron Spears were simply beautiful.
Though Parmley and friends were on their fourth set of the evening, they were full of energy, and as the end came closer Parmley asked for requests. Audience and musicians joined voices in “Will the Circle be Unbroken?” and listeners went out to greet the New Year with a song in their heart and a skip in their step. Don’t miss this group the next time they are in town.