The Red Clay Ramblers

Capturing American culture, Red Clay Ramblers, a Tony award-winning string band, turned Tang Theater into a buoyant North Carolinian musical scene last Saturday night, performing old-time mountain music, bluegrass and country.

In addition to their Saturday night performance, the Red Clay Ramblers spoke to the cast of the spring theater production, Hot Grog, because band member Bland Simpson wrote the musical production.

The Ramblers energized rambunctious country tunes with spirited fiddling, animated singing and never-ending foot tapping. “It was awesome, I couldn’t stop moving my feet,” said Manuel Fernandez ’11.

The Ramblers opened with a short act composed of a variety of country instruments, including the fiddle, banjo and mandolin. Despite the traditional beginning, the music to follow was diverse and engaging.

One of the most striking pieces was the Red Clay Ramblers performance of an American hoedown, “Cotton Eye Joe.” Twisting and slowing down the popular dance song, the Ramblers began somberly with clear resonating vocals, but picked up with fast-paced piccolo and fiddle.

Changing the pace of the show, the Red Clay Ramblers incorporated country-style beat boxing and introduced a Jew’s harp. The performance proved to be one of the most popular of the night, arousing wild applause and inspiring audience participation.

“I really liked how we interacted with the performers…because it made the music more fun, it created unity with the performers and the audience,” said Ayaka Shinozaki ’13.

In addition to interaction, the Red Clay Ramblers used numerous tactics to further enthrall their audience.

“What stuck out was that even though there’s one person who’s the featured person singing or speaking, there was always this little chatter of people, little things just going on in the background – it was really dynamic,” said Christina Landolt, Instructor in Music, a coordinator of the performance.

Anna Stacey ’13 said, “My favorite part was when the percussionist got off the drum set and went over to the fiddle player and started drumming on his finger board. That was so cool.”

The Red Clay Ramblers’ concert reflected their North Carolina roots. They displayed music reminiscent of their hometown, accentuated by their deep voices and steady banjo rhythms. One traditonal jazz ballad that featured a drawling trumpet deeply contrasted with the previous jovial music.

North Carolina resident, Lauren Montieth ’14, said, “[The performance] was really fresh sort of twist on traditional mountain music from North Carolina. They really put so much of the North Carolina culture and life into their songs.”

“The nature of the music [the Ramblers] were playing, which you don’t hear nearly as much, especially up here, and their instrumentation was pretty unique, and the selection of songs were pretty strange, but it was definitely a lot of fun to listen to,” said David Tylinski ’12.

Felicia Jia ’12 said, “It was really country, and I hadn’t actually been exposed to that before. People were all clapping and stomping and the floor was shaking. It was strange but really cool.”

The Ramblers provided a taste of true American music and created a night of nostalgia for many audience members. As Julie Zhou ’13 said, “They were like a blast from the past!”