at Godfrey Daniels,
Bethlehem, Pa.
(1 December 2001)

I think it might be illegal to have as much fun as friend Julie and I did at Tanglefoot's performance at Godfrey Daniels, a "listening club" in Bethlehem, Pa.

Run by volunteers, Godfrey Daniels has a tiny storefront, half of which is taken up by the counter and stools for enjoying the homemade treats at the goodie bar. The next room is larger, dimly lit and crammed with folding chairs and a few small tables around the platform for the band. Posters and a startling variety of musical folk instruments bedeck the walls. Across the room and around the corner are two tiny, spotless, bright and cheery restrooms, the walls a collage of pictures and interesting, thoughtful graffiti -- a good thing, since there is barely enough room for a person, let alone a book.

Seats were assigned, for which we were grateful, since it was a 90-minute trip from Julie's house. We were in the front row of one of the side clusters of seats, smack up against the part of the platform with the keyboards; we couldn't get much closer.

Tanglefoot is Joe Grant (fiddle and vocals), Al Parrish (double bass and vocals), Rob Ritchie (keyboard and vocals) and Steve Ritchie (rhythm guitar and vocals). Fifth band member Terry Young was absent due to illness. Now, without getting ahead of myself, Tanglefoot at 80 percent is pretty potent stuff. Full strength might have literally brought down the house.

The Ontario-based band is remarkable for its intense and infectious energy, from the moment they strode on stage and launched into "Traighli Bay," a boisterous piratical song, and lasted through the evening to the double encore. They all write all of their songs, most of which tell some kind of story, and especially notable are the stunning harmonies, arranged by Steve Ritchie. The fit of their voices is more true than the seams of a well-made violin, and the sound is richer and warmer than any instrument I have ever heard.

The audience was fully engaged in the music, as tapping feet and drumming hands abounded. Julie and I bemoaned the lack of room in which to dance, but that was our only regret and a minor one, indeed. Most of the crowd mouthed along with the songs which, as one band member joked, did not "bode well for CD sales," but was also evidence of Tanglefoot's staying power as they sang many favorites such as "Secord's Warning," "Jenny Wren," "Awkward Donald," "Emmeline" and "One More Night."

They also sang new songs such as "Midwife's Dance," written and introduced by Rob Ritchie, who commented that the man who was singing lead vocal was an expectant father himself. During the intro, all of them did a "To Tell the Truth" kind of bob and hesitate at the microphones until finally, Parrish launched into the lyrics. The first couple of line were drowned out with a round of congratulatory applause. Their rapport with the audience is excellent, and one would find it difficult to be or remain depressed at a Tanglefoot concert. I was there after driving 400 miles round trip over the previous two days, and although exhausted upon arrival in Bethlehem, I was wide awake and wanting more at the end of the evening.

Tanglefoot sounds great on disc but they are awesome live. If they are anywhere remotely in your area, go see them -- it's more than worth the trip. (Readers in the UK please note that they will be touring there next summer.) I'm looking forward to my next Tanglefoot concert, and I hope it's sooner rather than later!

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 26 January 2002

Read a review of Tanglefoot's CD Full Throated Abandon.