Hot off their performance at the 42nd annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival hosted by local NGO and music club, The Ark, The RFD Boys lost no steam with another fantastic live performance.
Between The Ark’s intimate concert space and The RFD Boys’s laid-back, authentic country vibe, I felt more like I was sitting in a casual bar in southern West Virginia than a respectable music club in downtown Ann Arbor. Most of that is due to the band’s personal brand of magic; with both the nature of their music and their easy rapport with the audience in between songs, The RFD Boys almost completely eliminate any perceived distance between themselves and the audience. Complete with a red mailbox leaning awkwardly off to the side of the stage inviting patrons to submit their requests, the entire experience was comfortable, easy and warm.
The band took a quick stroll down memory lane, opening up the first half of their set with “Leavin’ the Ozarks,” a song they fondly remarked was one of their first ever written. Between songs, the band took some time to reminisce, having come up on an impressive milestone: The group has 50 years of performance under their belt, with no intentions of slowing down anytime soon. “Leavin’ the Ozarks” remembered the familiar yearning to break free and find your own path, as the band sang “every mile I travel is a mile from our past.” The song took on an interesting double meaning as The RFD Boys played on their home turf at this long-awaited milestone while singing, leaving the past behind.
“Blues Stay Away From Me,” “She’s Gone, Gone, Gone” and “The Train That Carried My Girl From Town” were the perfect blend of soulful blues and foot-stomping folk to warm up with on a blisteringly cold Friday night. “The Train That Carried My Girl From Town” in particular highlighted the skills of new addition Dan Roehrig on guitar (and occasionally on mandolin). Then, the banjo and fiddle took up a duet in “Turkey in the Straw,” showcasing (another newbie) David Mosher’s jaw-dropping fiddle playing skills. Mosher took a turn on lead vocals with his rendition of a country classic, “She’s Gone, Gone, Gone,” while Roehrig’s own heartfelt singing got some much-appreciated spotlight in “The Train That Carried My Girl From Town.” As a girl with some country roots herself in West Virginia, The RFD Boys’ cover of Johnny Cash’s “Sea of Heartbreak” was perhaps the highlight of the night.
The RFD Boys are an underrated gem hidden away in the Midwest. Combining old-style, traditional blues and country while maintaining a fresh edge to every performance, the band capitalized on the electricity live performance lends to the rootsy energy of folk and blues. And while most of the audience were of Ann Arbor’s older crowd, the RFD Boys maintain their relevance with their dedication to their craft. And for anyone who considers themselves a folk and country fan, The RFD Boys, above all, feel like “home.”