Gene Parsons / Ploughmen's Bunch
Fri 23 April 2004 - Central Library, Lincoln
A concert by Gene Parsons provided the ideal antidote to a week of work last Friday in Lincoln. The sell-out concert took place in the unusual setting of the community room at Lincoln Library, and those arriving early had the opportunity to look at painting exhibition on display round the walls.
To open the evening, local ceilidh band Ploughmen's Bunch played a 40 minute set featuring original songs from their 2 CD's and their forthcoming album. After a short break it was time for the main act, Gene Parsons nearing the end of a European tour. Gene first came to prominence as the drummer with The Byrds and later the Flying Burrito Brothers. Interestingly the drummer was the inventor of the innovative Stringbender device that enables guitarists to bend strings by simply applying pressure on the guitar neck whilst playing, giving a similar sound to the pedal steel guitar. The first B-Bender was built by Gene for the Byrds guitarist Clarence White, the device changing the history of country rock and the Telecaster guitar. He revealed the technique employed during his show.
Though best known for his work with The Byrds, Gene has since moved on touring as a singer songwriter playing guitar and banjo. His live set now features little from his heady days with the groundbreaking American band, just Gene's song 'Gunga Din' written on board a DC-8 flying over the USA, that hints stardom does not bring true happiness.
Its only in very recent years that Gene has been performing solo concerts, though his natural stage persona belied this relative inexperience. He gave the audience a fascinating insight into his background, being raised on the Parson's homestead in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree, linking songs with some of the stories. The evocative 'Sweet Desert Childhood' though personal to Gene, has a poignancy for all, recalling days and the times that have past into our memories, and a way of life that has passed into history.
As well as country influenced songs, Gene included his arrangement of the gospel song 'Swing Low' played on banjo which he has re-titled 'Swing Down' and the well received Cajun number written by Gib Guilbeau 'Take A City Bride', Gene singing some of the lyrics in French and playing the harmonica. He also included the quirky Skip Battin song 'Do Not Disturb' with its odd lyrics. A particular highlight was his sensitive rendition of the Lowell George song 'Willin'' with some lovely guitar work. He was joined on stage for a couple of songs by a singer whose name we did not catch, she also returned for the encore song the Dylan song 'You Ain't Going Nowhere', the two encouraged the audience to sing along with the chorus before making a memorable exit through the crowd and still singing out of the hall.