Since they started playing together almost 40 years ago, harpist Tony “Little Sun” Glover and guitarists “Spider” John Koerner and Dave “Snaker” Ray have cultivated the personas of smart-assed reprobates as likely to get kicked out of a coffeehouse as to play in one–“Drunken Instrumental,” a jam recorded live in ’63, is subtitled “To Kill Time While Koerner Is Out Taking a Leak.” But despite this devil-may-care shtick, over the years they’ve developed a bottomless repertoire–good-timey folk tunes, Delta and country blues, jug-band classics–and their raucous soloing displays crisp dexterity and coherent melodic sensibilities. Since disbanding in the late 60s Koerner, Ray & Glover have periodically reunited for special projects, but the 1996 live album One Foot in the Groove (Tim/Kerr) is their only new trio recording in all those years. On that disc their playing has the same casual virtuosity it did back in the day, and the vocal harmonies are still as rough (and sweet) as homemade sin. Glover hoots away like a train whistle, or breaks into dulcet bends and warbles behind his bandmates’ tightly interwoven guitar lines; Ray’s leads meld folk, blues, and early-20th-century pop in a way that recalls Leadbelly and the old Tennessee jug bands. The trio is more than adept on sensitive stuff–like Bill Monroe’s “With Body and Soul” and Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “You Got to Move”–but they sound happiest barreling through outlaw ballads and tales of murderous mayhem like “Black Jack Davy” and “Boys Were Shooting It Out.” Saturday, November 3, 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Daniel Corrigan.