To say Doyle Lawson has had a full career would be an understatement.
Nowadays, Lawson is regarded as a pillar of the bluegrass world. But, at 73, he still feels as if he’s just getting started, where a never-ending reservoir of creativity and enthusiasm spills out onto the stage each night.
Audience members knew from the start that this concert would be different.
Instead of beginning the Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver show by bringing out the legendary bluegrass band, concertgoers were given an acting lesson of sorts.
They were instructed to give a thunderous round of applause with cheering and whistling, as if the band already had come out on stage.
After that, it was a more tepid round of applause, then a standing ovation, then a warm and fuzzy moment of looking up at the stage adoringly with a hint of a smile and head nods.
All the while, the stage sat empty in front of a church backdrop.
But the jam-packed audience at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts had no problem performing theatrics. They had not only signed up for a gospel bluegrass concert, but also a live DVD recording (audience reactions are typically recorded in advance).
As the crowd tapped their toes and sang along with Lawson and his band throughout the night, a camera swung over their heads and along the aisles.
The cameras weren’t much of a distraction, though, with all eyes glued to the impressive performance of six very talented men: Lawson (mandolin, guitar, vocals), Dale Perry (banjo, vocals), Jason Barie (fiddle), Josh Swift (Dobro, vocals), Jason Leek (bass, vocals), Corey Hensley (guitar, vocals),
Lawson, in a sparkling blue sequined jacket and bright green boots, joked endlessly with the audience and fellow bandmates.
“I apologize for the glare,” said Lawson, referring to his sparkly coat. “I hope I don’t blind you.”
Later, fiddler Jason Barie strutted on stage with a pink sequined jacket, directly challenging Lawson. After pointing to the “Hot Stuff” emblazoned across the back, Lawson kicked him off the stage, with the punch line, “Hot Stuff has left the building.”
With a plethora of jokes and stories in between, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver delivered a crowd-pleasing performance, with music ranging from lively bluegrass tunes to equally compelling a cappella harmonies.
While Lawson has weaved in and out of gospel recordings over the course of his bluegrass career, the night was solely devoted to songs with Christian themes.
And the audience approved. Concertgoers embraced the solemn and uplifting words, interjecting shouts of “Amen” into a few of the songs.
True to the movie recording process, the concert had to be interrupted a couple of times for multiple takes.
A booming voice from above instructed the band to start the song over, and Lawson quipped, “I’m just hoping he won’t hit us with a lightning bolt,” garnering one of many laughs from the audience that night.
All jokes aside, Lawson stressed that the aim of his music was to somehow, somewhere uplift listeners and bring them a little closer to God.
Lyrics from the night included this one, intended to provoke some thought, “This life has many choices, eternity has two.”
Area music fans will have a unique opportunity to help make history as a bluegrass/gospel music legend celebrates the 30th anniversary of his solo career with a live DVD recording session and concert at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts.
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver will take the stage with cameras rolling at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 15, in the 1,500-seat center in Franklin.
Lawson’s distinguished career spans more than 40 years and 40 albums. Along with his band Quicksilver, he’s earned numerous industry awards including seven consecutive “Vocal Group of the Year” awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association. He’s also received several Grammy nominations and four Dove Award nominations over the last decade.
The National Endowment for the Arts honored Lawson in 2006 with a prestigious National Heritage Fellowship at its annual ceremony in Washington, D.C. It’s the country’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts, putting Lawson among a select group of performers including Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, and Doc Watson, among others.
Rounder records recently released Lawson’s latest album “Lonely Street,” which marked the 30th anniversary of his solo career, but he’s been a professional musician for nearly 50 years.
“The adventure is still unfolding and nowhere near complete, but if the story of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver were a novel, it would be hailed as a masterpiece,” according to BluegrassJournal.com. The site called Lonely Street a “razor-sharp display of bluegrass virtuosity.”
The August 2009 cover story on TheBluegrassSpecial.com Web site calls Lawson “one of the most revered artists on the contemporary bluegrass scene.”
$15 per ticket at www.greatmountainmusic.com, 828.273.4615, or at 1028 Georgia Road in Franklin.