In one of their last stops on the “Road to the Newport Folk Festival” tour, beloved Seattle folkies The Head and the Heart stopped by Boston’s Royale for two nights this past week.
I had the chance to catch the Thursday night show, which featured a rollicking performance from openers and Providence natives Joe Fletcher & The Wrong Reasons and a venue chock-full of folkies.
Fletcher acknowledged the centennial celebration of Woody Guthrie’s birthday that week by covering the classic rockabilly ditty “What Did the Deep Sea Say?” quickly whipping the crowd into a foot-stomping singalong and drawing several Head and the Heart members onstage to join.
After a restless crowd had finally waited long enough for the rest of The Head and the Heart to come onstage, I remembered the first time I saw them, a year ago when they opened for Dr. Dog at the Paradise. I had never heard any of their songs at the time, but something in their performance resonated with me. An earnestness lies in their harmonies that is sadly absent in many other bands of the modern folk-revival strain.
The lyrics are simple (“Rivers and roads, rivers ‘till I reach you”) and relatable without descending into cliché and the songs are largely acoustic and folky without becoming sleepy.
With an energetic jangle reminiscent of Dr. Dog’s live performances, The Head and the Heart wound their way through their debut album as well as several unreleased songs and old demos like “No One To Let You Down.” So evocative was their sound that, after a while, it seemed incongruous to me that we were dancing in a darkened music hall in Boston and not at the foot of some mountain in Virginia. Part of the charm of the folk revival of recent years is just that: its uncanny ability to conjure a common image, to almost create cinema out of a good guitar riff and a tambourine. In this way, we immerse ourselves in the music and feel connected in a deeply personal manner. This personal connection is undeniable at The Head and the Heart’s live shows, and their acute musical prowess and chemistry makes it a damn good time, too.