Originally published on KDHX.org
This is the band’s first, official full-length, after their previous seven-song EP “Blowfish Rodeo.” The new album takes a similar inspiration shape as the first — a fun blend of americana and folk rhythms. The band has been busy putting more shows together and is hoping to appear at SXSW this year. Spearheaded by long-time River Styx editor Richard Newman on guitar and vocals, the band is self-described as “junk-folk” and is a rousing good time on stage.
You might have expected the crowd to be thinned-out due to the wildly popular bluegrass band Trampled by Turtles playing the Pageant. But the classic venue was packed to the brim with friends, family and adoring fans.
Fellow local acts the Defeated County and Cree Rider Family Band bookended the show, both taking turns showing massive love and support for CharFlies. Fronted by vocalist and acoustic songwriter Langen Neubacher, the quartet performed slowed-down, acoustic pleas of the heart. Keyboardist Irene Allen played lackadaisically, sipping from an iced drink while plucking out lines from her Casio, while Glenn Burleigh drew bends and twangs from his pedal-steel guitar. Most of the crowd stayed to see Cree Rider Family Band end the show with their straight-ahead alt-country rock. With Cree Rider himself leading on rhythm Telecaster and his wife doing the lion’s share of the singing, their show was a great way to end an impressive collection of St. Louis Americana talent.
Richard Newman and company took the stage in the middle slot, with Newman donning his trademark fedora and plaid shirt and boots. He kicked off the set with “Another Angel,” a spirited acoustic romp, followed by fan-favorite, “My Baby Cries When I Don’t Come Home,” a darkly-tinged sing-along set in a minor key. Back-up vocalist Shanie Latham sang perpetual harmony and dabbled in the musical toys the band is fond of, including banging a cast-iron pan with a wooden spoon and hitting single notes from a toy piano.
Multi-instrumentalist Nick Nihira played banjo for most of the set, switching to guitar to play and sing lead on the Cash-inspired “Mary.” Most of his performance brought new colors and textures to the band’s live performance, helping the group stand apart from the rest of the evening’s acts. Upright bassist Dave Melson picked his lines and stomped his feet, even adding backup vocals to songs like “Whip-Poor-Will Holler.” In “Song for the Dead of Winter,” one of the album’s best tracks, the band seemed to have some trouble getting the sound together at first, but quickly got it under control.
The stage was packed full, almost as much as the floor at Off Broadway, and throughout the set, the group shared the stage with other musician friends to help out on some signature tracks, including pedal-steel guitarist Scott Swartz from Prairie Rehab, even bringing-up a baritone sax player for “Trickle of Blood.” You can tell the group has the most fun playing one of their most intriguing songs, “Five Bags of Poison,” a little tongue-in-cheek ditty about chemotherapy. This song, among others, showcases Newman’s lyrical strengths fueled by his poetic skills as an editor and writer.
The band played through every song from the new album and ended its set with an older tune, “Love Songs, Road Songs, Etc.,” that CharFlies “only play for fun.” They invited all of the guest musicians of the evening back on stage to help them finish things off. Newman joked, “We are now nine-fifths of Charflies.” But it wasn’t enough to satiate the crowd, as they cried out for an encore. Looks like CharFlies know how to keep fans wanting more.