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Show review and interview: Buskin & Batteau The Barns at Wolf Trap on 1/15/11

Buskin & Batteau
The Barns at Wolf Trap, Vienna, Virginia
January 15, 2011

[Be sure to catch the video interview with the group at the bottom!]

David Buskin and Robin Batteau were, when not composing award winning jingles for Chevrolet and Burger King and other corporate giants, mainstays of the pop and folk music culture, as studio musicians, back-up musicians and songwriters, writing songs for everyone from Mary Travers to Mel Torme (and of course themselves). They were recording artists prior to their coming together in the late 1970s in the quirky folk-meets-disco band Pierce Arrow, which led to their pairing as backup musicians for Tom Rush along with Marshal Rosenberg their eventual act as a duo, which became Rush’s opening act on tour. The duo were soon a feature act themselves with a career that now spans four decades (if you count the decade that Dave accuses Robin of taking as “an extended vacation”).

Defining Buskin and Bateau’s musical style is not so simple as just saying they are folk or pop musicians. They are certainly products of the folk era, and they got their start playing with and writing for the mainstays of folk in the 1970s, but their ability as musicians alone would put them head and shoulders above most of their contemporaries in that genre. David is a superb piano player with classical mastery, but with his creative bent make his playing as pleasing to the ear as an ice cream soda is to the palate. And Robin’s style on the violin (perhaps not the instrument you might expect to hear him play) is that of a virtuoso gypsy fiddler. They were accompanied by their very capable percussionist, Marshal Rosenberg, for this Wolf Trap performance.

Buskin and Bateau issued their latest all-new album, Red Shoes and Golden Hearts, on Nouveau Retro Media in 2009, after a decade-long hiatus. This was followed last year by a collection of reissue favorites from their earlier recordings called simply Buskin and Batteau Nouveau Retro. The songs from this live performance were drawn from these two collections. But these guys are first and foremost showmen in the classic sense of the word: The concert was not merely a live play duplication of an album, as is so often the case with recording artists stage acts, but rather a full-on stage performance by a couple of showmen who are at their best interacting with a live audience. They have a sense of humor that might well have qualified them as comedians, if it weren’t for their abilities as musicians. You can hear a bit of this effervescence in the interview. This is definitely one group that the studio can’t capture the full essence of, as good as their recordings are– and they are superb– it’s simply because they are, first and foremost, showmen in every sense of the word.

—Steve Patton (Baltimore, MD)

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