The last time this writer saw the Be Good Tanyas in concert, they were awkwardly stuck on a bill with 54-40 and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. The patrons of the outdoor, child-filled event found it easy to ignore the Vancouver trio in the hot BC sun, and the band's performance was ultimately disappointing and forgettable.
But decorate a stage with white poinsettia garlands, flank it with two 15-foot Christmas trees, place the Be Good Tanyas on it, and you've got an entirely different situation. Set it up in a hundred-year-old church, add a skiff of snow outside, and just watch as the band places the crowd in their pocket. Because that's exactly what the 'Tanyas did with the audience in Calgary, middle-aged couples and fashionable hipsters alike.
Easily (but unjustly) described as a "down-home version of the Dixie Chicks," the three members of the Be Good Tanyas share equally in stage duties, often switching instruments with one another between songs. There were no less than six stringed instruments on the tiny platform stage (possibly more), and except for the upright bass, all were handled by the 'Tanyas themselves.
Acoustic guitars, banjos, and dobros provided the base for the band's sound, but the magic came from the vocal harmonies that the three women performed flawlessly. Frazey Ford's thick, Kermit-like warble is even more mesmerizing live than it is on record; add in the warmer vocals of Samantha Parton and Trish Klein, and the organic musicality of the Be Good Tanyas is undeniable.
One gets the feeling that the Be Good Tanyas would be most comfortable performing their folky bluegrass standing barefoot in a meadow, but their ease on stage is just as readily observed. Unsurprisingly, the night ended with the entire crowd on its feet. An absolutely flawless performance it wasn't (the girls even admitted it takes too long to tune banjos so they'd rather play out of key), but a more genuine, laidback celebration of real, unprocessed music is a hard thing to find these days.
For more information on the Be Good Tanyas please visit www.thebegoodtanyas.com.
Writer: Jaclyn Arndt