Dirty Cello Rocks the Blues at Ashland’s Bayberry Inn
Oh, how glorious it is to be writing about a live music event after all these months!
It’s a beautiful evening in Ashland as I enter the Bayberry Inn’s enchanting outdoor space on September 6 (pre-fires). Just as there is a certain insider acumen associated with the “dirty” martini, Southern Oregon presents Dirty Cello as an example of the higher echelon of musical talent. They’ve been playing rock, blues, and other genres of music besides classical for years. The band consists of a husband and wife team, guitarist Jason Eckl and cellist/vocalist Rebecca Roudman, who met 17 years ago as music majors in college. The other players are Colin Williams on bass and Ben Wallace-Ailsworth on drums.
Not only did Dirty Cello wow the socially distanced crowd with their spectacular and unique performances, but in between numbers guitarist Eckl, who appears to be the main spokesperson for the group, entertained with fascinating and often times humorous stories of what the band has been through in recent years, everything from enduring hours of meticulous preparation for a very brief one-line Facebook commercial to an overly impassioned audience member licking Roudman’s cello mid-performance. Eckl announces at the beginning of the concert that no one is allowed to leap on stage and start jamming with the band on harmonica (which has happened before), and he can’t believe he has to provide this disclosure, yet feels he should.
The band must always be ready for unexpected happenings, which they prove in this performance when Eckl breaks a guitar string. It isn’t noticeable until he brings it up, and the band is immediately prepared to switch gears and launch into their bass guitar-heavy cover of “Use Me Up” while Eckl rapidly remedies the situation. During the course of the evening, the bass drum sounds like a door knocker at times and a few of the lower register cello notes overwhelm the sound system somewhat, but despite these minor inconveniences that outdoor shows tend to contend with, the group truly puts on an impressive, toe tappin’ performance that I can see the audience take great delight in (being only six feet apart from them).
The band performs quite a few interesting covers for a stringed instrument (Guns N’ Roses, Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC) and it becomes apparent why Roudman was referred to as “The Rock n’ Roll Cellist” when she appeared on the television show America’s Got Talent. A couple of stand-out originals by the band include “Don’t Call Me Honey” and “I May Not Be Perfect, But I’m Pretty Damn Good,” the former being Roudman’s sassy response to an older gentleman overstepping boundaries and the latter being an empowering self-esteem assertion that she and her husband would say to each other back in the day. Musically, the former is relatively mid-tempo at first but then bursts into a quick tempo jamming session that leaves one breathless. The latter original tune was especially memorable as Roudman held out her vocal note at the end for an impressive length of time and then quietly laughed with joy upon its completion, seeming to show the great love and devotion she has for her craft.
Near the end of the show, the band took requests from the audience, which ended up being “Orange Blossom Special” (done on the cello instead of the fiddle) and “Jolene.” These were not to be outdone by the band’s most requested song by audiences everywhere, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which of course they handled with ease and expertise even though it’s so fast paced it’s a wonder they’re not exhausted by the end. Naturally they weren’t; they were ready for more.
Dirty Cello will perform at Ashland’s Bayberry Inn on October 11 at 2 pm.