“Everybody on the West Coast is calling old-time music the new punk,” says Crooked Jades singer-guitarist Jeff Kazor. He and his fast-rising quintet came all the way from San Francisco last fall to appear at what they’d heard was the place to play in Boston. Duded up in a retro suit, skinny tie, and sporty cowboy hat, he said, “I don’t know if there’s anything else on the East Coast that matches this place for crowds and excitement.”
Were they at Berklee? The Paradise? Symphony Hall? If the Jades played jazz, rock, or classical music, maybe. But they play the Southern folk form called old-time, so for them, Carnegie Hall is the Tuesday bluegrass and old-time jam at the funky little Cantab Lounge in Central Square.
A jam session? They crossed the country to do a gig where anybody who shows up can play? Even though they performed a set as the featured act, it seems extraordinary. But remember, this is old-time music, so a jam is just the place to be. The Jades knew they would connect not only with new fans, but with local pickers. And for this new wave of old timers, that’s what it’s all about.
Old-time is enjoying a tremendous national revival, partly due to smart young bands like the Crooked Jades, Ollabelle, the Duhks, the Reeltime Travelers, Uncle Earl, the Mammals, and Boston’s own Crooked Still. But even more, it’s hot because it has existed almost entirely underground for years, preserved as a fun-loving social music, with a fiercely anti-commercial, anti-star vibe that pop-weary young people are eating up with an oaken spoon.