The Dirt Daubers at Cluny, Newcastle (2012)

The Dirt Daubers
Cluny II Newcastle
25th March 2012

This was one of those nights that you just can’t plan for. Generally I’m no lover of bluegrass or old timey country music so my expectations weren’t particularly high when the Kentucky Cowtippers made their way through the already alcoholically relaxed crowd, which was rapidly filling the small concert room.  

The last time I saw the ‘Tippers they were a 6-piece bluegrass covers band and the star of the show was the pretty female lead singer and fiddle player, who has left the band and, by doing so, has created a tightly knit unit that is much more focused and confident in their abilities. If you manage to hear their music before seeing them you won’t believe that they are barely out of their teens.

By the end of the second number (an instrumental), the rowdy Dirt Daubers fans were whooping and a’ hollering their appreciation and they continued their noisy approval throughout the 45 minute set. The youngsters were even called back for an encore. This was a genuine one, where the band had to go into a huddle to choose a song to play – remember those days?

The Kentucky Cowtippers will be on the Festival circuit this Summer; miss them at your peril.

As The Colonel, Mick, and Jessica tuned their instruments, the crowd was already shouting out requests much to the band’s amusement.

In reality the Dirt Daubers are 50% of the rowdy Legendary Shack Shakers and boy, can they can bang out a loud noise as good as the parent band.

With two albums to their name the Daubers tried as best they could to rattle through every single track, with very little coming in at over two minutes in length. The adoring fans were left breathless as they tried to sing along.

I’m not aux fait with their recorded work but I did pick out a song about Cowboys because Mick, the dbl Bass player pointed out that you very rarely see Cowboy hats at gigs these days; he called it the Brokeback Mountain Effect!

The songs I did recognise were the magnificent Back in the Saddle Again which had my ample tush twitching as it had the urge to dance, High and Low; when I thought JD’s banjo was going to burst into flames and Wake Up Sinners that could have been the Gospel according to Wanda Jackson if I didn’t know better.
For three people playing Hillbilly music the Dirt Daubers kicked up quite a racket tonight; but that’s not to take anything away from their musicianship – JD Wilkes’ wife Jessica is not only a fine Southern Belle but her mandolin playing is vastly under rated – she’s as good and nimble-fingered as anyone I’ve seen recently plus she has the voice of a (Honky Tonk) Angel. The ginormous Mark Robertson playing the second prettiest Double Bass I’ve ever seen and kept the whole show together with some mighty fine playing (and jokes).

Then of course there is the Star of the show – the ever gurning and dapper Col. JD Wilkes. Hell; I’ve never heard anyone make a kazoo sound as sexy as he did; but somehow he managed that strange feat and his washboard playing was a sight to behold!

As the band came back onstage for the obligatory encore, much to the youngsters’ embarrassment, JD called for the Cowtippers to join them on-stage. It took a minute or so but the quartet eventually squashed together and both bands set off on a rip-roaring version of Going Down The Road (Feeling Better) (?) which really rocked the Cluny. JD shared lead vocals and solos with Rupert from the Cowtippers and the youngster certainly wasn’t fazed by trading licks and verses with the legendary Shackshaker. When JD pointed to Sam the banjo player to take a solo…the grin on the lad’s face won’t come off for weeks.  

As I left the Cluny a cluster of fans and musicians were all glad-handing and congratulating each other on a fantastic show and I felt like I had become a convert to the Dark Arts of Hillbilly and Bluegrass music.

Photos @

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