Cornmeal | Live in Chicago, Vol. 1 | Review

About 6 years ago I had a weekly ritual, a tradition, a privilege, a party I attended.  Every Wednesday night I would head on down to Halsted St. in Chicago and pack myself into Griffin’s Public House to see Cornmeal for free.  It is hard to imagine seeing them for free these days.  In 2006, Griffin’s was shut down and as all good things do, came to an end.  Besides, Cornmeal had outgrown the confinement of walls.  The circus needed more rings and they have expanded to perform their 3 ring act at nearly every major festival since Griffin’s closed its doors.

When you consider that many bands do not stick together for 10 years, you can see how and why Cornmeal has done just that.  Their sound, their energy, personalities, and total package have carried them on to the national stage now.  Cornmeal Live in Chicago, Vol. I is a tribute to the fans and a living testimony to their continued growth.  The fans are no longer just a home-base party but a nation-wide community of Cornmeal fans.  To know where you’re going, you’ve got to know where you came from.

The misleading southern twang of Kris Nowak’s vocals would lead most to believe that this band is not from Chicago. While they are not from Tennessee as you may first think, that is just a part of the path Cornmeal lays out for you - leading you into the most heart lifting, soul cleansing performances of Bluegrass available today.  While track number one, Girl with Short Brown hair is reminiscent of Keller Williams falling in love in the porta-potty line; track number seven, The Road, has that touch of classic Leftover Salmon that introduced us jam band kids to Bluegrass as a passion in the first place.

The up-tempo hootenanny vibe of this disc reminds me of the workout I got back at good ol’ Griffins.  My cheeks would flush, my lips were parched, my muscles flexed and contorted into all sorts of silly dances moves, but I would not leave that dance floor until they took a break.  1-2-3-4! And off we went! Track number five, Jenny in the Middle, is a carnival of sound.  The wheel spins faster and faster as the laughs turn up loud and finally! Allie’s sustained violin cuts thru the madness to give us all a chance to catch our breath!  The crowd responses in this album bring you back to the community you shared in.

Cryin’ out loud, “A Two Dollar Bill, a 2 dollah bill, A Two Dollar Bill!”

It’s been a long time since those days.  Popping in this disc makes the memories so real I can taste it. Like cotton candy this album whets my lips for the sugar sweet bluegrass music Cornmeal carries with them to each show they do.  From the past 10 years to the next 10 years with more volumes of Live in Chicago to come… my hat is off to you Cornmeal. Cheers!


1 Comment

James Willey's picture

Good review...however I must take issue with one statement...Leftover Salmon WAS NOT responsible for introducing the jam scene to bluegrass. The Grateful Dead had done that years ago with the Old and in the Way album that Garcia was a part of. Once deadheads got turned onto that album (as I did in 1982) bluegrass festivals all over the country started getting invaded by deadheads, and that wonderful music has ever since been a staple element of the jam scene.


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