Let’s be honest: Americans rule at making music. Jazz, blues, country, rock ’n’ roll and hip-hop — I rest my case. And then there’s Americana, which typically focuses on the genres that reside between the big categories: the lost music of the mountain people and working men and women of the 19th and early 20th century. The music that would beget jazz, blues and country.
The lineage of the Prestage Brothers — siblings Ben and Jon — stretches back to their great grandmother, who played trombone in Vaudeville bands with names such as Girls Orchestra and Navajo Girls, toured with medicine shows, and opened for stars of the era including Al Jolson.
Their grandmother and mother both played piano (though not for a living). “The love for music is definitely in my family,” Ben Prestage once told American Blues Scene. The brothers carry the legacy forward, with a sound that is their familial heritage. Call what they do Florida swamp blues, Mississippi blues, old-time Americana — none of those titles is wrong, but none entirely does justice to the music. Prestage Brothers inhabit all of those regional genres with a spin of their own.
The Fire Water Tent Revival is what happens when Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” is bought as a 45 but played at 78. Boasting Johnny Cash, Old Crow Medicine Show and Hank III as influences, The Fire Water Tent Revival relies heavily on the fire. Listening to those lit-up strings is like witnessing a Baptist tent revival, where the holy ghost is present and the parishioners are dancing in the aisles while the piano plays itself; basically, a rollicking good time.
It’s difficult to think of our forefathers as shit-kicking young people, but chances are they were — something underlies the bombast that seeps through in Americana. Sure, some of it is sad, and some of it is forlorn. But it’s not all emo. And even where the past was a slog, not everyone lived through it joylessly. None of us would be here if our grandparents didn’t know how to cut a rug — I’d bet a Roosevelt dime on it!
Prestage Brothers and The Fire Water Tent Revival play February 1 at Voltaire. RSVP ~ Tim Moffatt