Dharma Bombs treats The Camel to new folk bops

Armed by wood and brass, Dharma Bombs brought a piece of Appalachia to The Camel on Saturday. Photo by Jon Mirador

Quentin Rice, Staff Writer

 Local Richmond country/folk band Dharma Bombs treated fans Saturday night at The Camel to a few hours of their revised sound —which they have taken to calling “Appalachian Dixie,” — to celebrate the release of their second album, “Enjoy the View.” The band was preceded by The Judy Chops, a folk act of Virginia nativity, and Weekend Plans, a groovy jazz band also from Richmond.

The Judy Chops, known for their remixes and mashups, treated the audience to a familiar Americana sound to start the night and prime everyone for the riot that was to follow. “I hope there’s some square dancing, that’s why I came,” said one concertgoer who received exactly what he expected.

Weekend Plans brought the energy to the present for their set, playing some familiar tunes from their debut album “State of Nine,” as well as teasing some new unreleased songs. Few could resist the infectious grooves of “Slide” and “Get With You.” Guitarist Forrest Link exhibited his lightning-quick fingers with a few bombastic guitar solos, even playing with his tongue at one point, as all experienced showmen know to do.

When Dharma Bombs took the stage, it was clear from the jump that patrons would get the barn burner they came for. “Damned If You Do” aged the floor a few years with all the stomping and dancing that took place. “Chasing Cars” delivered a brief departure from the stomping and knee slapping for a moment of introspection, as singer Trey Hall crooned “We’re chasing time like a dog chases cars/ If we caught up would we still know who we are?” Old favorites “Abigail” and “Apocalypse Now” brought the energy back up to 11 with their big, shouty choruses, offbeat accents and familiar lyrics.

The band played a sly and devious cover of the Merle Travis classic “16 Tons.” Hall dedicated the song to the coal miners of Harlan County, Kentucky, who are protesting after their employer, coal producer Blackjewel, declared bankruptcy and left them with bounced paychecks. Hall expressed sincere concern for the protesters and encouraged listeners to educate themselves about the standoff.

“Enjoy the View” is a simple album of bouncy bluegrass and country jams. It doesn’t aim to do anything over-the-top or innovative. It doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. Many people say country music is four chords and the truth; that philosophy seems to be appreciated here. 

The record opens up with “Motorcycle Race In Heaven,” which plays like the title suggests it would. It’s fast and a hell of a lot of fun, with those familiar offbeat chucks and tricky horn licks. “94 Train” may be the best moment of the record, featuring a twinkly guitar, somberly optimistic horn licks and low-key vocal deliveries from Hall and guest vocalist Mackenzie Roark. The track would not sound out of place on a record from The Head and the Heart.

Dharma Bombs’ latest is not a challenging record. It’s laid back and easygoing through all eight tracks, although not without energy. It invites the listener to do as the title implies and, if the mood strikes at the right time, do a little dance as well.

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