Jonathan Edwards - harmonica, guitar, lead vocals; Eric Lillequist - guitar, vocals; Bill Elliott - piano, vocals; Lynnie Edwards - vocals; Lynnie Dall - vocals; Stuart Shulman - fiddle
In 1967, following years of songwriting and performing in his home state of Minnesota, Jonathan Edwards and his band headed to Boston to pursue their musical path. A multi-instrumentalist and talented singer-songwriter with an angelic voice, Edwards eventually abandoned the band approach, rented a van and a small PA system and began traveling around New England solo, developing a dedicated following of his own. He began landing opening slots for the likes of the Allman Brothers and eventually landed a contract with their label, Capricorn Records, which would soon become the epicenter label of the Southern Rock movement in the early 1970s. Edwards' self titled debut album soon became a hit, thanks in no small part to his song "Sunshine," one of the most happy-go-lucky protest songs ever written. With the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon as his most prominent targets, this song struck a nerve and soon became a Top 10 hit, earning Edwards a gold record in 1971.
Following his initial success, Edwards relocated to a more rural environment and settled into farm life in Western Massachusetts. His second album, Honky-Tonk Stardust Cowboy reflected this change, veering in a distinctly more country-flavored direction, which he would continue to pursue in the years to come. Following several years of one-nighters, Edwards gathered his musician friends together for an energetic live album, followed by session work for an old friend, Emmylou Harris. His work with Harris led to a deal with her label and two albums produced by Harris' husband, Brian Ahern. The second of these, Rockin' Chair, was released in 1976 to enthusiastic acclaim and contained some of his strongest writing to date. The album sessions hosted a who's who of the California Country Rock elite, including members of Harris' Hot Band and featured impressive musicianship and flawless singing and harmonies. Rockin' Chair remains to this day one of the finest examples of Country Rock and other than his debut, possibly his most beloved album.
This performance, recorded on the campus of Babson College during this special moment in his career, captures Edwards and friends serving up a highly energetic set that places a heavy emphasis on the new Rockin' Chair material. Fans of that album are sure to be delighted as the somewhat lush production on that album is stripped down to more basic elements, giving the same songs a greater immediacy here. Accompanied by members of the band Orphan and featuring the delightful harmonies of Lynnie Edwards, this performance displays Edwards' multifaceted talents in the most positive light.
Edwards kicks it off with his superb harmonica playing which leads into a highly energetic romp through "Train Of Glory," one of the standout tracks from his debut album. The title track of his second album follows, before Edwards and friends dive into the new Rockin' Chair material. Other than a delightful vocal duet with Lynnie Edwards on "Nova Scotia," a track from the aforementioned live album, the next six tracks are all sourced from Rockin' Chair, including "Lady," "Hello," "Ain't Got Time," the album's title track and "Song For Life." All of these songs are gems, sparkling with impassioned singing and superb musicianship.
With the audience engaged and enthralled by this point, Edwards ventures back to his first album for a lovely cover of Jesse Colin Young's "Sugar Babe" followed by another impressive duet vocal with Lynnie Edwards on the title track from Lucky Day. Joe Dolce's "My Home Ain't In The Hall Of Fame," which Edwards recorded on his third album, reflects his love of playing music for its own sake rather than for fame and recognition, and the brief up-tempo "Hit Parade Of Love" reflects a similar feeling within a bluegrass context.
Edwards then continues with another double dose of Rockin' Chair material. First up is "Hearts Overflowing," one of the most poignant songs from the new album, containing one of his most touching lyrics delivered with lovely harmonies. This is followed by the good time "Favorite Song," featuring Bill Elliott tickling the ivories with great flair.
As they approach the end of the set, they next serve up a delightfully harmonious reading of Hoyt Axton and David Jackson's humorous "No No Song." Edwards' most beautifully written song from his first album, "Emma," follows with lovely piano accompaniment from Elliott. An impassioned reading of the traditional "When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder," featuring an infectious a cappella opening and several impressive solos is next, before they close the performance with a brief fling through "We Hope You Had A Good Time," serving as the perfect ending statement to a consistently impressive set.