Live Review

The Lil' Smokies Ignite the Parlor Room in Northampton, MA

The Lil' Smokies on February 25, 2018

Lil' Smokies Live at the Parlor Room, Northampton, Massachusetts

The Missoula, Montana, progressive bluegrass band The Lil’ Smokies made a scorching statement regarding their status as an “up and coming” acoustic band. They have definitively arrived. Their live show dazzled the Parlor Room crowd throughout their 17-song set.

The repertoire was split between their self-titled release and their most recent release, Changing Shades. The band has blossomed into a leading player in the territory in which bands like the Infamous Stringdusters have long held court. The instrumentation throughout was jaw dropping.  Throughout the evening, each member showed their chops as solos abounded. Scott Parker held the low end admirably on bass while Matt Cornette picked on banjo, propelling the tunes forward. Recent additions to the Lil’ Smokies, Matt “Rev” Rieger on guitar and Jake Simpson on fiddle, were instrumental standouts. Each sang a tune of their own as well. But the focus of the show was lead vocalist and primary songwriter Andy Dunnigan. His dobro playing is astounding! His approach can be compared favorably to Andy Hall from the Infamous Stringdusters. Similar to Hall, Dunnigan’s dobro leads the way in the band’s blazing sound.

The band has gone through some growing pains in personnel changes over their six-year history. Their neverending touring is probably not suited for everyone’s lifestyle, but the current lineup seems “all in.” The band has gathered critical acclaim along the way, garnering “Best Band” awards at the 2013 North West String Summit, as well as at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Competition in 2015. The International Bluegrass Music Association gave them its Momentum Award for Best Band in 2016.

The band’s set on this night seem to really hit its stride during the performances of the most recent Changing Shades material, specifically “The Gallery,” “Might As Well,” and “In the City.” Every note was propulsively, frantically, energetically played. The solos were tight and energetic. No jam band ethos of noodling, really just full-on assault of their instruments. Simpson wailed on his fiddle while Dunnigan picked that dobro like a demon. Really, the band is exceptional in a live setting. The energy never flagged till the end of the set, when the band played the ballad,” Need A Minute.” By then, the crowd definitely did.

If you’re lucky enough to be near a city on their neverending tour or catch one of their many festival season appearances, do yourself a favor. Catch these Lil’ Smokies live. They surely won’t be Lil’ for long but they will be a Smoking-hot live experience.