With a background of city lights and skyscrapers, it was a perfect setting for Thor Platter to unveil his new album, Take Time, Thursday evening at Cleveland’s Music Box Supper Club. Moving west from Buffalo nine years ago, Platter felt right at home at the beautiful venue on the edge of the Cuyahoga River flowing into one of the Great Lakes. The full house was a spattering of family, friends, Kickstarter supporters, and fellow musicians who share a comradery with one of Northeast Ohio’s very talented troubadours.
Platter was one of a handful of songwriters featured in the article "Believeland - A Roots Music Renaissance Simmers Just Under The Surface in Northeast Ohio" published in the Spring 2017 edition of No Depression magazine. His new record embraces the trials and tribulations of a songwriter who decided that going acoustic instead of electric would be the correct path. Previously headlining an electric band with pedal steel when he first began recording a few years ago, this past year Platter surrounded himself with two acclaimed teachers of the Americana roots craft in Paul Lewis on bass and Paul Kovac on banjo, playing as a trio. This led to a friendship with songwriter/musician/producer David Mayfield, who moved back to his old stopping grounds from Nashville and occasionally sits in with Kovac’s other bands, Hillbilly Idol and Clear Fork Bluegrass Quartet. Mayfield took time to review Platter’s songbook and there was just something right about the vibe coming from Mayfield's former studio Tiger Spa (Mayfield recently opened a new facility called Sweetside Recording Company). With the trio playing shows for several months, the new album was tracked in just six sessions, with few overdubs, to stay true to their arraignments and live recording process creating an amazing record that echoes of gone but not forgotten outlaw country royalty. Keeping things local, the vinyl album, which was delivered just in time for tonight’s show, was manufactured by Gotta Groove Records.
The 15-song set featuring all ten from the new album began with “Open Up Your Heart,” a song about trying to forget an old flame when dating someone new. Lifetime themes are spotlighted with “Fallout (Take Time),” which touches on friends who are going through dark times, as does the gorgeous “There For You,” written after seeing a community hit by hard times and unemployment that featured a bass solo from Lewis. One of my favorites from the new album, “Captain Black,” pays tribute to Platter's father, who kept a royal blue pouch of pipe tobacco lying on the dashboard of the family vehicle. The album’s opening track, “Destined,” a song Platter wrote when he first moved to Cleveland about a young man’s dreams, was followed by “Come Home,” which was written almost 15 years ago, when his childhood girlfriend left for the big city of New York (yes, she came back and they’re happily married). Closing out this portion of the show was “Since I’ve Been Gone,” a bluegrass story from when Platter revisited Buffalo full of sweet harmonies and Kovac’s banjo picking.
A slew of bluegrass interpretations came next, with Willie Nelson's “Sad Songs and Waltzes,” The Dillards' “Old Home Place,” Lester Flatt's “I’m Gonna Sleep With One Eye Open,” Hank Williams' “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” – with interjections of old TV themes and classic rock riffs – and a take on “Tear Stained Eye” by Son Volt that can be found on the new record. For the finale, after the trio performed “Pullman Blues,” Platter was surprised when the drapes came off the instruments and amps behind him as Mayfield joined in on electric guitar with Brent Kirby on drums and Chris Hanna on keyboards to replicate the album track in which Mayfield layered instruments from an old band recording into a crashing finish.
Opening the evening were Cave Twins, featuring Mayfield with Abby Rose. Co-writing for the past year, the sly-witted stage performer Mayfield (mandolin) blended vocals with Rose's (guitar) sweetness and innocence around a single microphone making for olde-tyme entertainment. Their ten-song set was highlighted by “When The Sun Hits,” “Happy Anywhere,” “Trouble,” “That’s Yours My Dear,” “Take Your Shoes Off,” and “With You.” Expect to hear more from these two with an album release next year.