Friday night we went to see Joe Clark and Randal Hill perform a mandolin extravaganza at The Pearl Company. Now the Pearl Co. is an old warehouse, at one time home to the Evel Casket Co., then the space was occupied by the Canadian Pearl Co. who made, as you might expect, pearls. Plastic pearls, remnants of which can be found ground into the wooden floor. Parking is at a premium in this neighbourhood, and although they have an arragnement with a local pharmacist, if you don't put the handy little note on your dashboard you might be in for an expensive surprise after the show.
Barbara Milne and her partner Gary Santucci are the hosts, and they live on the third floor in a beautiful open concept space, which they graciously showed off to us during the intermission.
A bunch of Hamilton musicians were there, all to see Joe Clark and Randal Hill play their mandolins. Although the crowd was small, Randal and Joe gave it their all. These guys are amazing. Fingers flew on the little fretboards, and yet it wasn't all flash. There was a wonderful musicality to it all, whether playing bluegrass classics from Bill Monroe, or Duke Ellington's "Caravan," or even the theme from "Never On Sunday" the melodies were strong, and the improvisations always led back to the main themes. Both Joe and Randal doubled on guitar, and sang. They sang those high, lonesome harmonies that mark bluegrass music. Clark grew up in the same area as The Stanley Brothers. His stories are peppered with tales of meeting Dr. Ralph, or Bill Monroe, John Hartford, and other legendary characters. Hill has stories about others, his career reaches back to the Humber River Valley Boys.
The Pearl Co. offers coffee, tea and some baked goods, and comfortable seating in an intimate room. The sound is warm, perfect for this acoustic music. There's an art gallery downstairs, with crafts and jewelry for sale. But the main event Friday night was the music...and it was extraordinary.