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Edited and Published by Robert W. McDowell

August 3, 2023 Issue
PART 5C (July 31, 2023)

A FREE Weekly E-mail Newsletter Covering Theater, Dance, Music, and Film in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill/Carrboro Area of North Carolina Since April 2001.


The Cleverlys at The Clayton Center: Who
Knew Music Could Be So Darn Funny!

The Clayton Center presented The Cleverlys, with Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, at 8 p.m. July 28th

It has now been confirmed that my whole life has been a lie. How is it that after living on planet earth for 56 years, I have never been exposed to the astounding talent of The Cleverlys?!? I'm a huge bluegrass fan, so surely, there has been a massive coverup of some sort that has kept me from finding The Cleverlys' inventive music.

Thankfully, there was a glitch in the matrix; and, thinking I was going to hear a nice bluegrass band, I got tickets to hear them at The Clayton Center Friday night. Little did I know that I was about to have a life-changing experience. Now my life is now divided into two sections: Life before The Cleverlys, and life after. Who knew music could be so darn funny!

A Garner, NC-based, very talented Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road warmed up the audience; and before we knew it the five members of The Cleverlys' "Trio" took the stage. After giving a brief nod to Bill Monroe and their love of old-time music, the band launched into a perfect bluegrass cover of pop hit "Gangnam Style." In Korean! Complete with robot moves. The crowd went wild!

But, wait, there was more! Their lineup included bluegrass versions of Blackstreet's "No Diggity," Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl," Kelis' "Milkshake," Radiohead's "Creep," and several Black-Eyed Peas songs, including "Let's Get It Started."

But in-between songs, we had even more fun. Stories of denture-wearing models, mayonnaise farms ("We learned the hard way that if you fall into a vat of mayonnaise, don't struggle, cause that stuff is just like quicksand!"), milking free-range alpacas ("Those suckers are FAST!") and higher education for VCR repair. The lead singer, Paul Harris, kept the audience in stitches, laughing and hollering the entire time.

When we later learned that Harris got his start as a stand-up comedian, it all made sense! This concert was like attending a comedy show with guys that play five-star bluegrass on the side. Apparently, Harris moved to Nashville, formed a band, and the rest, as they say, is history. His alternative universe troupe of real musicians tour the world (or as they say, "so long as the United States is the world") masquerading as their alter-ego family band "The Cleverlys," with silly names like DVD, Socks, Digger Jr., and Digger Jr. Jr.

The Clayton Center presented The Cleverlys, with Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, at 8 p.m. July 28th

Paul Harris (a.k.a. "Digger" Cleverly) leads a rotating group of very talented bluegrass musicians. Digger himself is the spitting image of the gum-chewing Woody Harrelson character from No Country for Old Men. There's also a checked-suit beatnik mandolin player ("Haggis" Cleverly) seemingly pulled from Peaky Blinders, a bass player (Ricky Lloyd) who is a mean beat boxer and who also breaks into spontaneous "robot" moves, a banjo player, Will Maclean ("DVD" Cleverly) who stepped out of the 1940s, and a dobro player (Scotty Murray as "Waspur" Cleverly) visiting straight from a Wild West train robbery. These fellas gave us one wild two-and-a-half-hour ride! My sides hurt.

"Digger" said that they have been labelled as a "novelty band"; but that is an unfair slight, and fans, this audience, and even the Grand Ole Opry clearly disagree! Their silliness is a thinly veiled cover for razor-sharp harmonies, on-point slide guitar, chipper mandolin, and rollicking fun. These fellas are the real deal. And they occasionally drop in old bludgrass standards, such as Bill Monroe's "Uncle Pen," just to remind you how skilled they are.

Ya'll, if you ever have the chance to spend an evening with The Cleverlys, you should take it, and buy a T-shirt. (As "Digger" explained, "We are selling CDs out in the lobby after the show. All of the proceeds for CD sales go to us. But if you buy a t-shirt, all of the proceeds will go to ... well, us too.")

I am thinking of shuttering my house and following their tour for the next few years. We all work remotely these days anyway, don't we?

Chix Pix: The Clayton Center is amazing! The staff were friendly, there was plenty of room in the theater lobby to rub elbows with the band after the show, and the venue is just the right size for a great concert experience. When you go to The Clayton Center, make sure to go early, because downtown Clayton is hopping these days! "Last Friday in Clayton" is a monthly street festival that was happening the night that I went to see The Cleverlys. There are also cute shops on Main Street; and Clayton even has a Scott Crawford restaurant, Crawford Cookshop, where I had an amazing bite of roasted oysters, squash casserole, and a cocktail before the show. What a great night! Wish you were there.

The Clayton Center presented The Cleverlys, with Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, at 8 p.m. July 28th

THE CLEVERLYS IN CONCERT (In Person Friday, July 28th), with Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road (The Clayton Center in Clayton). THE CLEVERLYS' SIZZLE REEL: THE CLEVERLYS' VIDEOS: PRESENTER/VENUE:,,,, and THE CLEVERLYS (faux family bluegrass and comedy cover band, founded in 2009):,,,, and INFORMATION: 919-553-1737 or PLEASE DONATE TO: The Clayton Center. [RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]

EDITOR'S NOTE: Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she's not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review.


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