SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Brooklyn-based string band Cricket Tell the Weather hopped upstate to play a pleasant, down-to-earth show on Friday as part of the Folkus Project.
The bluegrass-inspired quartet packed more than a hundred people into the May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society’s main room. They played over 20 arrangements: covers of tunes by Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Regina Spektor, along with originals written by singer/fiddler Andrea Asprelli.
It’s hard to imagine the song “Samson” without Spektor’s expressive voice and piano pounding, but Asprelli somehow struck the same pensive tone with her folksy inflection.
Asprelli is a likable frontwoman with jaunty fiddle chops and a stash of groan-worthy jokes, like: “You know the best thing about dad jokes? The punchline is a parent.”
Or another: “I used to be addicted to the hokey-pokey but I really turned myself around.”
As far as stage presence, the group could be tighter. They often stalled when a bandmate had to re-tune a banjo, guitar or bass, and Asprelli flubbed her own lyrics here and there.
Thankfully, their off-the-cuff nature added to their charm. They didn’t come off as careless. Rather, they seemed intent to show off their full catalog, which includes quite a lot of complex strains, gospel influences and evocative lyrics.
Some of their finest moments onstage were clean three-part harmonies or rounds. Guitarist Ross Martin and banjoist Doug Goldstein both sing with surprisingly dulcet voices. They balanced out Asprelli’s steady, low tone on tunes like “Alice” and “Remington.”
“Remington,” a co-write with Jason Borisoff, is a poignant slice of America’s backbreaking history, with lines like, “And you can hear those engines roaring / As they’re pouring sweat and steel / And inside that brick and mortar / They’re hoping for a better deal.”
Dave Speranza on the upright bass rounded out the group’s sound with his own precise plucks. The audience clapped along often. One couple danced in the small space at the back of the room.
For those who haven’t been to May Memorial for a concert, it can be a tight squeeze for a well-attended show like this. However, the selection of homemade brownies, cookies and coffee made for a happy crowd.
Cricket also debuted two new songs for the crowd, which drew the biggest cheers of the night. Asprelli presented “Sweet Friend of Mine” as a simple tune but her percussive violin swipes and chugging pace made it a show highlight.
It’s bittersweet to see Asprelli lead this group. She once lived and played in Syracuse for the local bluegrass band Boots n’ Shorts. Though she’s moved on to bigger things, it was a shame to lose her talent in this town.
Syracuse fans clearly remember her or know her work. A few audience members sang along for Cricket’s bigger hits, “Honey in the Rock” and “Rocky Mountain Skies.”
The group ended with an instrumental encore after more than two hours of controlled, thoughtful tunes. A Friday night delight.