Written by James Killen
Many Houstonians still remember that folk rock band that came out of Lamar High School, forming in 1973, that toured the country introducing rock ballets (Caliban and Rasputin) as an art form only to split up spawning Trout Fishing in America (Ezra Idlet and Keith Grimwood) and the solo careers of Connie Mims and Craig Calvert. That very same quartet of original members got together last Friday night to entertain a full house of fans, many of whom, myself included, have been following them for over forty years.
Wheatfield, also having gone by the band name, St. Elmo’s Fire, had been very much separated for years until Craig Calvert dug up the master tapes from the album that never happened and finally put out a CD that also included some live recordings from the band’s early appearance on Austin City Limits. Since then, they have been getting together for little reunion tours and have put out an EP (Second Chances) and a full length CD (Big Texas Sky). They are spreading the rumor that they have been collaborating on a new full length disc of original songs.
To start the show, Wheatfield pulled out an oldie but a goody with CSN’s “Find the Cost of Freedom” a cappella rolling into Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road”. The band did not dwell in the past long, choosing the recent numbers, “Driving Rain”, “Big Texas Sky” and Keith’s humorous, “Where’s Your Mama”. Once again, they reached back those decades to resurrect “Roll Over Dave Brubeck” featuring Craig on the flute.
After an offering of “Everywhere You Go”, the band began to break out some of their new songs to preview the next production. The first I would venture to guess that the title would be “Do You Wanna Dance with Me?”. After that it was back to the classic “Cruzan Time” with the bursts of mandolin flurry between the slow chanting lyrics. Having been always infatuated with all things Jerry Garcia, they covered “Midnight Moonlight” from Garcia’s collaboration with Peter Rowan, Old and in the Way.
The evening progressed while Wheatfield interspersed some of their new songs with some from the recent albums and some from Connie’s solo and a Trout tune or two, before they closed out with a great cover of U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”.
I must confess that I missed the last trip that Wheatfield made through town, but the one’s just prior to that had been simply nostalgic. They seemed like a quickly thrown together attempt to satisfy the remnants that we are of the huge fan base that Wheatfield/ St. Elmo’s Fire had drawn in the 1970’s. Friday’s show was different. The band seemed more like a band again, instead of some old friends that were just getting together to jam. Ezra’s finger picking and banjo were ethereal. Craig’s guitar leads and mandolin runs were stellar. Connie’s voice was right on and Keith was the perfect showman that he always has been. Most of all the harmonies sounded like the band was finally back together again!
I for one am anxious to hear that next record when it comes out. It promises to be a collective effort instead of a collection of solo efforts bound together by a common history. Maybe it’s not too late for that big hit record. It just goes to show that you never can tell.