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REVIEW: Pied Pumkin has mellowed since its '70s heyday, but still has something to say
Thursday February 1, 2001
Robert Reid

It's one thing for a band to come out of retirement for a reunion tour. It's quite another thing for working musicians to reassemble in the band that marked the beginning of their careers.

Rick Scott, Joe Mock and Shari Ulrich did the latter and, as a result, the Pied Pumkin String Ensemble is as fresh, vibrant and vital as it was in its glorious heyday from 1972 through 1974.

The trio, embarking on its fourth reunion tour in as many years, kicked off this year's musical celebration of past and present with a concert yesterday at Zion United Church in Kitchener. The gig was the trio's first in Ontario since Scott and Mock played here as Pied Pair in 1977.

Although maturer, Scott is still enough of the infectiously enthusiastic child to give the band energy to spare. The man's an inventive maniac on the dulcimer, which he innovatively plays like a rhythm guitar.

Mock has honed his gifts as a guitarist to the point where such songs as Black Dog are transformed into stunning, free-form jazz essays.

And Ulrich, with a voice like morning sunlight on water and abundant talents as a multi-instrumentalist (fiddle, mandolin, flute, dulcimer and keyboards) is now accomplished enough as a songwriter to stand as an equal alongside her musical companions. Turning and Watching the River were both unsurpassingly lovely.

Whether performing such beloved gems as I Believe, You Can Change the World, Yo De Do Do or Tree or newer material such as Cuckoo or the aforementioned Black Dog, Ulrich, Scott and Mock remained keenly, completely in the moment.

Past and present merged in the musical now.

Pied Pumkin has mellowed with musical maturity. Think of hand-rubbed pine that has been oiled with affection and dedication.

The trio started the evening off with the ethereal I Believe. And it wasn't the last time Ulrich's voice, bathed in the light of Scott's and Mock's tight harmonies, sent electrical shivers tingling up the backs of necks.

It would be enough to see and hear Pied Pumkin just to walk again down memory lane. However, it wouldn't be enough for Scott, Mock and Ulrich.

With one eye focused on the past and one eye focused on the future, Pied Pumkin has as much to say to a new generation of fans as it did more than 25 years ago to a generation who looked upon anyone older than 30 with fear and loathing.

Pied Pumkin hasn't so much changed with the times, as the times have finally caught up to Pied Pumkin.

©Kitchener-Waterloo Record
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