Roots music enthusiasts rightly cite New Year's Eve 1978 as a legendary night at Washington, D.C.'s Cellar Door because of the towering figure cut by late guitar legend Danny Gatton and his high-flying ensemble of the time (Redneck Jazz Explosion). Gatton's celebrated "clam filter" kept the tapes of his own performances from being released for nearly 20 years, but the Principato-Kennedy support duo turned in an equally inspired performance of their own -- as shown by their own live tapes, rounded off by some informal two-track demos. The musical approach is simple, but solid. Principato and Kennedy lay out the melody, then circle like mating butterflies as they uncoil echo-laden improvisations. Although both men are accomplished and versatile players, this isn't just a display of chops for its own sake; Kennedy and Principato make effective use of space and silence to create the moods suggested by "Echo Boogie" or "Stealin' Corn." Bassist Steve Wolf -- himself an integral Redneck Jazz Explosion member -- lends his unique lead stylings to four tracks. This factor underpins two standouts, a melodic revamp of the Beatles' "Here, There and Everywhere" and a sprightly, jazzy "Flintstones Theme," which brims with the same sense of contagious fun and daredevil flair that marked a classic Gatton show. (Of course, "The Flintstones Theme" wound up among numerous movie and TV themes that might pop up during a classic '70s Gatton nightclub set.) The duo also pays tribute to their '30s and '40s heroes with glistening takes on Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Ain't Misbehavin'" and Duke Ellington's oft-covered standard "It Don't Mean a Thing (If Ain't Got That Swing)." It's not hard to understand why Gatton tapped the duo as his opening act; Principato and Kennedy combine fierce chops and serious fun, which is what this music is all about.
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AllMusic Review by Ralph Heibutzki