This is a review of Ronny's recent performance at the Ozark Folk Festival in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
REVIEW: 'I'd pay double to see Ronny Cox and friends again'
Sunday, November 18, 2012
By David Bell, Carroll County News (Arkansas)
I walked up the stairs to the lobby of The Aud for the Folk Festival's big event last Saturday, not knowing much about the headliner other than he was the one who played the "Dueling Banjos" role in the 1972 movie "Deliverance." That's about it.
At the top of the stairs this tall fellow stuck out his hand and said, "Hi, I'm Ronny and I'm glad you're here."
Under the black fedora was a smiling face, one of those that seems familiar, but you can't place it. I was early so I went about getting my cameras situated in a front seat and went back to the lobby to try to place the face. I watched as Ronny Cox greeted everyone entering the auditorium.
I still couldn't place the face. I was just there to take a few pictures of this singer who acted in "Deliverance" and leave, hoping he would do "Dueling Banjos" soon so I could get gone...
... I decided to google Ronny Cox on my IPhone and check him out. His website, ronnycox.com, came up and I went to his filmography link. I wanted to see where I had seen his face before. I hadn't seen "Deliverance" in years.
It turns out that I was familiar with him after all... as Captain Bogomil in "Beverly Hills Cop" and as the self-serving Mars administrator Vilos Cohaagen in "Total Recall." Now I placed the face under the fedora, framed with longish white hair peeking out on the sides and a white goatee and mustache.
This would be interesting after all. I heard he was a good musician; but then again Natalie Wood thought she had done a great job singing in "West Side Story" only to find out they used Marni Nixon to overdub over her pieces. It seems other actors who have performed are told by their agents and press folks how wonderful they are. Often, if it weren't for their names they couldn't make it as professional musicians.
But Ronnie Cox is the real deal. He can play. He can sing. And he can write songs as well.
By the second song I had forgotten all about "Dueling Banjos" and was wrapped up in what was coming from mellow baritone voice, along with his friends. He performed not only his own work but songs by Jack Williams, Micky Newbury, and others. "How I Love Them Old Songs" was perhaps most telling and descriptive of the kind of music Ronny sings today.
He grew up in Portales, New Mexico listening to Texas Swing tunes, but then played rock & roll in high school, and was eventually drawn to folk music after graduating from college. And it shows. Besides folk I heard bits of bluegrass, old-fashioned country and that Texas swing.
He went through his two hour set straigh, with no intermission. It seemed like half-and-hour.
Midway through Ronnie grinned and said, "I said I wasn't going to do this," and then plucked those familiar first four notes of "Dueling Banjos", much to the crowds' delight. "You probably tell that to all your audiences". But to tell you the truth, that's the first time I had even thought about it.
You haven't heard "Dueling Banjos" until you've heard it with two guitars, two mandolins and an accordion. The final portion of "Banjos" was dominated by the mandolins, playing in a sort of minor-key Russian folk-style. "Dueling balalaikas," he said to wild and appreciative applause.
Other songs on his play list I would recommend are: "Sanctuary", "A Big Truck Brought It", Compadres in the Old Sierra Madres", and a song about the town where he grew up, "Portales."
When I asked him what he wanted to be remembered for Ronny said, "Everything... the acting, music, I write songs, I've written a book, produced movies, written a screen play. All of it," he said with sincere humility. "But nothing cuts through to the heart like music."
"I love acting, but I don't love it as much as music," he said. "And the reason I don't is because of the personal connection that you can make through music. I like my music to feel like a shared evening, and I want us to feel like we're all in this together."
I asked about greeting everyone at the door. "If it's a manageable size I try to say 'hello' to everybody before it [the show] starts," Ronnie said. "That's the whole idea of folk music... [that's what] drives me to folk music."
The show was billed as "Ronny Cox and Friends." His "friends" were just that, good friends, and world-class musicians in their own rights. Playing with him at The Aud were: Radoslav Lorkovic, piano, accordion and vocals; Karen Mal, mandolin and vocals, and whom he referred to as his "adopted" daughter; Keith Grimwood, on bass and currently half of Trout Fishing In America; Jack Williams, guitar and vocals; Chojo Jacques, mandolin and fiddle, formerly with The Waybacks. Just the band alone would be worth the price of admission. Add Ronny Cox and you've got a show I would pay double to see again.
Ray Dilfield, manager of The Aud would agree.
"Most musicians' contracts say they can bow out or cancel a contract date if they get a movie or TV date offer. Ronny's contract specifies that he can bow out of a movie or TV contract to do a concert." That's a dedication to the music that Ronny Cox has, and a venue manager and music-lover like Dilfield appreciates.
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