The sight of sailboats and power yachts bobbing in the waves. The sound of the ocean lapping at the shoreline a few feet away. The feel of the warm breeze as a short-sleeved crowd enjoys an open-air bar in the middle of winter. You’re on a tropical island, in this case St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, home this evening to Dick Solberg & the Sun Mountain Band.
Hailing from near Cooperstown, New York, Solberg (aka “The Fiddler”) has made St. Thomas his annual winter home for 21 years. The rest of the year, he plays at musical festivals and venues around the country. But tonight he’s entertaining a lively island crowd with a mix of country, western swing, bluegrass, Irish, reggae, Cajun and folk tunes. The band’s covers of sources as diverse as Bob Dylan, Bob Wills, Toots & the Maytals and Jimmie Driftwood are occasionally augmented by songs celebrating more debauched pleasures of the flesh, such as the obscure but self-explanatory “Smoke Two Joints”. Tunes such as “Popcorn”, with charming four-part vocal “popping” interludes; “Ridin’ High”, an ode to days past spent touring in a van; and “Plain White Rapper”, a hilarious homage to/parody of rap music, rounded out the evening’s entertainment.
Solberg is both an accomplished musician (vocals, fiddle, keyboards, and jack-of-all-trades as needed) and a genuine “character.” His theatrical approach to performing includes taking a turn on the dance floor during a waltz, busting some slo-mo moves during his rap song, and radiating high energy and good spirits. Solberg’s trademark “ain’t it great to be alive” philosophy was evident throughout the performance. The rest of the Sun Mountain Band (Phil Robinson, mandolin, second fiddle, vocals; Joe Colpitt, guitars, vocals; and Phil Minnich, bass, vocals) provided expert backing, with each member soloing and stepping up to the mike as a lead singer on occasion. Robinson’s mandolin solos, and his fiddle duets with Solberg, were particular crowd favorites on this evening. As an extra treat, after the amplified performance concluded, the band sat down and continued to entertain the folks who remained with a quiet acoustic set almost as wide-ranging as the main show.