Summertime = summer camp, doesn’t it? To musicians, though, camps of summer are only marginally related to The Parent Trap or Wet Hot American Summer motifs. Music camps borrow the familiar grounds, dormitories, and wood panel-clad mess halls and classrooms for a week or two here and there, when they would otherwise be left vacant, and then fill them with pickers and tunes. It’s an entirely different summer camp category, but they’re never less nostalgic, or memorable, or convivial, or sweltering than their more mainstream counterparts, even if they are a special breed of their own.
Mike Block, an acclaimed and traveled cellist, is a founder, proprietor, and curator of just such a music camp, and an experienced instructor at many others as well. His latest album, Final Night at Camp: Deluxe Edition, plays exactly like an end-of-week faculty concert, drawing on musicians and pickers who are just as familiar with the wonders and woes of folk music camps as he is. The title track seemingly mirrors a week a camp, for just as you begin to become comfortable and familiar with your surroundings, the craziness (sleep deprivation? One crazy, all-night jam? That one student who refuses to ask an actual question, opting for, “This is more of a comment, really…” instead?) sets in! On the cello-centered, original instrumental, that “craziness” is a wildly dissonant, dynamic breakdown, that reharmonizes the tune’s melodic hook fantastically and frenetically mid-song. But, just like camp, when everything settles, everything is finally sorted out and the time has elapsed, we’ve learned something — and we wish that the “Final Night at Camp” hadn’t come to a close so soon.