PICK ME UP Richard Davies enlisted a few new friends to round out the sound of Cardinal, filling in for the band's other half, Eric Matthews. 

Last Thursday was full of surprises at Cambridge's Plough and Stars, as Australian singer/songwriter Richard Davies and one very lucky pick-up band were set to perform the music of Cardinal — the legendary duo whose 1994 homonymous LP was perhaps the most influential baroque-pop revival record of the 1990s. As the band got into their groove at the Plough, the dryly comical Davies was quick to point out that some of the songs were written just down the street, where Cardinal formed when Davies and West Coast multi-instrumentalist Eric Matthews crossed paths briefly in the early '90 (Davies has quietly called the South Shore home for the past several years).

Absent from the stage was Cardinal's chief arranger, Matthews, whose arrangements came via pre-recorded tracks on an iPod. These arrangements were then brought to life as the band of locals, including Corin Ashley on bass, played along despite having learned the songs just last week. A very brave drummer kept things together vis-à-vis a click-track and a pair of headphones.

Surprisingly though, this ad hoc set-up was not an issue, as Cardinal's rich, British-invasion influenced compositions came across with aplomb and no shortage of amazing harmonies. Highlights included "If You Believe in Christmas Trees," with its clever staccato vocal harmonies, and "You've Lost Me There," a song so beautiful that — even though I've not heard it in probably a decade — it crashed down on me with the shock of a recovered memory.

Davies and Matthews have also finally put out a follow-up record, 18 years in the later, called Hymns — so hopefully we will be seeing more of Davies around town.

For the openers, Shelterbelt got things started with a couple of great almost-covers (I heard traces of Dylan's "Never Say Goodbye" and Dr. John's "Such a Night" in their original material; if you're going to pillage, pillage well), and Happy Jawbone Family Band suggested the Peanuts gang set loose with a bunch of sunglasses and electric guitars. Well done, kids.

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