My mother always used to tell me I was her favorite child (I was an only child). We'd laugh about it, but it was a sincere endorsement that I was on the right track. Still, the word "favorite" singles someone out as being very special.Sometime back in my late teens I traded in my electric guitar for an acoustic. I was still listening to my favorite rock groups, but I found myself detouring towards the music of Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen, and others that comfortably wore the title of “folk musicians.” The rest of the popular music world were also being carried by that current. Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Neil Young, John Sebastian, and the Byrds all had an acoustic side to their music (not to mention Donovan, Arlo, and Richie Havens whose careers rode that current). Among my favorites were Aztec Two-Step. Their lyrics were hip. Neal Shulman’s guitar work was tasty and dazzling, and Rex Fowler’s songs left an indelible impression – songs that you took with you for decades. Rex and Neal took the name Aztec Two-Step from a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti back in the early 70s, and went on to become major headliners, and a staple of progressive FM radio, major record deals, and non-stop touring, One music critic described the duo’s debut album as “one of the top five classic folk albums of all time”, and cites the duo as “surpassing Simon and Garfunkel for exquisite harmonies, musicianship and emotion.” During their stellar career they appeared in concert with such notable artists as The Band, Bruce Springsteen, Bonnie Raitt, Arlo Guthrie, David Bromberg, Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon, America, Orleans, Jimmy Buffet, and many more. They kept an unrelenting tour pace for 40 years, and their fans kept showing up.

Following Neal’s 2018 retirement and with his blessings, original founding member, principal singer and songwriter Rex has continued this legacy with Aztec Two-Step 2.0. I’ve had the good fortune to catch the new act several times. I think it’s important to point out that this new incarnation is not a “tribute band,” as it spotlights the intoxicating vocal styling and songwriting of original member Rex Fowler. It’s also not campfire, folk music. With exquisite harmonies, multi-instrumental arrangements, and dazzling guitar work, the new 3-piece group still captures the feeling of Rex & Neal’s original studio recordings, at the same time putting a fresh spin on the songs. Still performing favorite ATS classics and old forgotten gems, the stage patter is still as engaging, fun, and poignant as ever! The audiences I sat among loved them.

The members of the new ensemble include Dodie Pettit on acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards and vocals, and Steven “Muddy” Roues on standup bass, vocals, and harmonica. I can’t wait to hear this music again at Unity Hall on Friday, May 13th.

Matt Mielnick