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  Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 95

Rick Wood's Concert Diary - Vol. 95

6/30/10 Covered In Vinyl, House Concert.  We generally try to avoid hosting "repeat acts" at our house concerts, but we slightly bent our rules this time around.  Susan and her band have been performing these unique "Covered In Vinyl" shows in their home town of New Orleans...about once a month, they learn a classic album and play it in its entirety at their favorite NOLA venue- Carrollton Station.
 
Susan and band graciously agreed to perform their first Covered In Vinyl session outside of New Orleans at our place the night before their scheduled gig at Off Broadway (props to Steve at OB for being cool with this).  They showed up at the house late Tuesday night and we hung out late, catching up over beers and wine before crashing for the night. 
 
Since the house concert wasn’t until 8PM, the band had the whole day to run through the songs for the album they would be covering- Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.  I was impressed by how much effort and energy they all put into it.  The two young guys in the band are brothers, both born in the mid-eighties, so their knowledge of this classic Simon & Garfunkel album was as something of a historical artifact…they referred to some youtube clips to bone up while Mary ran through her bass parts in the back room. Even though I hadn’t heard P, S, R & T in decades, I could still pretty much sing along with the all of the songs, just from hearing it so many times in the fourth grade.  The whole house was feelin’ groovy. 
 
Susan is friends with The Bottleockets’ Brian Henneman; he showed up around six…just in time to eat bar-b-q and run through a few songs…I was impressed by how quickly the whole band fell in with songs they had never heard before: “Odds And Ends”, “Wild And Blue”, “Southern California” and a couple of others. 
 
About an hour later, there were almost eighty people in the house when Susan stepped up to the mic and explained the whole “Covered In Vinyl” thing.  With lyric sheets perched on music stands, the band started into their fairly faithful execution of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.
 
This is probably too much information for most folks, but here’s some scattered stuff that hit me:
 
Hearing these songs now was something of a revelation, as much of the content (lyrical and musical) was lost on me when I was listening to them as a ten-year-old.  There are songs on that album that are obvious send-ups of Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones, but I didn’t catch it at the time…all sung by the girl on a Cowsills record I had in 1968. So tonight’s experience was dense with content/context/history for me.
 
The band gave the title track a delicate, layered feel.  “Patterns” has a dark, driving tone along the lines of “It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding”, Russ slapping the drums with his bare hands, giving it a hypnotic bongo feel, Sam on haunting fiddle.  “Cloudy” was one that I largely overlooked back in the day that struck me as fresh and revelatory.  The overall feel of “The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine” seems to be pretty influenced by “Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown”…and when Paul Simon sang “Are you worried that your girlfriend’s just a little late?”, I thought he was concerned about being stood up, when I’m guessing (now) he was referring to her period.  And it never occurred to me that “The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine” might be about smoking weed.  “Flowers Never Bend With the Rainfall” has trippy lyrics like, “I don’t know what is real/I can’t touch what I feel/and I hide behind the shield of my illusions”…didn’t quite sink in when I was ten.
 
Throughout, Jack Craft laid on some intricate, true-to-the-original picking patterns while brother Sam’s fiddle conveyed a rich tone, befitting the feel of the songs, even if there was no fiddle on the original versions.  “A Simple Desultory Philippic” is an obvious Bob Dylan send-up, sung by Sam (who brushed up on it, via iTunes this afternoon…funny hearing a guy born in 1986 singing about Robert McNamara and Maxwell Taylor).  The simple, gorgeous ballad “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her” made me wonder how they would decide which songs Art Garfunkel would sing lead on.  On “Seven O' Clock News / Silent Night”, I found myself wishing that the spoken news soundtrack (read by a 24-year-old tonight) had been updated to reflect today’s equally troubled times.
 
Having wowed us all with their interpretation of this album, it was just gravy to hear the band end set one with a few more well-chosen (and executed) S & G songs:  “El Condor Pasa” (given a Latino/Caribbean/Reggae treatment), “Cecelia” (Sam’s keyboards joyously carrying the melody) and ending with Susan’s breathtaking vocals on “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (maybe the evening’s highlight).
 
Set two was much less structured.  Susan opened with a couple of songs from her current Lighthouse CD: “Dragon Flys” (a sunny pop song about her late brother) and “Lighthouse” (a dramatic ballad w/ Jack on piano & Sam on violin).  Next we heard an original from bassist Mary Lasseigne and another by Jack and Sam (on guitar and cello, respectively) before Susan brought Brian Henneman up to the “stage”.
 
Brian and Susan have crossed paths over the years, but this was probably the most extensive collaborative set they’ve ever done.  Not surprisingly, the net effect is something rougher than Susan’s solo work, but smoother than your typical Bottlerockets outing; nuanced cello arrangements gave way to Brian’s electric guitar. 
 
Song selection was pretty much Brian’s call: “It Never Rains In Southern California” (this fun little hit from the early seventies is well-suited to Susan’s pop sensibilities), “Delta Dawn”, “Angel From Montgomery” and Lucinda’s “Drunken Angel” (Susan has been dedicating this one to her late brother for a while).  The band and most of the crowd happily followed this shift to something louder and more forceful, but a couple of hard-core Susan fans felt that the tone of things had been hijacked. Things closed out with John Anderson’s “Wild And Blue” and Dylan’s “Odds And Ends”, Susan and band confidently nailing these songs that they had only played for the first time a couple of hours ago.
 
People hung out some after the show…eventually it was just me and the band doing the late-night thing.  The following day Sam, Russ and I went for a swim before I drove the family south to Arkansas and the band headed off to their gig at Off Broadway.
 
7/8/10 Sarah Borges And The Broken Singles, Off Broadway. Maybe 70 people out on a Thursday night.  I got there in time to catch the last handful of songs by The Brothers Lazaroff.  A couple of the songs were spacey/blues send-ups ala Beefheart/Zappa while others featured some hot-pickin’ country licks.  Most songs seemed to drift to an end, rather than succinctly stick the landing.  During the break I got a chance to say “Hi” to Sarah and the boys out in the outdoor courtyard.
 
Tonight’s set by Sarah Borges And The Broken Singles was full of old favorites (“Day We Met”, “Just Between You And Me”, “Glory Be” and “Daniel Lee”), but what has changed is the overall polish/presentation of the entire band.  Lyle has probably been an amazing guitar player for a while, but it really shows, now that he’s become familiar with the band and the material.  Sarah’s increased level of confidence is also more evident, both in her strong, expressive vocal delivery, as well as her relaxed, humorous between-song banter.  True to their pattern, they closed things out with Sarah coming out into the crowd for the bluesy, audience-response song, “Open Up Your Back Door”.
 
7/23/10 Raul Malo, House Concert.   A while ago, a friend suggested that we do something special to celebrate the fifth anniversary of hosting concerts at our house.  Just by coincidence, something special fell right into our laps…our friend Joann Elgin had a big birthday coming up and she and her husband, Gary had approached their friend, Raul Malo about the possibility of playing at an intimate gathering at our place.  Raul graciously agreed and the show was on.  Gary and Joann worked out the arrangements and invited a bunch of their friends (many of whom are ours friends, as well).  The birthday girl, the band and the rest of the birthday party arrived just after six…a little time for dinner, presents, balloons, etc. before the music.  Raul, bassist Jay Weaver and Allen Miller (Raul’s songwriting partner) were part of the festivities, as well.  Somewhere in there, they did a brief sound check; they weren’t too fussy about the finer points of the sound system…“can you put some kind of reverb on my voice?...that’s great”.
 
This being late July and hot as hell outside, our air conditioner was working at maximum capacity, fighting a losing battle as the doors opened often, allowing more and more warm bodies inside.  This chill-down battle came to a resounding halt when I left one of the kid’s pizzas unattended in the microwave and a big black, smelly, charred hull of a former pizza filled the room with noxious smoke and forced us to open all the windows and turn on all the fans, expelling the smoke, along with whatever cool air there was out the windows, less than an hour before show time.  Damn.  This is when Nancy saved the day (not the first time) by running out to Home Depot and buying one of those free-standing air conditioner units that draws air from a window vent.  By 8PM the house was almost smoke-free and the indoor temperature had dropped to “acceptable”.
 
Raul began with a brief birthday shout-out to Joann and started right in on one long set, opening with “I’d Be A Legend In My Time”.  In this intimate, acoustic duo format, Raul’s impressive, expressive voice was front and center all night long.  Elements of Roy Orbison, Jose Felciano and Chris Isaak permeated the proceedings.  Right after he finished up “The Lucky One” (one of his more well-known songs), our new puppy came wandering across the “stage” and Jay (seated on a stool) briefly scooped him up into his lap as Raul told a sad story about how his dog had been swept away in the recent Nashville flood…“just kidding!”
 
Raul proved to be more than an able player on his beat-up nylon-stringed acoustic guitar and Jay’s unique bass ukulele filled things in nicely.  Since Raul typically plays much bigger venues than our little kitchen, the overall mood of tonight’s show was very loose and at ease. I could go on and on, but a few highlights included “You Always Win” (with a whistling part simulating a muted trumpet sound), “Moon River”, “One More Angel” (this one will break your heart), “Sombras Nada Mas” (sung in Spanish), “Moonlight Kiss” (a jumpy, forties-style Latino number) and the upbeat, tuneful “All You Ever Do Is Bring Me Down”.  Having seen the video of Raul’s over-the-top rave-up version of “Dance The Night Away”, it was nice to hear him recast this one with a loose, relaxed groove.
 
They closed things out with a string of covers in the crooner/ballad vein: “Blue Bayou” (a nod to Raul’s most obvious influence), “Stardust”, “I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City” (Nilsson), “Jersey Girl” (a couple of lines delivered with a pretty convincing Tom Waits impression) and “Cry”.  The last item on tonight’s agenda was the cutting/eating of the birthday cake.  A little while later the house cleared out and the band adjourned over to Gary and Joann’s house for a bit more celebrating.
 
7/24/10 Enormous Richard, The Duck Room.  This bunch of friends/musicians who met at Washington University in the late eighties has moved on (literally and figuratively) to other places and things but stays in regular contact and does reunion shows once every few years.  Tonight’s show was one of two (the other was across the river in Granite City) to celebrate the re-release of their Enormous Richard’s Almanac, lovingly transferred to CD, from its original cassette format.  There were lots of familiar faces from the old days in the “crowd” of maybe 60 people. 
 
They started off with “I’m Not Religious” as lead singer Chris King walked across the relatively sparse dance floor, holding the mic out to various members of the audience to sing the choruses (which pretty much just repeats the phrase “Hare Krishna”).  From there, it was a non-stop romp through all of those exuberant, home-made songs; the band playing with a range of levels of proficiency.  As back in the day, the result was a joyous, slap-dash ride.
 
I had not heard these songs in years, so it was fun to have the band bring them back out of the corners of my memory: “We’re Not REM”, “All The Greatest Matadors Were Fascists” (a personal favorite), “Dogs With Their Heads Out The Window” (this one always come to mind whenever I witness this occurrence out in traffic), “Steve Pick, Music Critic” (not in attendance tonight), “Timmy Todd”, “Little Hiawatha” and “Tribal Rachel”.  As the songs kept coming, I was surprised that I actually remembered almost of them and even more so, that for all they lack in musical correctness, they remain charming and endearing.
Since a number of the band members had come in from out of town, I was hoping to get a little catch-up time after the show.  Nancy was out of town with our ten-year-old and the cooler was still full of cold beer from last night’s house concert, so my house was the logical choice for the after-party.  Fifteen or twenty people hung out until the wee hours…seemed like a good idea at the time.
 
7/31/10 Rough Shop, Riddle’s.  After a long day that included a drive to and from eastern Kansas and dinner with the family(s), Dave and I made it to the bar a little after eleven.  We only knew one person in the crowd of maybe twenty, but eventually a handful of familiar faces showed up and it was good times, as usual.  Among the usual favorites (“Heaven”, “Final Wild Son”), the trio version (John, Andy & Anne) did Sparklehorse’s “Heart Of Darkness” (sung by Anne) and a new original (I think) called “Blue Swallow Hotel”.  We ended up staying until the end of the final set.  As it turns out, Riddle’s closed a few months later, so this ended up being my last time ever at this restaurant/bar that had been a mainstay on the Delmar Loop for 20+ years.
 
8/12/10 Elizabeth Cook, Off Broadway.  This was one of those early shows, so I was able to get Nancy out on a school night.  We had a nice dinner at Fraser’s and made it to the club around 7PM.  There were maybe 70 people on hand when Porter Hall, Tennessee opened.  This was the first time they’ve played STL in three years and it was great to hear them again…lots of old favorites (“Screwed Blue”, “Golden Chain Of Hate”, “Middle Tennessee”, “Slip Inside This House”, “Looking At The World Through A Windshield”).  The singing/songwriting nucleus of Gary and Molly is now backed by a new rhythm section. On “Drunkard And An Angel” Gary’s voice offers glimpses of that deep George Jones thing.  Gary’s double-neck guitar could at times sound like mandolin and even fiddle (?).  This all-too brief set ended with “Crazy Inside”.
 
Next up was Elizabeth Cook.  Backed by husband/guitarist Tim Carroll and a stand-up bass player, EC opened with Merle’s “Today I Started Loving You Again”.  From there, it was pretty much a mix: old favorites, new material from her current Welder CD, sassy/brash/bawdy songs, sweet ballads and a cover or two.  Songs I remember: “Balls”, “Gonna Be”, “He Got No Heart” (Tim added chugging Albert Lee-style electric leads), about half of the new album and The Louvin Brothers’ rollicking “Cash On The Barrelhead”.  A couple of my personal highlights were the tender ballad “Always Tomorrow” and the up-tempo (and then some) “If I Could”.
 
8/13/10 The Rockhouse Ramblers, The Duck Room.  Dave and I took our nine-year-olds to the ball game (a 6-3 Cardinals win) and then dropped both boys off at my house and headed over to the bar.  We got there right around eleven, about halfway through this reunion/CD release show.  Maybe a hundred people…lots of the usual suspects.  Having seen (and described) them a few times before, I’ll just say that it was a fun romp through classic-sounding country/honky-tonk/swing covers and originals.  “Devil’s Elbow” and “Counting The Bubbles” stood out.  My personal highlight was the encore…Brian Henneman (who opened the show an hour or two before I arrived) joined the band in a local all-star jam on “Streets Of Bakersfield”  and “Folsom Prison Blues”, Gary, John and Brian each getting a chance to lay on the leads, each in their own unique style.
 
8/21/10 Jim Lauderdale, House Concert.  Jim flew in from Nashville just for tonight’s show; Gary and Joann picked him up at the airport and brought him over to our place a little before six.  Things were pretty loose and relaxed right from the beginning- Jim is very easy-going and a real joker.  We fed him bar-b-q and did a quick sound check before I set him up in the guest bedroom to get ready for the show; he needed run through a few new songs and iron his sporty western shirt.  I suggested a song that I wanted the hear (the first JL song I ever heard, way back in 1987)- Jim said he hadn’t done it in about fifteen years, but if I would write out the lyrics, he could make it happen.  I was able to scribble them down from memory, even though I hadn’t heard it in about as long.
 
Nancy was in India on a business trip, so I had my hands pretty full tonight, tending to the guests (around 75), the artist, the boys and the dog.  I was still greeting a few stragglers at the door as Jim started playing.
 
I have to admit that I was only able to pay partial attention during the first set, as I pretty much had to hang toward the front door.  A couple of songs that stood out early on were “Hummingbird”, “Whisper”, “Can We Find Forgiveness” (on this one, he drops into a low voice in certain spots, ala George Jones) and “Lost In The Lonesome Pines” (a straight-up, plaintive bluegrass ballad).  Jim is a true showman, at ease with his beat-up acoustic guitar (typically strummed chords with a few runs thrown in), melodic songs (in a range of styles) and his evocative, twangy country tenor.  He offered up some interesting stories and corny/comical quips between songs…“I’m sweating up here like Glenn Beck at a Steve Earle concert”.  Jim ended set one with “Alligator Alley” (one of the many songs he co-wrote with Robert Hunter).
 
With all the money collected and counted, I was able to pay closer attention to set two as Jim hit his stride with a non-stop marathon of songs and stories.  He’s co-written songs with dozens of heavyweights in popular music, which makes for some memorable songs as well as lots of wry, embellished stories about the characters he runs with; people like Buddy Miller, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Harlan Howard, Robert Hunter and Del Reeves…at some point he made fun of himself for being a name-dropper.  Songs that stood out for me were “I Met Jesus In A Bar”, “She’s In A Honky Tonk Mood Again”, “Hole In My Head” and “You Can’t Handle What’s On My Mind”.  Somewhere in there, Jim played the song I had requested, “What Am I Waitin’ For?”, reading the lyrics to this catchy/twangy Buck Owens send-up from the lyric sheet I had written out.  Toward the end, he busted out a song he had never played to an audience before- a new one, co-written with Robert Hunter that had a loose, easy structure similar to The Grateful Dead’s “Deal”.  The encore included a quiet ballad “Oh My Goodness” and the perky, rowdy “Diesel, Diesel, Diesel” (a Del Reeves co-write)…Jim’s scat singing simulating the twangy guitar leads.
 
 
After the usual post-show sell/sign CD session, Jim got a ride in the direction of the airport by a big fan who had altered the path of her cross-country trip to be at tonight’s show.
 
9/4/10 Big Smith, North Forty.  Dave picked me up a little before ten and we drove past the stadium (the streets were devoid of traffic in the eye of the storm) with the radio on as the Cardinals held on for a 3-2 win against the first-place Reds as we parked down on the landing.  When I see a band enough times, it gets hard to come up with a description that is discernibly different from the last time I saw them…the usual good time with this easy-going family band from Springfield.  The set list (and execution) didn’t vary much from the last few times I’ve seen them.  “12 Inch, Three-speed, Oscillating Fan”, “Back Water”, “Brady And Duncan” and “No Sir” all sounded as easy, clean and pleasing as ever.  Bill sang a new one from their kids’ album- “Hay Is For Horses”.
 
What was different was the venue.  This new club (in the same space as a string of previously failed clubs) has a nice outdoor stage with enough room to accommodate maybe 400 people.  It’s got a nice feel to it and they sell hot dogs from a cart out in the courtyard space.  Unfortunately, the club is so new that they have yet to develop a website/fanbase and only 40 or 50 people turned out to see a band that usually draws much better in STL. If this place ever caught on, this would be an ideal place to see a higher-draw band like The Bottlerockets or Todd Snider. 
 
With family obligations looming in the morning, we took off early in the last set, right before midnight.  Dave stopped off for a nightcap out back before calling it a night.

   

 

 

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