Sunday, October 16, 2016

An Evening With Eilen

We've seen Eilen Jewell a million times, but couldn't resist seeing her again at Sinclair in Cambridge on Saturday, 10/15.  We bought a parking space in a garage a few blocks away, with the tickets, and that was a good deal, though the garage had no pedestrian exits or entrances.

While I'm complaining, let me get it over with about Sinclair.  It's too precious to be a real rock club and too open to be a real folk club.  They had their seats set up for Eilen, which means you have to look was up to see the stage and get a crick in the neck, and the seats are those kind of cheap things that make you feel like they're going to collapse the whole time, or that you're going to fall out the back.  But their sound system is good and the beer was cold.

No opening act, Eilen and band came on not at all late at 7:00.  This had been billed as "An Evening With Eilen Jewell" and I wondered if that meant that she'd be solo or with alternating players.  But no, she had her usual 4-piece band: her, husband Jason Beek of course, and Jerry Miller, who's a phenom, as well as Shawn Supra on bass.

We had a great time and I loved her setlist, though I had criticisms.  The last few times I've seen her I was very impressed with her guitar work and this was no exception.  Her voice was great at Sinclair as well, milking that plain-spun honey in an authentic country style, while her band plays cracker-jack rock and roll behind her.  And her songs are so excellent.  She did some of her best, like Sea of Tears, High Shelf Booze, Rain Roll In, and Rio Grande.

Criticisms were that as great as Jerry is, he seemed a little tired of playing this music.  Some of his leads were really good, but on others he was trying way too hard to do something different and ended up leaving us scratching our heads.  Shawn just isn't as dynamic and down-and-dirty as Eilen's long-time bassist Johnny Sciascia was, and it was hard not to miss him.  And Eilen did no new, self-penned songs.

She covered a wide range of tunes from throughout her career, including four from her first record and one from her Loretta Lynn record (Deep As Your Pocket), and three from her latest record.  She also did three from her current project, covers of 30s blues songs such as Memphis Minnie's Nothing In Rambling and a Big Maybelle (Don't Leave Poor Me) and an Otis Rush song (You Know My Love).  They ripped through these songs fast, with no nonsense: verses, Jerry lead, and then one last chorus and done.

She also did a cover of Johnny Cash's Train Of Love that I'll remember for a long time, "Every so often everybody's baby gets the urge to roam" ... perfect for her style.  And she did her cover of Anderson's Dusty Boxcar Wall.  But I would have loved to hear new, Eilen Jewell stuff, and I felt a little disappointed about hearing none.

I was also a little disappointed to not hear her solo for once.  Every time I've seen her she's done the 4-piece thing, and I wouldn't mind hearing her tackle some of her excellent stuff without a safety net.

It wasn't a very long show, one pretty hefty set.  And then she came out quickly to cover Songbird from her latest record, which is a tribute to her daughter, Mavis ("Mavis" is an old English name for "song thrush"), who was bopping around the club and distracting her Mom.  There's a very cute picture of Mavis playing her Dad's drums on Eilen's FB page.

I complain, but we had a great time and loved seeing her again.  Come back soon Eilen!  She talked several times about how much she missed Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, and how she had thrilled to Big Papi's last season.  It was a family reunion and though one may complain about one's relatives, there's still a great amount of love and appreciation there.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Chip and Carrie Reunion Tour

Early rock hit-maker Chip Taylor (Wild Thing, Angel Of the Morning) and Carrie Rodriguez (often mentioned in this blog) were a band back 10-15 years ago and their four records (plus two halves) were fantastic.  About 40 years apart in age, they’d met at a folk festival and Chip instantly realized this was magic.  She played fiddle but then he convinced her to sing and it’s all history from there.

I’d heard back in January or so that they’d be touring this year and hadn’t seen any announcement of a tour until I stumbled across it a few weeks ago.  The closest they were coming was the Iron Horse in Northampton and there was no question but that we were going.  We booked a room for the night at the Quality Inn in Hadley where we’d stayed once in 2014; and as the date got closer we were excited but knew this was going to be a mid-week hassle.  Oh well, nothing ventured nothing gained.

Got out to Northampton pretty quickly after picking up Sarah at the West Concord train on Thursday, August 25th.  But it was already 6:00 or so by the time we took a small wrong turn walking on a beautiful summer day in crowded downtown Northampton.  And the Iron Horse was packed when we finally got there for the 7:00 show!  It was set up with all tables and the best we could get was way up in the loft, in the back, but kind of centered on the stage.

This was my first time at the Iron Horse and I found a lot of things wrong with it.  It was small and cramped and dirty-funky.  We were shoved up under the ceiling (we could touch the tin panels) way in the back and the sound was nowhere near “good” back there.  The waitresses were working hard and the food was ok; the beer was cold (Switchback Ale) and food and stuff came on time, and then the band came on and they brought the magic.

Chip played acoustic guitar and harmonica or course, and Carrie stuck to her fiddle and her cowboy boot, which was as good as the shit-kicking heels we’ve seen her use for a percussion instrument lately.  They were accompanied by John Platania on electric guitar.  Here’s the setlist:

Set 1:

  • Keep Your Hat On Jenny
  • Let’s Leave This Town
  • All the Rain
  • Your Name Is On My Lips
  • Oh Set a Light
  • Do Your Part
  • Red Dog Tracks
  • Elzick’s Farewell
  • Angel Of the Morning

Set 2:

  • Sweet Tequila Blues
  • Dirty Little Texas Story
  • Memphis, Texas
  • Don’t Speak In English
  • Big Moon Shinin’
  • Wild Thing
  • We Come Up Shining

These were both very short sets, and the break between them was a little longer than you’d want, though that meant we had time to wait forever in the hot and cramped basement for a turn at the bathroom.

But no more complaints.  This was so worth it!  You’d have to call what they play a little bit of rock, a little bit of folk, a little bit of Texas music, and a lot of … well, magic.  They take their time, they listen to each other, they respond to each other instrumentally like they’re a hive mind of two (or two and a half, Platania was almost there at times).  And they sing together like you can’t believe.

They’d done five shows before this one on the tour, and have been singing off and on for the past 10 years since they released Red Dog Tracks and then split up for their own careers.  But they sounded like they’d been working on these harmonies for years.  Their voices are each wonderful on their own, and they fit together like lovers on a porch swing.  But that analogy doesn't describe the range of what they can do together, from whispers to shouting.  You have to hear these two.

It was futile to stand up and whoop as far back under the ceiling as I was, and there was plenty of that coming from elsewhere in that cramped room.  They ended too soon with their rote cover of Wild Thing, a song Chip *has* to play every time he appears anywhere.  We clapped and clapped while they stood there, then gave us one more drop of the magic with We Come Up Shining.

It was only 9:00 when we got out of there!  If we’d known it was going to be such a short concert we would have planned to head back to Woburn afterwards.  But the Quality Inn was there and we were glad to be able to have a relaxed time for reading and getting ready for bed before our early start the next day.  Actually got Sarah back for the 8:07 train from West Concord!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Fighting the Tide in Ipswich

You've gotta time the tide right if you're going to kayak in Plum Island Sound, and I pretty much did yesterday.  I put in at the Ipswich Town Landing, which was already almost full of cars (one was stuck on the launch ramp) by 11:00.  Had an excellent trip out the river, though some of the roaring motorboats had no clue about staying in the channel.  [Overheard from one boat, "It gets shallow on the edges here."  "Then stay in the middle."  Did they ever wonder what those red and black buoys were for?]

By the time I got to the mouth of the river though, I had to really fight the tide to get out into the bay.  The shore South of the river was filled with beach-goers, many of whom had arrived there by boat.  It was a glorious day to be at the beach or on the water and the whole area was a mess of boats and chop, particularly with the current stirring up the water.

And it *was* water!  The drought we've been living through lately has been depressing and I've hesitated to go kayaking on the rivers, since they're so low.  My heart rises when I see full bodies of water, or high tide.  It was wonderful to be out on the ocean and to be reminded that water is neither created nor destroyed, to see the blue goodness flooding the salt marsh.

After struggling out past Castle Hill I turned around and let the tide rip me back to the North, and then, assisted with a few strokes of the paddle, back into the maw of the river.  Made it back to the landing with the tide a little bit before full flood.  Put up quickly and not only were there cars waiting to take my parking place, people with trailers had parked all over the road around there by that point, some in people's yards.  Full day at the shore!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Ol' Brown Shoe Early Show

Late afternoon decision to brave the drive to Salem on a Friday night and go hear Ol' Brown Shoe at the Black Lobster.  They were playing the early show (7-10:30) before the reggae band upstairs. and the late evening August weather on the waterfront in Salem was delightful, as well as the music of course.

Drummer Kevin has split for Colorado, and so old drummer Jack Howard filled in, which was quite a treat.  Tim continues to get more and more comfortable with the band, and of course Larry was great!

Stuck around for both sets and some nice conversations with other fans and with the band.  Lots of fun again!  Here's the set list ... note that the second set was cut short to make way for the upstairs band:

I: Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard, Sample in a Jar, Ramble On Rose, I Shot the Sheriff, Samson and Delilah, That's What Love Will Make You Do, Let It Grow > Dancing In the Street, Ramblin' Man > Bertha

II: In the Midnight Hour, Loose Lucy, The Other One, The Weight*, Feelin' Alright, Birds Of a Feather, Sugar Magnolia.

* - Allegra Larson on Vocals

A couple of notes were that I mentioned Me and Julio to JeffL before the set, and he was nice enough to have the band open with it.  Tim did the vocal on Dancing and sang "They're dancing in Beverly" before realizing that we were not in Beverly ... so he corrected with "They're dancing on the bridge."  Note that the patio at the Black Lobster looks up to the superstructure of the bridge between Beverly (where they often play) and Salem, so this was a good catch.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

GGW at BMH One More Time

It’s weird for a Grateful Dead fan to say he gets tired of the same old songs :) … I don’t, but it’s so fun to hear twists on them.  As mentioned before in this blog, it’s great to hear good ol’ GD songs given a facelift by younger musicians like Elana James (Ripple), Dave Alvin (Loser), the entire Songs Of Their Own series, etc.  And leading the charge are JRAD and Golden Gate Wingmen.  So we were very excited to get the chance to go see GGW again at the Brighton Music Hall on Saturday, August 13th.

Brighton was just on the cusp on the annual student invasion, but we were able to grab a fortunate parking space (no ticket this time) on a hot and humid summer day and had a pretty good dinner and some excellent beers in a frosty Sunset Grill.  Then a few doors down to the BMH where this time, even 30 minutes before the doors opened, we were 30th or so in what was rapidly becoming a long line.  Guess the word has gotten out about them!

We wanted to situate ourselves where we could see Jeff Chimenti’s fingering well, but a quick hop around the stage showed no great place, so we settled for second row, behind a couple from Fairfield CT who were on a brief GGW tour (Pawtucket the next night) right in front of the stage.

Had a beer and got a t-shirt and then Sarah came running in with the news that John and Jeff were joining the crowd for a break in the smoking area.  You can believe Dave was out there in a flash and was able to share a few mellow moments with John and Jeff out back.

Then he came back, the guys came on a little late, and they proceeded to rip up the place, which was packed by that point.  There's an excellent recording of it on IA.  Here’s the first set:

  • Nobody Told Me
  • Brown-Eyed Woman
  • Seen Love
  • Just Like a Woman
  • Lazy River Road
  • The Business
  • Loser
  • Feel Like Dynamite

We’d seen the first three songs done by the JK Band at BMH a few months before this (in a different order), but were not really upset by the duplication … John can play BEW every time I see him as far as I’m concerned.  Reed Mathis was obviously a bit high, and though this meant he drifted at times, he was playing and singing with the fierce abandon that’s so captivating about his performances.  Jay Lane was perhaps the player of the day, perhaps the best performance of his I’d seen, and I’d seen some good ones.  So the whole experience was excellent!

Of particular note in that first set were a fantastic vocal by Reed on Just Like a Woman … he’s born to sing Dylan songs; a beautiful, slow, meander through summer down the Lazy River Road; and a crunchy, threatening, desperate, psychedelic cover of one of Garcia’s best songs, Loser.  And then we all grooved into the set break, feeling like dynamite, rocking to Jeff’s milking the organ like Saunders used to do.

We suddenly realized we were standing in a puddle of beer, and when the crowd dispersed a little we saw that the whole Brighton Music Hall was a mess of drunk and high people and their detritus.  Saturday night had come quickly.  Not too long a set break … though it was after 11 by the time they came back on.  Oh well, time for the second set:

  • She Belongs to Me
  • Golden Wings
  • Dark Star >
  • Join Together >
  • Dark Star >
  • Estimated Prophet >
  • Eyes of the World >
  • Touch of Grey

More excellence, starting with another fantastic Dylan song, sung as a duet by Reed and John.  At Christmas buy her a big bass drum!  We were delighted to get an off-the-reservation Dark Star done as differently as you might hope by this fine group of musicians … this was not just a cover.  And to jump into the Who’s Join Together in the middle of it showed their imagination.

But the best moments of the evening were yet to come in the perhaps formulaic combination of Estimated and Eyes.  The two were killed by Reed on wild-eyed prophet and John on blissed-out hippie, and featured amazing combination keyboard work by Jeff and Todd Stoops, a guest from the JK Band.  As mentioned, Touch, the set closer, is a song that doesn’t allow you to stray too far from normalcy, but they tried!

Short break, and then they came back out to encore with Liberty, another best of the best songs.  Lots of fun on a late summer Saturday night.  Home quickly up Everett Street to route 16, and you can bet I was glad to wash the spilled beer off my legs and feet when I got home.  In bed around 2.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Hot Tuna Leftover Salmon and Other Fish

Went to the Wilbur on a Sunday night (8/7) to see Leftover Salmon and electric Hot Tuna.  Barry wasn't with Hot Tuna, but Justin Guip was on drums.  They were awesome!

Wilbur Theatre, Boston, MA

Serpent Of Dreams
Ode For Billy Dean
I Can't Be Satified
Sea Child
Sleep Song
Bowlegged Woman, Knock Kneed Man
Come Back Baby
99 Year Blues
Good Shepherd
Bar Room Crystal Ball
Water Song
Funky #7

Hit Single #1

Leftover Salmon set included:
Demon In Disguise *

Jorma Kaukonen - guitar, vox
Jack Casady - bass
Justin Guip - drums

*w/ Jorma & Justin sitting in

Supporting act(s):
Leftover Salmon

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Larry and Teresa Steam Up Bull Run

It's been a great season for concerts, including Bob Weir guesting at Sir Paul's Fenway concert last weekend.  A review I read talks about the blessings bestowed on us this summer by certified rock royalty, such as Sir Paul.  Be that as it may ... and I can't imagine why I'd ever bad-mouth Paul McCartney ... one of the great things about great music is that it's ecumenical, democratic, expressive of the human spirit.  It isn't only dispensed by royalty.  And we were very glad after a foray into arena rock to get back to seeing the best artists of our generation in small venues.

Which brings me to seeing Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams at the Bull Run.  How could such an incredible act not be adored by the millions?  The Sawtelle Room at the Bull Run was two thirds full of  enthusiasts, but come on!  Oh well, one of the charming things about seeing an act like Larry and Teresa at a club in Shirley MA is that there's absolutely no pressure.  We all showed up on a Friday night and had a great time.

Picked up Sarah and Dave at West Concord and drove out there on a steamer of a mid-summer, New England night.  Ordered some great food and beer, talked with our table-mates, some of whom we'd met before at great Bull Run concerts (this was our 35th at the Bull Run by my count), and mellowed out in the air conditioning.  We stepped outside for a bit and Justin Guip was blabbing on his cell phone, Jesse Murphy (guest bassist) was doing some homework, listening to his ear buds on the bridge, and Larry in his black get-up was in his car texting and presumably roasting.  I went inside and headed to the bathroom, but Teresa jumped in front of me on her way to the lady's ... I almost followed her in.

They came on a bit late, as most acts do, though the room was more than primed for them.  No late arrivals here, we were all ready for the night.  They opened with a few numbers off their record (strange that they'd release a record last year and only tour for it now?!?) and ended up doing most of the numbers we'd expect from them in a short set, with a double encore.  For some reason, the sound wasn't great for the first few numbers, but then they got it straightened out with a bit of advice from the band.

As a listener pointed out, "Larry, the room's full of Deadheads heah!" A guy at our table recognized Dave's t-shirt from when Larry and Teresa played with Phil & Friends a few years ago.  The biggest whoops of the night were reserved for the "Dead" songs: Samson and Delilah (If I Had My Way), Deep Ellum Blues, Big River (an absolutely crackling version), and an encore of a song actually written by the Dead, their incredible a capella cover of Attics Of My Life.

But there was more for the Deadhead and music fan to go nuts over, such as Teresa belting out Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning, a tidy and precious rendition of Julie Miller's Midnight Highway (both of which we'd seen them do with Phil), and their top-of-the-heap (and it's a big heap) cover of the Louvin's You're Running Wild.  This was great stuff and the thing that had me riveted was watching Larry pick the country blues on his acoustic and his Telecaster while Guip and Teresa hammered and wailed behind him.  Again, how come the place was not full to see this stuff??

For me, the song of the night was Larry's If You Loved Me At All.  He's written some of the best stuff ever, and this was done perfectly.  Teresa has that twang (Larry: "I married Elly May Clampett, without the oil wells"), and Larry has that perfect, American, honest, gritty quality to his singing and playing.  He did a solo bit, where he picked out the tricky melody of Blind Mary from 18th century Irish harpist Turlough O'Carolan on his small acoustic, and then Duke Ellington's Caravan.

Another shorter than anticipated night at the Bull Run ... we'd all made it there on a Friday and were ready to go all night.  But the band wasn't; an act at this rank on the pecking order has to do a lot of traveling.  Larry and Teresa absorbed the accolades and tried to deal with the many requests (I shouted out for When I Go Away and the two looked at me like, "Thanks for the request but we're not ready to do that tonight," so I shouted out for Mountains Of the Moon, which made Teresa laugh (an obscure Dead song we'd seen them do with Phil)).

After the encore of Attics and Deep Ellum they signed for the crowds but we escaped into the steamy night and had a relatively quick ride back to Quincy and then to Woburn, making it home in time to go to bed by midnight.

Pictures here!