Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hot Club at the Me and Thee

OK, this was just one of the most astounding events ever. We met brother-in-law and new-girlfriend at our favorite place in Salem and then moseyed over to Marblehead just in time to join the alarmingly-rapidly-growing queue in front of the UU church. When they let us in we were able to grab seats in the front-row. After a nice opening set by Audrey Auld from Nashville by way of Tasmania, this is what we saw...

You could criticize our seats and the videos for not getting an optimal sound mix, but we loved being so close. Here are some notes:
  • listen to how good Whit's guitar sounds; that's because we were hearing his vintage amp (you can see it behind his knees if you look real close) instead of the PA; this was way more than worth the price of admission

  • listen to how good Jake's bass sounds and realize what a talent he is to get that sound from his slaps and fingering; again, we were 4 feet from the sound-box of his fiddle and it dominated our sonic universe, but that's the raw stuff!!!!

  • the vocals don't come over anywhere near as well as they would have if the video camera were a few rows back, but it's amazing how much better they sounded to our ears ... we could actually hear the band sing instead of listening to their mix
  • I've heard them play Chinatown a lot: it's kind of a tired signature song from them, but OMG, the guitar work on this! talk about going to the upper room...

  • Elana is beyond description ... and we've talked with her and she's so nice!

These people should be invited to the White House to have tea with the President; they're some of the most talented artists I know of in America (or the solar system) today.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Four Things

1) Found out on Sunday Morning Country that I won the jingle contest (*better* than second prize in a beauty contest, which I won at Monopoly the other day). Prize is a Bob Wills boxed set and eternal fame!

Six days a week the world tells me I'm wrong,
This is not my home and I don't belong.
On Sundays the radio calls the world's bluff
When Kate plays Porter and all that good stuff!

2) Took Dave and his hermit crabs to the bus for the last quarter of his sophomore year. We'll see him again in late April.

3) First day of Spring (actually, the equinox took place at 7:21PM) after a brutal winter, so put the rack and the kayak on top of the car and went looking for some water. Put in at the top of the Mystic Lakes and first headed up the Aberjona. Couldn't get far before a fallen tree and a school of growing fish stopped me, but turned around and had a brisk jaunt down to the dam and back.

4) Went to Johnny D's for a late show (9:00) by Elizabeth Cook with husband Tim Carroll on guitar and Bones Hillman on a borrowed bass. Elizabeth was dragging a bit (allergy pill) at the start of the set but soon pepped up and rocked out ... what a professional and what a singer! Cousin Kate stopped by with my prize very nicely wrapped. We talked with her afterwards and covered all the major topics, such as who's coming to SMC soon and how psyched we are for the Hot Club on Friday.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mattea/Hull at Berklee

On Thursday, March 10 we went to see Kathy Mattea in the Signature Series at Berklee College of Music (BPC), where Sierrra Hull opened with Highway 111. Artists invited to be in the Signature Series have a residency on campus and cap that off with an onstage performance with a bunch of students. Sierrra Hull is a [accomplished to say the least] senior this year and was asked to do an opening set with her real-world band, besides performing with Kathy.

Hull's set was short and sweet, the band hurried through several tracks from her just-released record. Her longtime guitarist, Clay Hess, was as serious and tone-true as ever, and Jacob Eller on bass and Christian Ward on fiddle did their bit. The surprise was Barry Bales (who co-produced the new record) countering Hull with some highly tasty banjo.

Kathy Mattea then came on and seriously ripped it up, complimented by some incredibly tight performances from her guitarist, the Berklee professor involved (on banjo and turntables), and a panoply of Berklee students: a 6-person gospel choir, a bassist and drummer who could make anything rock (the drummer had everything in his kit from a washboard to a thumpy-box he sat on), a tall, willowy saxophonist who alternated between baritone and alto, a vocal accompanist who sang the male tenor parts and filled in on mandolin, a keyboardist who was arguably better on piano than on organ (though it was a tough call), another keyboardist who was probably better on organ but who was best when he was conducting the 16-seat string orchestra in his own arrangements(!!!!!!!), and the throw-in of the fantastic Sierra Hull on mandolin. In other words, you could get a serious crick in your neck trying to watch everything going on on stage.

They opened with a new song from (Berklee alumnae) Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, did the Mattea songbook including The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore, Come From the Heart, The Battle Hymn of Love, and Mary Did You Know?, interspersed that with some tunes that showcased the virtuosity and talent on stage such as a funk/blues cover of Untold Stories, a straight-ahead gospel cover of Wade In the Water, a reggae cover of Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses, and a classic, not-a-dry-eye-in-the-house cover of Where've You Been. For a cap-off, Mattea took her strong alto voice to Gimme Shelter, taking full advantage of having a fucking over-the-top good choir behind her as well as a rhythm section to die for.

Kathy had a great time ... she was absolutely beaming ... and so did we all. It was hard to believe that the hall was only a quarter full (if that). People need to get out more!