Sunday, August 23, 2015

Does a Barnyard Shovel Fit Your Hands?

Loretta F. Lynn was going to be at the South Shore Music Circus on August 22nd, but when we heard we had no idea what we'd be doing in late summer and so didn't get tickets.  Then the time approached and Cousin Kate was giving away one last pair of tickets and it was a trivia question: "Who played Loretta Lynn's father in the Oscar winning biopic?"  Easy question!  We won the tickets and got excited.

Late summer Saturday evening traffic to Cohasset wasn't bad, and we got there in plenty of time to pick up our tickets at the Box Office, get a beer/cider, and mosey down to our seats for the opening act at 7:00.  The South Shore Music Circus is a big tent around a circle of seats, at the center of which the stage rotates slowly so everyone gets a chance to see the acts up close, but also is looking at them at weird angles for much of the rotation.  A novelty, but not successful IMO and lots of sound challenges because of the round tent.

We also felt we had landed in the middle of an old people's colony.  I guess most of the people there a) were old and rich enough to be able to afford to live in or near Cohasset and b) were season ticket holders who really didn't care whom they were seeing, they just wanted a night out.  There were a few enthusiastic types, and I saw one guy with a backwards baseball cap, but by and large the canes/walkers and over-made-up elderly ladies dominated.

Speaking of being overdressed, the opening act, Walker County, was a little out of hand.  They were a great act, but the Dad and lead guitarist (Billy Walker) was dressed in boots and tight jeans like he was twenty years younger, the lead singer and rhythm guitarist (Ivy Dene Walker) was wearing a white, full-length, sequined, and fringed gown and shit-kicker white high heels I can't start to describe, while the other daughter (Sophie Dawn Walker, who would have been on drums if the production had allowed it) was wearing a full-length pink nightmare.  And between the three of them they'd run New England out of hair spray.

Apologies for being so snarky, they were really entertaining, though I pick a few nits.  Great guitar runs by Billy Walker and some excellent singing by Ivy, though the sound system and the tent were not kind to her voice.  They said they played "traditional" music but then ripped into Townes's Pancho and Lefty and later did Haggard's Mama Tried (the first Grateful Dead song of the night).  Not exactly traditional as I would define it, but whatever.  They also did an excellent original.

K&M showed up soon after the music started and between sets we all went outside and yucked it up ... great to see them!

Then we went back in for the main act and had to endure a bit of build-up.  Loretta's twins Patsy and Peggy came out and did an extended info-mercial for Loretta's albums and other merchandise.  Then the band came out (they were excellent) and struck up a song that would have been better if they sisters hadn't tried to sing along.  Then the band backed up Loretta's son, Ernest Ray, who proved conclusively in a couple of short numbers that he was not a lead singer, but what the heck.

Then everyone stood and they led Loretta on stage in a beautiful, glittery, purple gown and full makeup.  To me she was not overdressed ... she looked exactly like Loretta Lynn.  And she immediately took over the night.  She was awesome and riveting, a living legend at age 83 singing powerfully and with her signature inflection right in front of us.

It was a great setlist, mixing her big hits with a gospel medley and some more obscure numbers.  The gospel ended with Where No One Stands Alone and was spine-tingling.  She opened with You're Looking At Country, did a great Fist City, Don't Come Home A-Drinkin', You Ain't Woman Enough (another Grateful Dead song!), and One's On the Way with a short segue into her perhaps most topical song, The Pill ("I'm tearing down your brooder house 'cause now I've got the pill").

Loretta visibly was getting tired and she was beginning to miss a few notes.  The first time this happened she grinned and said "OK boys, back it up!"  She had a chair/throne on stage and eventually sat in that, arraying her beautiful gown around her like the regal presence she is.  She eventually let the band take a few numbers while she nodded and grinned along.  Finally she ended with the expected and cathartic Coal Miner's Daughter.  Some of us in the crowd were going crazy, while most of the elderly set looked a little less bored.  Oh well!  Loretta's gentlemen escorts came down and helped her off the stage and out the East exit.

It was a short set, everything was over by a little after 9:00.  But we felt graced by a superstar; lots of fun!  Sarah and I dashed out the exit, rounded the tent to our car, got out of the packed parking lot with surprisingly little trouble, and were back home by a bit after 10:00.

pictures here

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Amy and Sarah at Johnny D's

There’s some panic with Johnny D’s planning to close soon, and Amy Black apparently felt it, as she suddenly added a Tuesday night date there to her latest tour.  She’s delved into her Muscle Shoals roots lately and is touring as the Muscle Shoals Revue with Sarah Borges.  So we got tickets, since we’re a bit panicked ourselves!

A band called the Southern Belles was suddenly put on the bill as an opener.  When they went on pretty much all the tables were full of people eating, though the club itself was less than half capacity … the bar was non-crowded.

And we loved Southern Belles!  They’re a young country-rock jam band from Richmond VA, had gotten a gig up in Burlington, and were desperate for another gig or two to help pay for the trip when they stumbled upon this date at a small place of some sort in Somerville MA.  They were stunned that there were actually people there listening to them and cheering them on, as opposed to a barroom of people more interested in drinking than in being at “a concert.”

Drums, bass, guitar, and keyboard and these guys rocked and played all originals.  The funny thing was that the organ/piano player looked and sounded a bit like Marco Benevento (though not as good), the drummer looked and sounded a bit like Alex Koford, and the guitarist looked and sounded a bit like a tall Ross James, though with no hat.  They did 4 or 5 songs only, really stretching all of them out.  I particularly liked Getaway, had a nice conversation with their bass player Andrew afterwards, and bought their CD.

Amy had been way delayed by traffic but was just in time for the main set, though she hadn’t had a chance to change or get made up the way she wanted to for a “Revue” show.  Whatever, she and Sarah were fantastic.  Those two are made to sing together.

I’m not really familiar with a lot of Muscle Shoals material, but recognized most of the songs, though I’d only heard them a few times here and there.  They opened with You Left the Water Running, did Starting All Over Again, Please Don’t Give Up On Me, and of course You Gotta Move (that the Stones had recorded).  Their band was excellent and I loved the sound, switching mellowly from soulful ballads led by Amy (whose voice can be incredibly powerful, she's born to sing soul music) or Sarah to funky earworms that the girls harmonized on.

Not a long set on a Tuesday night, thanked Amy and Sarah as they walked off-stage, and then got out of there through the light August traffic.

pictures of Amy and Sarah

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Hot Club Burns Up Shirley

The Hot Club of Cowtown had never been booked at the Bull Run, until this past Wednesday!  The place was only about two-thirds full, probably due to being in the dog days of August and a lack of familiarity with them in central Mass.

Those of us who were there were true devotees, and when they asked for requests they were called out thick and fast.  One woman came up to the stage and gave Elana an envelope on which she'd written a list of requests!  Imagine somebody doing that!?!  One guy (the youngest in the room) even called out for Ripple.

John came down from Peterborough too, and Whit rewarded him with a fantastic performance.  All three played perhaps better than I've ever seen them, but Whit in particular was on fire.  His old amp had given up the ghost in sound check, but he had a substitute that wasn't quite as good, though his playing negated this difference.

They played a slightly truncated set, explaining that they had to get to Boothbay Harbor Thursday night, then up in New Hampshire the next.  What they didn't get into is the torturous schedule they have coming up in October, going from Texas to Idaho, to Texas, to Virginia, to Nevada, then California, Washington, and back to Texas.  As I've often said, I can't believe that a band this over-the-top great has to struggle to make it.  Oh well, life is strange.

Fantastic set, including Exactly Like You as the third tune (before that weird guy could request it), and finishing with the other song I most wanted to hear, Chinatown.  This song is a great showcase for Whit's talent and he didn't disappoint, eliciting many whoops and wows from the mid-week crowd.  I want to see those guys again!

Pictures from Sarah here!