Sunday, October 30, 2016

Phil Once Again, Armonk part 2

Woke up in the Armonk La Quinta after a nice sleep.  Breakfast was open until 10 that morning and we sure didn't want to miss that (sarcasm intended)!  The place was pretty full, probably mostly with business-people who spent Friday on the job but left early to get back to Podunk (not Armonk).  A bunch of stragglers remained however: a mish-mosh of families on their way to somewhere, elderly folks on their way to somewhere else, and partiers like us who were just stopping in for a spell.

We all hit up the lobby for an American motel breakfast of hard-boiled eggs, make-your-own waffles, and catch as can pastries (good blueberry muffins actually).  We sat in the back room, thankfully far away from the blaring FoxTV station, along with a Mexican family and a couple of young black guys who bitched half-heartedly about ho's and then probably went back to their suburban homes.  Have you been to America?

OK, time to re-gather in the hotel room and it wasn't long before we were all ready to focus on the excursion we'd planned, to the Butler Sanctuary, just North of Armonk in Mt. Kisco (which is a town).  It's so rare to see them in the wild and we were psyched.

Jumped in the car and pulled into the Sanctuary parking lot not too long after that on another lovely Fall day, with a few dark clouds in a mixed overcast, a nippy-but-warm-feeling-inside Fall glow, hints of a languorous idyll hiding among the rocks, and the musty and moldy but bright smell of a full-lunged Autumn day in the woods.

The Butler Sanctuary is right off 684 and was noisy at the parking lot, but straight-away we climbed right up to the hawk observation platform, high above the highway, where we could see Long Island Sound in the distance to the South and a trio of predators circling to the East.  We amateur-observed a bit and talked to a couple of late-season official observers; we were far away from the highway and what it represented with just a short climb.  We then went downhill and uphill and downhill and uphill past a few dog-hikers and jeez, we loved the place.  The light and the mix of trees (ash, beech, oak, and maple, with a few pines and other sorts) were so refreshing and the rock outcroppings, the stone walls, and the roll of the land were just incredible.  This place is highly recommended. 

We didn't go for the longest walk around the perimeter trails that we had considered, for several reasons,  This place is a bit more challenging than you'd think because of the frequency of elevation changes ... you're rarely *not* going up or down.  And we weren't as equipped as we might have been for such a woodsy walk.  And anyway, we were well aware that in a few hours we'd be dancing all night, and that was really the point of this goddamn expedition, not trying to catch a glimpse of butlers whisking around silver tea sets!!

Got back to the parking lot after a really fun time, and then headed into Mt. Kisco itself to seek out the Mt. Kisco Diner we'd seen mentioned on signs.  Turned out it was in the middle of a charming North Westchester town and we got seats after a bit of a wait, and got some VERY large dishes: Chef's Salad, Portabella Grill, and Aruba Wrap.  Sarah and Dave got fancy drinks too.  We had a fine time there but had to leave the deep-fried green beans behind.  Maybe we'll go back there another time when we're looking for good, pricey, American food with a bit of high-calorie whimsy and a suburban ambiance.  They actually have a burger served between two grilled cheese sandwiches!?!

OK, back to the Armonk hotel, a bit of catching up with the internet, and then we were off once more to Port Chester to see Jay Blakesberg's show at Garcia's.  Jay, of course, is one of the pre-eminent photographic documentarians of the Grateful Dead and other rock artists.  We were running a bit late and the Church parking lot was not open to us hoi-polloi (turned out they were having a function that night), but we found a great spot on the street and soon settled into folding chairs at Garcia's (with adult beverages) in plenty of time for Jay's slides.

Garcia's is the Capitol Theater's side-bar, which is open at times that the Theater itself isn't and functions alongside the Theater, sometimes as an overflow for the crowds there.  They have their own functions too, and we'd seen that Blakesberg would be presenting a slide-show of his photographs there in the afternoon before the P&F show.  Jay walked around nervously in a paisley shirt, but seemed to figure all was ok eventually, and settled into his stool on their small stage.

This was another great time!  Jay's done some fantastic rock photography over a long career, and in his rambling, rapid show frames his iconic pictures in his own experiences, including some poignant seventies-teenager moments and some brushes with larger-than-life (they wish) characters like Tom Waits and Bill Murray.  About 50 of us were sitting in rows of folding chairs listening to this, and the crowd gradually filled in around the edges as the show went on.  Two surprising things were that GD crowds are generally 60-70% male, but the audience at this event was predominantly female.  Also, when Jay asked, "Who here was at Fare Thee Well?" well over 50% of the hands went up.  I guess we profiled ourselves there.

One fun thing was that Phil and Friends launched into their soundcheck in the middle of the slide presentation.  Jay said to the audience, "Want me to go ask Phil to turn it down a bit??"  I was so focused on the slides that I didn't pay a lot of attention to what they were playing, but one song you could not help but hear was Nicki Bluhm singing the Jefferson Airplane's Somebody To Love.  

Great time and got out of there just in at the right moment to escape the forming crowd and to walk up the few blocks to Kiosko, where we had another delicious, quiet and private meal.  Fed the meter (well, the parking ticket dispenser) on the way back, and then figured we might as well go in.  They sure searched me thoroughly this time (ok, no cavity inspection) and they made me discard a couple of un-documented tabs of ibuprofen that I had in my pocket.  The interior doors weren't open yet so we had plenty of time to kill and we hung out back in Garcia's, where Jay and his paisley shirt were still holding court,  Would have liked to talk with him, but he was busy entertaining paying customers.

Before we knew it, it was time for the Saturday show in the Capitol!

We had seats a few rows back and a few seats to the right of where we'd been on Friday.  The crowd was late-arriving and we had plenty of time to detour to the smoking area (where I met a guy from Scroon Lake), drink some beer, and watch the pre-show.  It soon became apparent that, not only were lots of people in costume, but lots of people were already very fucked up, and they got more fucked up as the night went along.  Didn't see any puking, but saw a few people fall down in ways that had to hurt, saw a few people who had no idea where they were, and got bumped into by a number of fellow concert-goers (I was on the aisle).

At one point someone danced or staggered too crazily and launched a beer all over the woman standing in the aisle next to me, getting my right side too.  But the worst was the people who were on their phones!  We were listening to a fucking concert, sitting in (or trying to stand at) $100 seats, and some idiots spent most of the show on their phones.  A woman near me actually tried to stream a video *with sound* while the music was going on.  She soon gave it up with a disgusted look.  A trio two rows in front of me leaned together and gabbed about some Facebook thread they were participating in, all the while waving their phones around and showering us all with the bright light.

And really just as bad was the fact that all this added up to us feeling cramped and uncomfortable in the theater we had had so many good times in.  OK, we could deal with that and a rock-n-roll concert is a rock-n-roll concert.  But we had to keep looking around us to see who would fall on us next, and this was not the loosey-goosey mellow good time we'd had Friday night.  The music was really just as good, but forgive me if I don't gush about the experience as much.

OK, complaining over!  Luther had moved next to Nicki in the middle of the stage and Scott took the spot between him and Jason.  They came out at about the same time they had the night before and the crowd roared.  They were as well rehearsed as any P&F band, and instantly launched into another excellent opener.  We were off!

Jack Straw
I'm a King Bee
High Time
Big Railroad Blues
Bird Song
Somebody To Love
Feel Like a Stranger

  • Nicki was certainly feeling it that night.  She had a hippie gown on instead of the blue jeans look and proceeded to belt out the blues all night.  First up was a duet with Scott on Jack Straw, with Phil taking a verse too.  She wasn't really a convincing Shannon, but whatever.
  • Time for more blues and Luther sang a gleeful King Bee, probably more faithful to the original Slim Harpo 50's version than to Pigpen.
  • Barry got settled down at the pedal steel next and Phil was anxiously getting the band ready.  We watched for a second and agreed, they were about to attempt High Time, without Jerry!  They really did an excellent job on this, though there were a few missed cues.  Very good cover of a great early Dead song.
  • Barry stayed on the pedal steel more for most of that first set, and he and Scott next led the guys through a fast, upbeat version of Big RR Blues.  Dave had commented about not being able to hear Jason at times on Friday, but on Saturday he was dominant on a lot of songs, rocking his organ lead here.
  • This time they didn't stop ... they just kind of wound down from the country blues, Phil the bandleader made sure they had everything just perfect, and they gently rolled into the Bird Song of death.  This was a highlight of the weekend shows to our ears.  Nicki was as excellent as she was all night, and the song had exactly the right feel ... floating but in pain.
  • OK, time for a rocker.  We'd heard Somebody To Love in soundcheck and when they lit into it, everyone on the stage was instantly having as much fun, or more, than anyone in the audience.  Nicki got the lungs going here and they crunched right through the Airplane classic.
  • Then it was Scott's turn and he was Feeling Like a Stranger!  This is a showstopper for him and we were glad that Phil set him up to do it.  Very nice first set closer.

Well, the only thing to do was sit down and let the wasted people filter out a bit.  There was a guy passed out across the aisle from me, but that kept him quiet.  Started down to the smoking area with Dave after a bit, but from the top of the stairs I could see it was a mosh pit down at the bottom, and I bagged.  Got a beer successfully at the upstairs bar, even though I had another drunk guy hanging over my shoulder and yelling endearments at the bartendress while I tried to order.  Then back to the seats to mellow out for a bit.  I think the band realized that they had to keep things moving and they came out after one of the shortest set breaks ever.  Dave made it back just in time for...

Deal
Walking Blues
In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed
New Speedway Boogie
The Wheel
Terrapin Station
In the Midnight Hour

  • You know, we've heard Deal before, including at three of the four Dead & Company shows we've been to.  But it's a great song and they did a nice arrangement of it, Nicki sliding along right through it.
  • They didn't bring Bobby out for Walking Blues, but did a fine cover anyway, or maybe in spite of that.  Luther was feeling it here and led the guys on a long outro jam, into...
  • Most people didn't recognize this right away, but I did with the first sliding notes.  Elizabeth Reed is one of the best songs ever in my mind and these guys didn't nail it like the ABB used to, but who could?  They did a very nice job though and the Cap crowd was delighted.  Some reviewers think this was the most unexpected song of the weekend, but I've always thought this would be right in Luther's wheelhouse and he and Scott really wrung some of the deepest soul out of it, wailing away on twin guitars while Phil and John and Jason thundered in the background.  This was one of the pinnacles of the weekend!
  • They funked from that right into the groove of Speedway, and Nicki came back out and helped nail the vocals.  This maybe wasn't the most soulful Speedway, but was very well played by the whole band.  And I realized, this was the fifth of the eight songs on Workingman's that they played that weekend!  Can't argue with that.
  • They wound down and Phil instantly started up the cadence of Wheel, another of the most excellently played songs of the weekend.  Dave observed that they did a lot of tracks from first Garcia too.  The crowd tried to get into this but was a little bit off key by that point.
  • The musical surprise of the evening for me was Barry Sless.  I'd been wishing after the Friday show that he'd just stick to pedal steel, but he had his electric out and was fantastic on it.  As Dave said, he did all the little Garcia parts that help make GD songs so great, and this allowed Scott and Luther free rein to add their own personalities to the songs.  As with the best P&F combos, they showed potential as well as polish.
  • Same juncture in the second set that I talked about last night, when they lit into Help.  Would they wind it down now after that Jerry ballad, or would they take it higher?  They took it to Terrapin Station, and this sure was a fine one.  The three guitars wound around and around that baroque theme and the old man nailed the vocals (with Nicki's and Scott's help), preaching to us about the spiral light of Venus until there was a tear in everyone's eye.  Good ol' Phil.
  • Tight little Midnight Hour to close, though Luther kind of blew the lines.  Oh well, you can't play the blues if you get all the words right I guess.

Yeeha!  This had been such a great experience, but I had to admit to myself that it would be great to get out of that hot and wasted crowd.  Phil came out for his donor rap after a bit of a long break.  I hope this won't be the last one I hear live.  Then they lined up and I called it: Music, sung by Scott and Nicki.

In my mind, one of the things that makes The Music Never Stopped such a great song is the quasi-descant, the "Donna part."  Brent, John Mayer, and others have had their shot at it, but what this really needs is a rocking chick singer letting it all hang out.  And that's what Nicki did here, just belting out the "There's a band out on the highway" and the "Keep on dancing through to daylight" lines.  This was a marvelous end to a marvelous weekend!

We needed a little water and a little rest before struggling out of the theater, but the Cap has a nice flow to it, and the crowd soon thinned out enough for us to exit.  We'd had another great time there and though this night was a little difficult, we won't hesitate to show up again the next time Phil's there with an amazing band.  How lucky are we to have seen those concerts?

So no butler sightings, that would have made the weekend too perfect.  Got back up the street to the car, twisted around to the highway, and got back to Armonk pretty quickly for another good night's sleep after a long day of having fun.



Saturday, October 29, 2016

Phil Once Again, Armonk part 1

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results."  We keep going down to New York to see Phil Lesh and Friends, and to date we've been delighted by very different results each time, all excellent!

Seems we're doing it more and more often, but it's such a fun trip.  We heard Phil was coming back to the Capitol Theater in Port Chester for another Halloween weekend with a group of Friends, and so we got tickets and got a reservation at the hotel on Armonk that's so convenient.

What really made this a must-do thing was that the Friends on Friday, October 28th, were Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams(!), AND Luther Dickinson, AND John Molo and Jason Crosby, AND Barry Sless on pedal steel, AND Nicki Bluhm!  The Friends group on Saturday was scheduled to be the same except Scott Metzger would be added instead of Larry and Teresa,  Phil's also playing on Monday, Halloween itself, with the former group above, but we'll be back in Massachusetts by then.

So we took Friday off from work, had a morning session with Marina from Seaver's and a couple of contractors, and then threw the beer, sandwiches, and tickets in the car and drove down to Quincy to pick up Dave.  Back up to the turnpike (about 9 hours in advance of the start of open road tolling and the demo of the toll booths that have been there since Christ was a child) and headed West and then Southwest, starting with rain and finally sunny skies on a beautiful mid-Fall day, into and at last through the middle of Connecticut, driving with massive amounts of traffic the whole way, but moving quickly.

Got to the La Quinta in Armonk finally ... it really was pretty quick ... you can sneak up on Port Chester this way.  Checked into a nice first-floor room, and got psyched for the concert.  Got saddled up around 5:30 and fought more bad traffic down to a crowded Port Chester.

Our favorite parking lot is under different ownership and was not open, so we turned around and headed down the hill to the Church parking lot, which was the same price and just as close.  Up to Kiosko for another Mexican meal that couldn't be beat, though the waitress (not our normal one) almost forgot our drinks.  Same old routine ... checked out Shakedown Corner after that, which was packed with people but not much merchandise, and then into the theater at last.

Are we crazy to eat at the same place after driving all the way down there, and to retrace the same footprints?  Some would say yes, but we all say no.  This is the routine that we've lucked into (Kiosko is so excellent!) and that we follow.  Our favored parking lot folded and we had to change ... which was fine ... and we're going to sour eventually on Kiosko and/or it will go out of business.  But at that point we'll be glad to let fate push us in another direction, to another restaurant or to a different routine.  We don't need to struggle with fate.

We'd seen the poster for this show online, a proud-to-be-Headless Horseman outlined against a Nightfall of Diamonds, and Dave had to have that.  And they had the same motif on t-shirts!  Sarah and I both opted for that.  Up the lovely stairs, grab a beer, and then to our seats, which were dead center in the third row of the balcony.  We love the Capitol!

The had their loop of The Skeleton Dance playing in one pair of alcoves, and a new loop of the silent film Nosferatu in the center alcoves ... and lots of swirling lights and trippy patterns of course.  Hit the smoking area right before 8, and weren't too disappointed when they didn't come on until 8:25 or so.  Sitting in the balcony and enjoying the pre-show can be groovy.

The lineup was Jason far left, then Luther, then Larry ... the two stacks of guitar amps very close to each other, then Teresa, John behind her, Nicki to her left, then Phil with his control center of stuff (though curiously fewer speakers than we'd ever seen him with), then Barry to the far right.  Both Larry and Barry had other instruments they could pick up; Larry played his cittern a bit, played his mandolin a bit too, and also played a wonderful fiddle (it looked so small to us?!?).  And Barry ended up playing his electric guitar most of the night instead of the pedal steel he started on.  Teresa also picked up her acoustic for one song.

But, to leave the narrative for a bit, this was mainly about all of the band excelling on their main instruments, not about versatility or varied instrumentation (though those were featured of course).  It was delightful to see that Luther was having SUCH a good time playing with Larry Campbell ... who could not enjoy playing with Larry Campbell?  Time after time the two of them, right next to each other, faced off and let it rip and just *dominated* the song.  Or should I say, they tried to ... but just across the stage was the firm of Lesh and Molo and they weren't taking a back seat to anyone.  As before when we've seen Phil & Friends, Mr. Lesh was leading the band and was easily and gracefully playing better then anyone else on stage.

And as before, though I was so drawn in by the other excellent musicians, I kept forcing myself to turn back to Phil and listen to what he was laying down, which remains the most incredible music I've ever heard ... 45 or so years after I first heard it.  Maybe it's feeling myself get older this Fall, but I could see exactly how old Phil was, and ways in which he seemed older than he was even last March.  He was just a hair more stooped and a hair more of an aged, dignified, scarecrow inside his blue jeans and long-sleeved shirt.  An incredible man who plays with the old forces, but a skinny guy getting smaller.  How long will he keep on doing this?  I was very glad we were back at the Cap, back watching and listening to Phil.

So what did they play?  Well it was a great first set ... here's the list and some notes:

Till the Morning Comes
Peggy-O
Uncle John's Band
Cumberland Blues
Rollin' and Tumblin'
River Deep, Mountain High
Sugaree

  • Fantastic opener, showing some of their best cards right from the start.  Larry and Teresa sang this so sweetly and Barry Sless picked a perfect pedal steel.  Perhaps "You're my woman now, make yourself easy" is anachronistic wording, but people with their minds open get the point; this is about the kind of mutual support we all need.
  • Another fantastic Peggy-O from Phil and L&T.  Phil was so eager he sang the "I would marry you" verse and in the middle of it chuckled at himself ... he'd stolen Teresa's part!  She tried not to give him mean looks.
  • So these guys just hit us with the good stuff right off the bat.  Larry got out his little fiddle, Nicki took a couple of verses, and they played another sparkling UJB and then let Larry and Luther just jam the fuck out of it.  We were up in center balcony, dancing our asses off.
  • And they jammed and jammed and all of a sudden were playing Cumberland!  Barry had switched to electric guitar somewhere in there and the leads and overlays and rhythmic chording flowed back and forth between Barry, Luther, Larry, and or course Jason, who was tinkling the (electric) piano so daintily I can't believe it wasn't a melted mess.
  • Luther's turn next and he got after it with no hesitation.  He pulled out the tin-can-and-strings guitar we'd seen him play at GRF and proceeded to howl the Muddy Water blues, and I mean howl.  He sang a few verses into the tin can and brought us all closer to the center of an echoing blues vortex. 
  • And then they stopped for a short rest, Phil nodded at the players who would start the next song, Teresa turned to the mike, snd she, Larry, and Phil hit it: "When I was a little girl I had a rag doll...."  We'd seen them do this before in the middle of Dark Star(!), but this time it was a stand-alone and the guys dragged it out and out.  She sang the "like a flower loves the Spring" bridge twice after long jams, and she could have done it several times more to my ear.
  • Dave observed that this night (and the next) were a bit unusual for P&F sets in that they featured many separate songs more than free-flowing jams.  Perhaps that was because they had so many people on stage and wanted to be sure the individual talents were not swept away.  Another observation was that Phil likes a lot of guitars on stage.  Some of these songs would definitely have been more vivid if they'd just had Luther/Larry with Barry on steel, or Luther/Barry with Larry on fiddle/mando, or whatever.  Sometimes the tumultuous river of guitar sounds was excellent, as in Crossroads (see below) or Sugaree, and sometimes it was a bit over the top.
  • Did someone say Sugaree?  Nicki stepped up for this and did a great duet with Luther, but Holy Fuck, this became an amazing guitar showcase.  Sugaree has been played over and over, but rarely with this degree of rhythm, soul, and searing guitar blues.
OMG, maybe going on too much again.  As with every other time we've made the effort to go see Phil, the first set was phenomenal.  Perhaps the rest of the weekend after this would now be judged/remembered at a higher level and with more discernment than the first set had been, after our tribulations getting to the Capitol Theater at that exact point in time?  But maybe now I'd be able to appreciate it better, having gotten back up to that plateau that Phil had brought me to before.  Whatever, I say again.

The Capitol that night was delightful, especially since there were a couple of empty seats around us and we had more room to relax and dance.  I'd checked the day before and some seats were still available, which had not been the story at other P&F shows we'd been at.  Maybe people are distracted by the election.

But anyway, had another fine half-time at the Cap, checking out the smoking area, getting replenished with local beer, and peeing in the stinky old bathrooms.  The film loops were going strong, the GD scene was happening all around us, and then the guys came back on after an average-length break.  Here's the second set:

Casey Jones
Midnight Highway
Cross Road Blues
Unbroken Chain
Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning
Help On the Way
Slipknot!
Franklin's Tower

  • Casey Jones is a great song, though at times it has become an embarrassing and rote druggy sing-along.  And it was an awesome second-set opener, with Nicki giving it her laid-back hippie blues treatment and Larry playing some great guitar.  This needs a strong lead, and Larry did it like you wouldn't believe.
  • Midnight Highway is another song Larry and Teresa kill (Larry wrote it with Julie Miller) ... this was *the* earworm from the show when I reminisce.
  • In my mind, the next song was Crossroads, because Clapton's version (and spelling) is basic to my appreciation of this kind of art.  But this was something different, and was long, encyclopedic, lyrical, etc.  Luther and Nicki again paired off for the blues and perhaps didn't get to the furthest reaches of the song, but they, and the whole band, took us pretty far.
  • And then one of the quintessential Phil Lesh songs.  Don't know what to say about Unbroken that I haven't said before.  There's such an incredible layer of rich bass sounds in this song, room for virtuoso drumming, melody lines to bite on, and a beautiful vocal line, which Phil falls right into.
  • And then Teresa came back out for Trimmed and Burning!  I've gushed before about her talent at shouting out this song, and this was as excellent a rendition as I've heard her do.  We were gobstruck at getting River Deep and Lamps on the same night!
  • Well jeez, it was getting a little late.  At other GD concerts we've been to, this point of the second set has then led to some varied results, mostly excellent.  We were just beginning to think that and then they struck those chords...
  • Help On the Way, sung by Nicki.  Nicki's a tall woman with long dark-brown hair and was wearing tight blue jeans and a big Stetson that night.  She sang those great words ("Cause I love what I love and I want it that way") with a little shuffle.
  • Fantastic Slipknot!, with lots of jamming, and then a short and sweet Franklin's.

Yay!!!  We were in the middle of the balcony at the Capitol but standing on the top of a mountain in our own way, or in our own minds.  We'd just seen and heard some incredible stuff and were still in that bubble.  As I've said before, I hope that bubble will always surround me when I need to call it up ("Phil Power, now!!!").

We were hoarse and tired but made as much sound as we could and soon Phil came back out and did a perfunctory Donor Rap.  Then the guys came back out, Nicki stepped up to the mike, and Phil started into the groove.  They did Turn On Your Lovelight for an encore!  This was one of the most unexpected GD encores ever.  Maybe Nicki didn't get as graphic as Pig at his peak, but maybe that's a blessing.

Anyway, we loved it and the whole Capitol was swaying and shouting and moving in time.  A wonderful end to a wonderful night!

OMG, time to sit down and take a few moments before getting out of there.  Back down the lovely stairs after a few minutes rest, and then followed the crowd out onto the street.  Not too far to the car, and then not too far back up North to Armonk, where our nicely-sized, quiet room was waiting for us.  One more beer, checked internet stuff, and then we all fell into a sound sleep.

Pictures from Sarah here!

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.