October 15, 2017

Concert #809 - Jon Langford's Four Lost Souls at McCabe's Guitar Shop (October 1, 2017)

I first got acquainted with Jon Langford and his then-band, the Mekons, in 1989. Since then, I have been passionately following not only his solo career, but also his various side-projects, such as The Waco Brothers and Pine Valley Cosmonauts. His current ensemble, curiously named Jon Langford's Four Lost Souls, came to my favorite venue two weeks ago and based on their performance there, I'm happy to say that, even though Jon has just turned sixty, little has changed - his music is as listenable and captivatingly quirky today as it was twenty-five years ago. His idiosyncratic melodic sense is still there and his songs, with their mix of country, folk, rock and punk, are still difficult to categorize.

Jon came out a few minutes after 8 PM with the other three Lost Souls, namely guitarist John Szymanski and singers Bethany Thomas and Tawny Newsome, and together they put on a thoroughly enjoyable show that had a relaxed feel to it, with lots of humor, laughter and most of all, great music. Their set included most songs from their latest album, unsurprisingly titled "Four Lost Souls" - I liked all songs, but "Snake Behind Glass", "Half Way Home" and "Poor Valley Radio" managed to stand out. John turned out to be a devilishly good guitar player, while Bethany and Tawny sang lead and backup vocals with confidence and competence.

Jon's set ended with two of his older songs, "Drone Operator" and "Pill Sailor", and also a surprising cover, Danny O'Keefe's "Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues". Overall, I had a heck of a good time at McCabe's watching this truly unique artist.

The stage at 8:10 PM
The stage at 8:15 PM
Jon Langford (right) and John Szymanski at McCabe's
 Tawny Newsome (left) & Bethany Thomas at McCabe's
Jon & Tawny
Jon Langford at McCabe's
The set list
Tawny & Bethany at McCabe's
John, Tawny & Jon, after the show
The stage
The concert room

October 1, 2017

Concert #808 - Loudon Wainwright III at McCabe's Guitar Shop (September 9, 2017)

This was my nineteenth time to see Loudon in concert, but only the first time since 2009. Even though quite a few years have passed since then, Loudon appeared to be pretty much the same as he was then. OK, so maybe he's not kicking out his legs as often as before and his face contortions are a bit less frequent, but the voice remained unmistakably his and so did his act, with that unique mix of humor, seriousness and the occasional touch of darkness. His energy level appeared to be high, even though he may have been holding back a bit for the evening's late show. I caught the early show, and by the way, both were sell-outs. At one point during his first set, when he mentioned his second show, Loudon quipped "I don't do anything twice a night anymore, except maybe go to the bathroom".

In addition to his own songs, Loudon's set included a few covers, which were all duly credited to their respective authors. As he always does, he augmented the musical part with a few funny stories, such as the one about his childhood encounter with Liza Minnelli. And anyone who has ever seen Loudon in concert knows that family members are often talked and sung about and this show was no exception. Particularly funny was his latest jingle, "Meet The Wainwrights", a song Loudon wrote for "The Wainwright Family Adventure" Alaskan tour.

Overall, I had a heck of a good time reconnecting with Loudon and I can't wait for his return to McCabe's.

Set List (nearly complete)
(all songs by Loudon Wainwright III, unless noted)
Natural Disaster
Dilated To Meet You
Meet The Wainwrights
The Picture
Ever Since The World Ended (Mose Allison)
It's Love And I Hate It
Westchester County
Between (Loudon Wainwright II)
Grey In LA
Primrose Hill
I Knew Your Mother
Half Fist
Daughter (Peter Blegvad)
April Fool's Day Morn
Oedipus Rex (Tom Lehrer)

Loudon Wainwright at McCabe's
The following photos, titled "The Many Faces Of Loudon Wainwright", are taken from "Meet The Wainwrights", the YouTube video recently posted by Wayne Griffith, the long-serving Sound Engineer at McCabe's.

The Many Faces of Loudon Wainwright - Photo 1
The Many Faces of Loudon Wainwright - Photo 2
The Many Faces of Loudon Wainwright - Photo 3
The Many Faces of Loudon Wainwright - Photo 4
The Many Faces of Loudon Wainwright - Photo 5
The Many Faces of Loudon Wainwright - Photo 6
The Many Faces of Loudon Wainwright - Photo 7
The stage
The stage, viewed from a different angle
Concert Director Lincoln Myerson letting people in
Fans lining up for the late show

September 3, 2017

Concert #807 - Chely Wright at McCabe's Guitar Shop (August 27, 2017)

I'm not a regular follower of the contemporary country music scene, but I just wasn't going to pass up on the opportunity to see a singer of Chely Wright's caliber perform on the small stage of my favorite venue. So I went.

A few days have passed since the concert and there's one thought I just can't shake off: Chely stayed on the stage for about one hour and forty-five minutes, which may sound like a decently long set, but sang only ten songs. Using an estimate of five minutes per song, I figured that we were treated to roughly fifty minutes of music and a whopping fifty-five minutes of spoken word and that's just the wrong proportion for an event that was supposed to be about music. Funny thing, though: Chely may have been overly verbose, but I found most of her storytelling quite compelling.

Courtesy of Wayne Griffith, the concert venue's long-serving sound engineer, I was afforded the rare opportunity to witness a complete soundcheck and that was something truly special. As it turned out, a lot of hard work went into getting the sound just right, but in the end the thumbs-up signal was flashed by all involved. There was nothing divalike in Chely's demeanor throughout the soundcheck, then as she left the stage, she turned to Wayne and uttered an emphatic "Thank you, Sir". That was classy.

Chely Wright's soundcheck, seen from the sound engineer's room
Sound engineer Wayne Griffith
I liked Chely's singing - her voice was crystal-clear and she hit all her notes with feeling and precision. Her set list included numbers from "I Am The Rain", her latest album, as well some of her "oldies", among which I really liked "Something Positive And Hopeful". To me at least, the evening's highlight was "My Sister", a song with a somewhat unusual history. After I got home, I googled the song and here's what I found, reproduced here in Chely's own words: "This is a song that I recorded at Sunset Sounds that I did not include on the album. I am offering it as an exclusive download to my Kickstarter supporters. I'm proud to say that I co-wrote 'My Sister' with Diane Tinelli and she was one of the backers who bought the Kickstarter co-writing session reward."

Another highlight was Chely's rendition of Bob Dylan's "Tomorrow Is A Long Time", which I think was the evening's only cover.

Throughout the concert, Chely was accompanied by guitarist Jeremy Lister, who also sang backup vocals. Their acoustic, stripped-down arrangements appealed to me a lot more than the overproduced sound of today's commercial country music.

Overall, I did not regret my decision to attend the concert, which had high points (primarily Chely's voice) but also a few lows (too much talk, not enough music).

Chely Wright singing at McCabe's
Chely Wright telling stories at McCabe's

Chely Wright & Jeremy Lister at McCabe's

The end of the show
The set list

The stage
Fans lining up for the show

August 26, 2017

Concert #806 - Dead Rock West at McCabe's Guitar Shop (August 11, 2017)

Most folks don't know much about Dead Rock West, so let me tell you who they are. Occasionally described as a hidden treasure, they are a duo consisting of Frank Lee Drennen and Cindy Wasserman, are based in Los Angeles and specialize in a hard-to-define genre that mixes various different styles, so - for the sake of convenience - let's just call it Americana with an increased decibel level. Here are the highlights of this sold-out event:

- Cindy Wasserman's voice and singing style
- The outstanding vocal interaction between Cindy and Frank
- The quality of the band that took the stage in support of Cindy and Frank
- Their catchy songs, most of them culled from "More Love", their brand new album

Even though the duo's set list had far more originals than covers, I found their offering quite accessible, as most of the self-penned songs were catchy and engaging even at first blush. Their choice of covers deserves kudos as well - I particularly liked "Gone Gone Gone" and "Price Of Love", both from the repertoire of the Everly Brothers and "Ain't No Grave", an old song that keeps popping up with regularity.

Consisting of Geoff Pearlman (guitars), Phil Parlapiano (keys), Taras Prodaniuk (bass) and D.J. Bonebrake (drums), the band that accompanied Cindy and Frank was nothing short of sensational. I happened to be seated in a perfect position to observe the hands and faces of D.J. and Taras, two musicians I had seen many times before, and what a treat it was to be able to watch such a world-class rhythm section in action from just a few steps away!

Now let the photos do the talking.

The Dead Rock West at McCabe's
Cindy Wasserman at McCabe's
Frank Lee Drennen at McCabe's
Frank Lee Drennen & Geoff Pearlman at McCabe's
Phil Parlapiano at McCabe's
Taras Prodaniuk at McCabe's
The set list
The stage

July 14, 2017

Concert #805 - Paula Cole at McCabe's Guitar Shop (July 7, 2017)

I must confess that I stopped following Paula Cole's career in the late nineties, so last Friday I went to McCabe's expecting something in the vein of her early hits. Well, I got to hear her early hits, but unexpectedly, I also got my first exposure to Paula's vocal acrobatics that instantly brought to mind Yma Sumac's multi-octave voice. Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of such extreme vocal deliveries, but witnessing her singing in a live setting wasn't the end of the world either. Moreover, the concert had many thoroughly enjoyable moments, so that when the show ended, I was one of those who stood up to give the three musicians on the stage a well-deserved standing ovation.

Paula came out with guitarist Chris Bruce and drummer/percussionist Jay Bellerose, two musicians who were nothing short of fabulous. Their interplay, with or without Paula's piano, produced some of the evening's finest moments. I was particularly impressed with Jay's tasteful style of playing, he is truly one of the best drummers I have ever seen.

Paula Cole at McCabe's
Paula kicked off her set with three covers - I really liked her rendition of "Ode To Billy Joe", delivered pretty much in a traditional way. Her self-penned songs, among which I only knew "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone" and "I Don't Want To Wait", sounded a bit uneven to these ears, but one of them, "Feelin' Love" was an absolute knockout, even at first blush.

The concert ended the way it started, with a few covers, namely Prince's "When Doves Cry" and Dolly Parton's "Jolene". Both sounded great.

Paula Cole at McCabe's
Jay Bellerose at McCabe's
The set list
Chris Bruce, Paula Cole & Jay Bellerose at McCabe's
The stage
The piano
Paula Cole merchandise