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

June 30, 2017

Concert #804 - The Barefoot Movement at McCabe's Guitar Shop (June 24, 2017)

The Barefoot Movement deserve a lot better than just a few bullet items in lieu of a more extensive write-up, but right now bullet items is all I have time for.
  • The band's line-up: Noah Wall (vocals, fiddle, banjo), Tommy Norris (mandolin, vocals), Alex Conerly (guitar, vocals) and Katie Blomarz (upright bass, vocals).
  •  This was my first encounter with the band and I truly hope that our paths will intersect again in the future.
  • The Barefoot Movement are an exceptionally likeable band - Saturday night they delighted me with two generous sets that amounted to almost two hours of music.
  • I enjoyed the band's high energy, good humor and most of all, their great music.
  • Their set included lots of self-penned songs, augmented with a few interesting covers.
  •  Some of the covers they played: the traditional "Wade In The Water", "Any Major Dude Will Tell You" from the repertoire of Steely Dan, Buddy Holly's "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" and "Fire", Jimi Hendrix's old gem.
  • The band also delivered a rousing medley consisting of the unlikely pairing of Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" and "I Get Around", the mega-hit of the Beach Boys.
  • The band's original songs sounded quite good to me, even at first blush.
The evening kicked-off with one of the briefest opening sets ever, two songs in all, delivered by Dan Hannaford, an Australian singer-songwriter currently recording in Los Angeles. Both "You Can't Preach Peace With A Gun In Your Hand" and "High Horse" can be described as melodically simple, but their message, forcefully delivered by Dan, will be hard to forget. I will definitely be looking for the studio recordings of this talented musician.
Here are a few photos I took before, during and after the concert:

Noah, Katie & Alex at McCabe's
Noah Wall at McCabe's
Tommy & Noah at McCabe's
The bare feet of the Barefoot Movement
Dan Hannaford at McCabe's
Set list #1

Set list #2
The stage

June 27, 2017

Concert #803 - The Dustbowl Revival at the Scripps College (June 19, 2017)

My busy life prevents me from writing a full review of the concert, so instead, here are a few random comments:
  • The revivalists came out with their well-established octet formation, as pictured above
  • A surprisingly large crowd was at hand 
  • The weather was absolutely divine
  • The band played two generous sets that amounted to almost two hours of music
  • The band's performance was very well received by the crowd
  • Their set list borrowed heavily from their just-released new album
  • "Dan's Jam" and "John The Revelator" were two of the very few "oldies" that they played
  • Some of their best new numbers: "Gonna Fix You", "Honey I Love You", "Call My Name"
  • This was my fourteenth time to see the band live
Now let a few photos do the talking:

Some of the revivalists at the Scripps College
The Dustbowl Revival at the Scripps College
The Dustbowl Revival at the Scripps College
Liz Beebe & Zach Lupetin at the Scripps College
Ulf Bjorlin & Matt Rubin
Zach Lupetin
Liz Beebe
The Dustbowl Revival at the Scripps College
The crowd during intermission
The merch table