November 19, 2017

Concert #813 - Kinky Friedman at McCabe's Guitar Shop (November 18, 2017)

I have seen enough Kinky Friedman shows to know that the old adage of "you've seen one, you've seen them all" is mostly true, but occasionally false, and it's that "false" part that makes me show up every time the Kinkster plays my favorite venue. Well, as it turned out, last night's show deviated very little from Kinky's usual schtick and if you're a fan, you know exactly what I mean: the cigar, the glass of tequila, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Willie Nelson, the Germans and a slew of jokes that I found quite amusing, while others could called them tasteless. I would have loved to see an unannounced guest or two, but there weren't any. Still, I found the whole experience thoroughly enjoyable.

I caught Kinky's early show, a sell-out. He went on for about seventy minutes, with lots of spoken word and some songs thrown in for good measure. By the way, when Kinky Friedman talks, I do listen and I would have been a happy customer even without a single song.

The Set List
Sold American
Me And My Guitar
Homo Erectus
A Dog Named Freedom
Jesus In Pajamas
Ballad Of Ira Hayes
Ride 'Em Jewboy
Sayin' Goodbye Isn't Easy

The evening kicked off with a short set by Michael Simmons, one of Kinky's old cohorts. Accompanied by Don Heffington on percussion, Michael played four songs. The one I liked the best was "Why Can't We Be Friends".

Kinky Friedman at McCabe's
Kinky Friedman at McCabe's
Kinky Friedman at McCabe's

Michael Simmons & Don Heffington at McCabe's

Kinky Friedman at the merch table
Posing with fans
Kinky Friedman signing merchandise
The stage

November 18, 2017

Concert #812 - Kris Delmhorst & Jeffrey Foucault at McCabe's Guitar Shop (November 11, 2017)

It was twelve years ago when I first got acquainted with Kris Delmhorst and Jeffrey Foucault, when along with Peter Mulvey, they were touring and recording under the Redbird moniker. My second encounter with Kris and Jeffrey took place last week at McCabe's and just like the first time, they shared the stage. The concert came at the end of a long and difficult work week, so by the time Kris and Jeffrey took the stage, I was ready to descend into a deep sleep. The concert that ensued turned out to be a rather mellow affair and even those few moments of fast-paced music and high decibel level could not provide the shot-in-the-arm that I so desperately needed.

The first set of the evening had Jeffrey as the main protagonist, with Kris providing backup vocals, then after an intermission, they returned with their roles switched. Not being a deep connoisseur of either Kris or Jeffrey's repertoire, I had to wait until the encore to finally hear a song I knew - their rendition of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down", delivered without their backing band, sounded great to these ears. And speaking of the band: they were exceptionally competent, as one would expect from Eric Heywood (pedal steel, guitar), Billy Conway (drums) and Jeremy Moses Curtis (bass), three musicians who have been around.

And finally, if pressed to pick a single concert highlight, I would respond without hesitation, that it was the beauty of Kris Delmhorst's singing voice.

Kris Delmhorst & Jeffrey Foucault at McCabe's
Kris Delmhorst & Jeffrey Foucault at McCabe's
Kris, Jeffrey and Eric Heywood at McCabe's
Kris & Jeffrey singing "I Won't Back Down"
Kris Delmhorst at McCabe's

Jeffrey Foucault's set list

Kris Delmhorst's set list
Jeffrey chatting with a fan during intermission
The stage

October 31, 2017

Concert #811 - Sarah Jarosz at McCabe's Guitar Shop (october 21, 2017)

Last weekend, I saw Grammy-nominee Sarah Jarosz in concert for the second time. In many respects, this show wasn't very different from the one I caught in the summer of 2016, also at McCabe's, and that's not a bad thing at all. Once again, Sarah impressed me with her beautiful voice, outstanding singing ability, as well her gift for putting together a set list that kept everyone's attention focused on her offering.

As soon as the show ended, I turned to my friend Steve and asked him the question that had been bugging me the whole evening - I asked him whether he could name the genre that best described Sarah's music. Well, it turned out that Steve, not unlike me, wasn't able to come up with a good answer. Indeed, Sarah's style defies easy categorization, but now that I have had some time to think about it, I have come up with a decent name for what she does: it's "Retro-New-Grass", of course!

Sarah Jarosz at McCabe's

Sarah took the stage with Nashville-based guitarist Anthony Da Costa and an upright bass player, Jeff Picker, the same outstanding picker (sorry, I just couldn't resist) who accompanied Sarah in 2016. Together, this great trio delivered a quality set that mixed cover songs with some of Sarah's own compositions. The covers were all exceptionally good, especially Tom Petty's "Time To Move On", Bob Dylan's "Ring Them Bells" and Martha Scanlan's "Raven". I had never heard of Martha, but let me tell you, her song was arguably the evening's best moment.

Many times during the show, the various stringed instruments used by Sarah and Anthony produced an intensely processed sound that was quite a departure from what I would consider "conventional". This is not criticism, just a statement of facts. Look at these photos and you'll see what I mean:

Sarah's gear
Anthony's gear
The show also had plenty of moments that sounded 100% conventional, even to the ears of the purest of the purists, and I'll confess that those were my favorite moments of the evening.

Other than the songs I mentioned above, I also liked "House Of Mercy"and "Take Me Back", both culled from "Undercurrent", her most recent album, and her gorgeous "oldie", "Build Me Up From Bones".

The show was a sellout and there was no opening act. Overall, it was a great evening that I would like repeated.

Sarah Jarosz & Jeff Picker at McCabe's
Sarah Jarosz at McCabe's
Sarah Jarosz at McCabe's
Tuning time
Anthony Da Costa at McCabe's
Jeff, Sarah & Anthony at McCabe's
The final bow
The set list
The stage
The backwall of the stage

October 22, 2017

Concert #810 - Shawn Mullins at McCabe's Guitar Shop (October 15, 2017)

In 2013, when I first saw Shawn Mullins in concert, he surprised me with a show that had it all - intensity, good songs, strong vocals and great guitar playing - and since then I had been wanting to simply relive that experience. Well, it took a few years, but last Sunday I finally had my second encounter with Shawn and let me tell you from the get-go, he did not disappoint.

The evening started without an official introduction: with the lights still on, Shawn took the stage to announce an opening set by his musical cohort, Radoslav Lorkovic. Originally from Croatia, Radoslav is a high-caliber piano player who can also sing and play the accordion. I had seen him before - in 2008, he accompanied the great Odetta, also at McCabe's - and I distinctly remember Odetta taking pride in pronouncing his name without having to read it from a hand-written note. 
Radoslav's opening set put on display his versatile piano playing skills, but was maybe one song too long.

Shawn took the stage just before 9 PM, which is a bit late for a Sunday show. With his unmistakable voice and intense delivery, he sang mostly his own songs, but threw in two covers as well: "The House Of The Rising Song" and "The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore", a song I first heard with Michelle Shocked, then later with Johnny Cash. Shawn's self-penned songs were very good, some had good hooks, but none quite as catchy as the refrain of "Lullaby", his major hit from years ago. The songs I liked the most were "California", "Beautiful Wreck" and "Shimmer".

Throughout the concert, Shawn was accompanied by Radoslav - or Rad, as Shawn called him - and a bassist whose name I sadly did not catch. Rad played the piano, accordion and keyboards. Overall, it was a good show.

Shawn Mullins at McCabe's
Shawn Mullins at McCabe's
Shawn Mullins at McCabe's
Shawn directing Radoslav to the piano
Shawn & Radoslav at McCabe's

High intensity on the stage
Shawn Mullins at McCabe's
Shawn and his bassist (name?) at McCabe's
The set list
The stage
T-shirt for sale

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