December 3, 2017

Concerts #814 & 815 - Jackshit at McCabe's Guitar Shop (December 1-2, 2017)

If you don't know jack about Jackshit, just run a simple Google search and I promise that you will be thoroughly impressed by the rich musical careers of Val McCallum, Davey Faragher and Rock-n-Roll Hall-of-Fame inductee Pete Thomas, the three musicians who occasionally perform together under the Jackshit moniker. Or you may read about them elsewhere in this blog.

The band's annual Christmas extravaganza has grown into a cult-like event, with tickets selling out in no time and fans starting to line up at the venue as early as 3 PM. Then there are the rampant rumors and speculations as to who the possible surprise guests might be, so let me jump straight to this year's guests.

Friday night we had Jackson Browne, Jenny Lewis and Molly Lewis. While most of us know a thing or two about Jackson and Jenny, we were all caught by surprise by Molly, who's not a singer, nor an instrumentalist, but has mastered the art of whistling like few others. She delivered two songs: Patsy Cline's "Crazy" and Ennio Morricone's "A Fistful Of Dollars", the spaghetti-western theme first heard in one of Clint Eastwood's earliest movies.

Jackson Browne, a frequent guest of the band, sang "Crazy", "Call It A Loan", "The King Is Gone", "Carmelita", "Take It Easy", "Our Lady Of The Well" and "Lawyers, Guns and Money", one of Warren Zevon's finest songs. This may have been Jackson's best-ever appearance as the guest of the band.

Jenny Lewis delivered a stunning rendition of "Crazy" and her own gorgeous "Pretty Bird". I absolutely loved her voice and singing style, but sadly, she only solo-ed on those two songs. Jenny came back a little later to sing backup vocals on some of Jackson Browne's songs.

Just in case you are wondering why all three guests performed "Crazy" - well, the "Crazy Challenge" is an old routine of the band, whereby amateur singers are dared to take the stage and sing Willie Nelson's gem that is known by most. This time there were no amateur takers, so the professionals had to step in!

For Day 2, the band had a few new guests and also a repeat one. Introduced as the Deershits, guitar and mandolin virtuoso George Doering and his wife Jo Ellen sang Bo Diddley's "Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover" and "The Letter", the song that made the Box Tops famous in the sixties. Most of us, myself included, could not figure out the true identities of the Deershits until after the show, when a Google search took me to the web site of the Brombies, George's Burbank-based bluegrass band.

I was a whole lot more familiar with Saturday's second guest, guitar wizard John Jorgenson. He sang "Daddy Looks A Lot Like Santa", Joni Mitchell's "River" and "Gonna Paint The Town", an uptempo bluegrass number that brought the house down. His guitar playing was something to behold and his singing wasn't bad either.

Saturday's third and final guest - notice, I did not say surprise guest - was once again Jackson Browne, who sang some of the same songs from the day before: "The King Is Gone", "Call It A Loan", "Take It Easy" and "Our Lady Of The Well". I would have loved to hear something else.

But enough about the guests. Undoubtedly, the stars of both evenings were Val, Davey and Pete, who played their hearts out and somehow managed to raise the level of their performance to yet a new high. Cases in point: the expanded version of "Ugly And Slouchy", their incredible rock & roll medley, and Pete's best-ever drum solo on Johnny Horton's "I'm Coming Home". And let's not forget about Davey's high-power vocals on a number of songs.

I counted two songs that the band had not played before and they both sounded great: Tom Petty's "You Don't Know How It Feels" and "Victoria", the old hit of the Kinks.

Val McCallum deserves special kudos for daring to touch a virtually untouchable song, Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning". I liked Val's version and based on the applause, so did everybody else.

Both evenings kicked-off with a short set delivered by the very young but definitely talented Alex and Brody Gage, whose harmonica playing and singing was very well received by the crowd. They played "Jambalaya", "The House Of The Rising Sun" and an Elvis Presley Christmas song.

By the way, with these two concerts, my current Jackshit concert count is up to thirty-nine. I guess I'm a fan.
Val McCallum at McCabe's
Davey Faragher at McCabe's
Pete Thomas at McCabe's
Jackson Browne at McCabe's
Jenny Lewis at McCabe's
Molly Lewis at McCabe's
Val McCallum & Jackson Browne at McCabe's (Friday)
Val McCallum & Molly Lewis at McCabe's
Jenny Lewis & Davey Faragher at McCabe's
George & Jo Ellen Doering at McCabe's
John Jorgenson at McCabe's
Val McCallum & John Jorgenson at McCabe's
Val McCallum & Jackson Browne at McCabe's (Saturday)
Set List (Friday)

Set List (Saturday)
The stage
The concert room
The Brothers Gage
Val McCallum & Jackson Browne's guitars
Val McCallum's gear
Pete Thomas' Christmas drum

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