DECEMBER 2008         back

Raul Malo: Dec 12th at The Highline Ballroom

It was exactly one year ago today that I went to see Raul's 2007 Christmas show at this same venue. I went back and read that review, I rarely do that, just to compare notes and not repeat myself too much, and was reminded that it was one of my favorite shows of 2007. Well, he did it again!

This show was was very similar in that he performed lots of Christmas material from his Marshmallow World release including Blue Christmas, Silent Night, Feliz Navidad and the title cut, as well as a string of his best known and most popular original tunes like Every Little Thing, Dance The Night Away and I Said I Love You.

What was different, besides some band members, was that he didn't do the wide array of cover tunes that you often get at his shows. He one of the best interpreters of other people material but, except for the Latin classic Sway, he mostly stayed with originals and Christmas songs. Not that it matters because he's another artist who can sing the phonebook and be captivating, and every show oozes his wit and warmth.

He did surprise us with a Christmas present of sorts, performing a new tune called Moonlight Kiss from an upcoming CD due out in March. I have the feeling that this show is going to become one of my Christmas traditions. See why: (Moonlight Kiss)


Ollabelle: Dec 6th Concerts in the Studio (Freehold, NJ)

If you've been following my adventures at all, you're intimately familiar with Ollabelle by this point. Their "Americana" blend of gospel, country, blues and folk mixes traditional material, some contemporary covers and original songs all written and performed in traditional styles with beautiful vocal harmonies.

I've seen them many times, including as recently as this summer, but had two good reasons to see them again. I had recently seen on the internet that Ollabelle was playing "Concerts in the Studio" in Freehold and so pulled up the studio's web site and learned that it's a 55 seat capacity photo studio with past performances including Graham Parker, John Doe and Garland Jeffries, among others, and has booked Fountains of Wayne for this February. It also suggested people bring a dish for a pot-luck meal after the show. This sounded too cool not to investigate.

My other reason was that singer/mandolin player Amy Helm was on maternity leave, country singer/songwriter Martha Scanlin would be substituting for her and I was curious how that would work.

I've written about this group so many times that I'll just say that they sounded great performing the usual suspects (Gone Today, Elijah Rock, Blue Northern Lights...) and a fun cover of the Grateful Dead's Ripple, as well as letting Martha do some of her beautiful original material. Here's one haunting tune that I loved where she's backed by Byron Issacs on lap steel: (Martha Scanlin w/Byron Issacs)

Just about every person I spoke with was a serious concerteer (my word) and I felt completely in my element. Hosts Marc & Elaine made everyone feel like old friends and I'll be keeping this series on my radar. You can do the same at: (Concerts in the Studio)