NOVEMBER 2009 (back)
Susan Werner/Cheryl Wheeler co-bill: Nov 18th @ Music on Main Street (Woodbridge, NJ)
Susan Werner is one of those artists who have a devout but relatively small following, but who is of such high artistic caliber that I take every opportunity to spread her gospel. She plays both guitar and piano so well that there's no telling which is her primary instrument, and has a voice that would be impressive in any venue. Her eclectic style ranges from folk and blues to jazz and cabaret and she's one of the funniest people you'll ever see on a stage.
Backed by the talented Trina Hamlin on percussion, harmonica and vocals, she did a wide mix of songs and styles including Help Somebody (gospel), Your Side Of Town (jazz), Mercy Mercy Me (classical/R&B fusion) and La Vie En Rose (French Cabaret). She shied away from her recent Classics release, which gave a classical spin to classic popular tunes, because she was sans cello which was what made the whole thing work.
In one of the many amusing moments she performed a Christian Hymn as a show tune with many in the audience singing along. How fitting (I think) with the show in a church! The undeniable high point of the show was her stunning rendition of La Vie en Rose which she performed solo on piano to close the show. More than one person told me that it was so powerful that they can't even imagine a better closing for our debut season.
After the set my wife told Susan that she could easily imagine her in The Cafe Carlyle in NYC (the pinnacle of cabaret) to which Susan responded to please write them a letter because that's one of her dreams. (Susan video from this show)
Maryland native Cheryl Wheeler went on first and with her finger picking New England folk style, numerous amusing anecdotes, stunningly beautiful voice and songs that ranged from poignant to amusing, won the crowd over right away. I was in and out of the room many times, one of the drawbacks of being intimately involved with the series, so I'm low on details but whenever Cheryl wasn't singing the crowd was laughing hysterically.
In the end, the people who were there for Susan marvelled at Cheryl's performance and vice versa. A number of people also commented that this might have been the best show of the bunch. I'm not able to pick my favorite but I'm guessing it wouldn't be a good idea to say even if I could. (Video from this show)
Stay tuned for news on our spring series which we're working on right now. There will be some ooohs and ahhhs I'm sure!
Fran Healy & Andy Dunlop (Travis): Nov 10th @ Joe's Pub
This third of six sold out shows at Joe's Pub saw Fran Healy and Andy Dunlop of popular Scottish rock band Travis, step away from the band as part of a series of intimate shows as a duo (or the Frandy Travis tour as Healy says).
The show was a retrospective of their career with songs done in chronological order from one of Healy's earliest compositions, a song called 20, thru a collection of their most popular tunes Why Does It Always Rain On Me, Sing, Driftwood, and Side and right up to Before You Were Young, the last song on their most recent release. (Sing video)
The show included sometimes lengthy anecdotes for every song performed and came complete with a power point presentation. For Slideshow we got to see a slideshow of various band related pictures including their studio encounter with Paul 'effing' McCartney (as described in the photo) and a picture of a piece of scrap paper with the original lyrics for Flowers In The Window when they played that tune. There were pictures of Healy's young son, Franz Kafka and maps of Scotland as they related to the particular song coming next. It was informative, moving, amusing and all very musically satisfying. Healy's impersonations of Liam Gallagher and Paul McCartney were among the particularly funny moments.
The show featured a good number of the more melodic acoustic tunes like As You Are, which has a kindred spirit to John Lennon's Across The Universe, but they did not shy away from the real rockers as seen here on Blue Flashing Light
The next time they return to the NYC area, as full band or duo, I will almost certainly be there. This show was that good.
Jesse Cook: Nov 6th @ B.B. Kings Blues Club
Early in the evening Jesse commented that he's been traveling the world building an audience for quite some time, but every time he played New York it was usually to 40 or 50 people, which was why he was so thrilled to see one of New York's best music venues bursting at the seams with a standing room only crowd (well over 600).
Cook plays a guitar style called Rumba Flamenco which fuses Cuban rhythms with the Spanish, gypsy and Middle Eastern sounds of Flamenco. He had intended that his new CD, The Rumba Foundation, would take the style back to Cuba, but somewhere along the line he was hijacked to Colombia by Grammy winning cumbia band Los Gaiteros de San Jacinto. The end result of this new fusion might be his best work to date.
This set featured a handful of songs from the new release, including Bogata By Bus, and various fan favorites from previous releases. You don't often come across someone who can play like this: (Rattle & Burn)
The entire show was instrumentals until the encore when they did their cover of the Crowded House song Fall at Your Feet. The violinist and percussionist got together and sang a 2-part harmony that was very moving. As good a set as this was, the encore made me wish for a few more tunes with vocals. He does a version of Simon and Garfunkel's Cecelia on the new release, maybe that'll work it's way into the show. I'll be seeing him again next time he's in town, so I'll let you know.