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Kristin Andreassen at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Kristin Andreassen headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. I’ve heard about Kristin from my friend Kevin for quite a while and was glad to finally make it to a show.

KristinAndreassen

Kristin has a lovely voice and played the acoustic guitar beautifully. I would characterize the set as a blend of bluegrass (without the fiddle or mandolin), traditional country (not today’s rock/pop country) and country gospel. I liked it all, thoroughly.

For the most part, Kristin sang very softly. That worked well considering the audience in Rockwood was very respectful. It was particularly suited to the gospel numbers that came across a bit more worshipful in the hushed tones.

KristinAndreassenSinging

Kristin was accompanied by an amazing band. Left-to-right on stage:

Chris Eldridge on acoustic guitar and vocals. Chris is the guitar player in The Punch Brothers. If you know them, or their fearless leader, Chris Thile, then you already know how good Chris Eldridge is. If you don’t, then take my word for it instead, Chris is exceptional on the guitar and he sings beautifully too.

ChrisEldridge

He sang harmony with Kristin on every number (or practically every one). His flat-picking leads were gorgeous and blended well with Kristin’s finger-picking and rhythm guitar. On at least two numbers (the more gospel ones I believe), it was only Kristin and Chris, with the others taking a momentary break.

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Robin MacMillan on drums. Robin was excellent. The set was mostly on the very mellow, quiet side, so his play supported that appropriately (lots of mallet instead of sticks, hitting cymbals on the rim with the side of the stick, etc.). Very well done.

RobinMacMillan

I don’t know if you’ll agree with me when looking at his photo, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how much Robin resembled a young Billy Bob Thornton. All I could think about was “Man, Billy Bob could play the drums when he was young!” Winking smile

Jacob Silver on electric bass, very light vocals and whistling. He was mostly called Jake, but web-based references are mostly to Jacob. His bass play was amazing. In fact, he rarely played traditional bass lines. Most of the time he was playing sophisticated (and fast) lines that were more like harmonies to whatever Kristin was singing, or Chris was playing on the acoustic guitar. Outstanding.

JacobSilver

During the intro to one song, he whistled into the mic, which along with Chris’ guitar play, made the song feel like it belonged in a spaghetti western. Smile He also sang very light harmony on one or two numbers.

Kristin played one song she started long ago, but just recently finished. It wasn’t the new song she had originally intended to play, but regardless of how good that one would have been, this one was a huge hit with the crowd.

Butts Afire is a story born from cold nights in a house where the only heat was supplied by a wood burning stove that Kristin used to sit on to try and warm up more quickly. The song is about an entire extended family who end up with their butts afire. Fantastic fun, delivered with the appropriate tongue-in-cheek and upbeat quality one would expect from such a song. Smile

Kristin was worried about wrapping up early, to give time to the next headliner to set up. In a semi-related issue, she happened to be calling up the next headliner to sing harmony with her on the next number.

Aoife O’Donovan sang harmony (gorgeously), along with Chris. I’ll have much more to say about her in my next post, which covers her set.

KristinAndreassenAoifeODonovan

After finishing the song, Aoife encouraged Kristin to do another, and not worry about how much time was left before her set. Very generous!

Kristin then called up another guest, who was also slated to appear with Aoife in the next set.

Ryan Scott played electric guitar on the final number. He was great, but like Aoife, more about him in the next post.

RyanScott

It turns out that I saw Ryan play acoustic guitar once, in July 2010, when he played a couple of songs supporting Christina Courtin at the Gulf Coast Benefit at City Winery. I had nice things to say about him that night as well.

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Mercy Bell at Rockwood Music Hall

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Mercy Bell headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall last night. It’s been a very long time coming for me to finally see her perform.

MercyBell

In fact, I’ve been aware of Mercy Bell for two years and this was the first time I saw her live. In March 2010, Mercy Bell invited me to see her perform at The Living Room, with Julie Peel and Alexa Wilkinson. We hadn’t met (and I hadn’t heard about her). She told me that whenever she Googled her friends, my blog kept coming up.

I agreed to attend and was really looking forward to it. The day before, I got really sick. I tweeted my apologies to Mercy and she tweeted back something like: “Dude, your health comes first, there will be other shows!”. She was right, but who knew other shows meant two years from now… (to be clear, that’s when our schedules aligned, not that she hasn’t played in NYC since.)

Since then, I’ve been following Mercy on Twitter, and I like everything about her as a person. Last night was finally the time to find out about the music. Smile

Mercy performed the beginning of the set solo, accompanying herself on an acoustic guitar. It was as classically a singer/songwriter folk set as you could imagine. That’s one of my favorite genres, so far so good.

Not always, but for much of the set, I felt that Mercy’s voice was eerily reminiscent of early Joan Baez (that’s a very good thing, in case you’re wondering). When we left Rockwood, Lois said to me “Don’t you think a bunch of times she sounded like Joan Baez?”. Cool, I wasn’t crazy! Winking smile

She accompanied herself on the guitar well enough to be a solo act, but I personally preferred the few numbers that she finger-picked on, to the slightly choppier rhythm ones.

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In the end, in addition to her lovely voice, it’s all about the songs. I was definitely drawn in repeatedly to her lyrics, which ultimately (at least for me), define a good folk set. The melodies were engaging as well.

Mercy displayed a wide range of volumes (sometimes within the same song). Considering how attentive and quiet the Rockwood crowd was, I personally preferred the quieter singing, which drew me toward her.

Halfway through the set, Mercy invited up a guest.

Liz Burke (on the web, she’s more easily found as Elizabeth Burke) sang harmony on a few numbers, very sweetly! I don’t think she performs on a regular basis on her own, so I’ve linked her name to her LinkedIn page. Update: Liz was kind enough to leave a comment below with a website that does indeed showcase her musical talent!

LizBurkeLizBurkeMercyBell

After singing another song or two solo, Mercy invited up another guest, one who does perform on her own. Mercy said that they just finished co-writing a song which they were about to debut.

Maryanna Sokol sang some very light harmony. In fact, if I wasn’t the closest audience member to Maryanna, I would have sworn that she didn’t sing at all during the first song. I’m chalking it up to the fact that this was a spanking brand new song. In fact, here was a tweet from Mercy from just before the show:

Mercy Bell ? @mercybell

Mmmmm @MaryannaSokol and I just collaborated on our first song 🙂

MaryannaSokol

Maryanna stayed up for another song, which she sang a bit more on, but still not that much. Then Mercy invited Liz back up to sing at the same microphone with Maryanna and they closed out the show with more serious three-part harmony.

MaryannaSokolLizBurkeMaryannaSokolLizBurkeMercyBell

Nicely done all around.

If Mercy hadn’t been mobbed after the show I would have taken a minute to introduce myself. Instead, we scooted home, since it was nearly 11pm.

Our relationship will now continue on Twitter, until the next actual sighting. Smile

The Foggy Dudes at Red Lion

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The Foggy Dudes closed out the St. Patty’s weekend at Red Lion with three consecutive sets of traditional Irish music. Not fiddle/pipes stuff, rather, hardy sea shanty tunes.

TheFoggyDudes

Most of the numbers are very upbeat, often with hysterical lyrics (those seamen needed something to keep them awake). A few are more traditional protest songs, both slow (soulful) and upbeat.

We love Irish music (though in general, most of what we listen to is more Celtic, with lots of fiddle and flute parts), so we were happy to come out for this.

John Schmitt is the primary lead singer for the Dudes. We’re big fans of John’s own music, so when he announced this event we put it on the calendar. In addition to singing, John played the acoustic guitar (mostly) and switched to the banjitar (6-string banjo) on a few numbers.

JohnSchmittBanjitar

John and I traded a number of tweets about the show, because I had another one on the calendar for 10pm that night. When I told him I had to leave after the second set he tweeted the following:

John Schmitt ? @johnschmitt

@hadarvc great so we will play the most fun songs up front 😉

Ha! I’ll never know, though there were a ton of “fun songs” while we were there.

In addition to all of the Dudes playing instruments all four of them sing, often in 4-part harmony. Each sang lead on at least one song as well.

John posted before the show that he thought he had just enough voice left for this last show. The Dudes have been all over NYS performing during the big weekend. His voice did hold up (wonderfully), but there was one change that disappointed me mightily. On the second song, John asked the band to play one fret down because of the wear and tear on his voice. Man, I was really looking forward to hearing that song one fret up! Winking smile

JohnSchmittSinging

The rest of the Dudes, left-to-right on stage:

Carl Gallagher on banjo, electric guitar and vocals. No good individual link, so here’s his Tumblr page. In addition to playing the banjo on most numbers, Carl played lead electric guitar on two numbers (turning them into a bit more rock than traditional Irish, but I’m not complaining). Carl sang a lot and generally provided a bunch of merriment.

CarlGallagherBanjoCarlGallagherElectricGuitar

At one point John noted that Carl said he would keep the drinking to only one. Carl shot back instantly: “I only bought one tonight!”. I can’t attest to how many Carl bought, but I can attest that various people in the bar did indeed buy the band multiple drinks, but Carl more than the rest. Poor guy couldn’t insult his fans, right? Winking smile

Brandon Warren on electric bass, harmonica and vocals (sorry, I couldn’t find a good individual link). Brandon has the deepest voice of the bunch. In addition to adding color/flavor to the 4-part harmonies, he had a lot of one-line zingers throughout the sets, delivered in that booming bass voice. Very nicely done!

BrandonWarrenBass

Brandon is likely a professional harmonica player. Not only did he have a slew of them (defined at six or more that were visible), but they had their own very fancy carrying case.

BrandonWarrenHarmonica

The strange thing was that he looked like he could be Matt Simons older brother. It was strange because Matt happened to be in the audience, so I was compelled to keep looking back-and-forth to reverify my feeling. Yup, could be brothers. Smile

Scott Tofte on drums (modified kit) and vocals. Scott sat on a cajon which he used purely as a kick drum. This was the first time I’ve seen someone use an actual pedal, with a soft-mallet-head, to hit the cajon. Most other times, when using the cajon to deliver a kick drum sound, the heel of the shoe is used to strike the cajon directly. The pedal worked perfectly.

ScottTodteTinyDrumKit

Scott also had a baby snare drum (which he was masterful on) and two cymbals (one full size, one baby size). He also had a tambourine under his left foot. He played the tambourine only (in his hands) on one song where Carl sang lead. I really want to see Scott on a full drum kit, because he was great even with the incredible constraints of such a tiny kit.

ScottTodteBabySnare

This was only the second time I’ve seen Scott (Carl and Brandon were new to me last night). I saw Scott eleven days earlier, supporting John Schmitt during a show at Rockwood Music Hall. That night Scott wore a knit cap. I admit to having no idea that I was watching the same Scott until we walked out. Our friend Rachel said she was pretty sure it was the same guy. Color me surprised, oops.

The Dudes had their new, self-titled CD (seven songs) available for sale. We bought it and I’ve listened to it twice this morning and I really like it a lot! As we walked out last night, I teased John that he hadn’t played The Parting Glass. He told me it was going to be the last song of the last set. It turns out it’s the last song on the CD, so I got to listen to him singing it twice this morning despite his best efforts to keep that song from me! It’s the only song on the CD that John sings/plays solo.

TheFoggyDudesCD

You can stream the entire CD at their Bandcamp page and buy it for download there as well.

Sorry we missed the last set, but glad we caught the first two! A bunch of familiar faces in the audience, and we even got to introduce ourselves to Evan Watson finally, after enjoying his music a number of times at Rockwood. Woot!

Here’s the set list, and I see something suspiciously missing from it. The last song listed is not The Parting Glass. In fact, it’s not on the list at all. Perhaps John just wanted to make me feel guilty for leaving early. Winking smile

 

SetList

Jeff Litman with Joe Brent at Rockwood Music Hall

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Jeff Litman headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall on St. Patrick’s Day. That’s one of the few things that could get us to brave the crazy streets in NYC yesterday.

JeffLitman

Jeff recently released a new CD, Outside, and we sadly missed the Release Show due to an unmovable trip. We then missed an acoustic set, so we weren’t going to miss this one. We bought Outside the day it went up for sale at Bandcamp. Stream it for yourself and buy it if you like it. His previous CD, Postscript is fantastic as well.

We’ve seen Jeff perform three full sets before, all with a full band setup. We’ve also seen him perform a number of benefits plus a Backscratch. So, seeing him play a 100% acoustic set was going to be a change of pace.

The test came right away. Jeff opened the show with my favorite song of his, Maine. Let me digress and define what I consider to be a perfect song. If I can put a song on 24×7 repeat, for a year, and honestly not beg for mercy to hear something else, then it’s a perfect song, even if it’s not technically perfect in all respects. Maine is a perfect song. Got it?

I’ll have to defer for another minute before telling you how I liked this version of Maine (and the rest of the set), because that would require me to introduce Jeff’s special guest, a drop earlier than I’m ready to. I have a few more words to say about Jeff.

He’s a smart songwriter (lyrics and melodies) and he sings with a rockers passion. He’s an excellent guitarist (and bassist as well, which is how I discovered him). He takes care to put out really well-produced, excellent albums.

JeffLitmanGuitar

All of that came across in the acoustic set as well, but it’s an entirely different feel. I thoroughly enjoyed it, independent of my love of many of the songs or Jeff, because I’m also a lover of acoustic guitar-playing singer/songwriters. Still, I think Jeff’s bigger strength is delivering a fuller sound, so buy the CDs and come to a full band show if it will be your first Jeff Litman Experience.

JeffLitmanSinging

OK, now that I’ve praised Jeff (just enough), let’s get on to what gave this set it’s real character.

Joe Brent played mandolin, violin and sang harmony. I’m embarrassed to admit (publicly) that I never heard of Joe before. Not just because he’s reasonably famous. Not just because he’s local and extraordinarily talented. Mostly because he has been reasonably active in playing with a number of people who I do pay attention to, and somehow, I’ve still never heard his name, so apparently I’ve missed some pretty cool shows. Sad smile

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I listed the mandolin first, for two reasons. Joe played significantly more mandolin than violin and he also lists only the mandolin in his bio/title on his site. But, on Maine, he opened the show on the violin.

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One of the (many) aspects that makes Maine a perfect song is the fast, crisp, tasty guitar leads that are sprinkled throughout. Yesterday, those guitar leads were replaced by the violin, beautifully. I listened again this morning, and there are definitely strings on the CD (or at least one violin), but they are not playing the part that Joe played yesterday.

So, even though the song was way more mellow than on the CD, the violin gave it the truly authentic sound that differentiated it from a purely acoustic guitar version if Jeff had performed solo. I think Joe only played the violin on one additional number (two, max). He was exceptional on it, so he either doesn’t list it because he’s modest, or because it’s his secret weapon. Winking smile

JeffLitmanJoeBrentViolin

On every other number, Joe played his signature mandolin. He’s amazing, but don’t take my word for it. If you visit his site (linked to his name), there’s a YouTube clip that starts playing immediately (something I typically disdain) and the first tidbit is from Joe’s EP, a mandolin piece that will have your head reeling.

JeffLitmanJoeBrentMandolin

Joe also sang a reasonable amount of harmony, quite well. It wasn’t what we would have gotten if Maddy Wyatt was there (unfortunately for us, but fortunately for her, she was at SXSW), but it was well done nonetheless.

Speaking of Maddy Wyatt, Jeff has another perfect song on the new CD: What Hasn’t Happened Yet. Maddy sings on that, but she also plays a gorgeous flute lead. Joe replaced that flute lead with the mandolin (unless I’m misremembering now, and that was perhaps the other violin song).

Suffice it to say that Joe spiced up the set nicely.

When it was over, Lois bought two T-Shirts from Jeff’s friend Melissa, who was selling merch for him. I got the navy blue one and she got the white one. You too can be just like us and own one of these T-Shirts. They’re available for purchase at the same Bandcamp site linked to above for the Outside CD.

MelissaJeffLitmanJeffLitmanT-Shirts

We also had the pleasure of sharing the experience with a few of our friends:

KevinKellySamTeichmanHadar

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Derek James at Rockwood Music Hall

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Derek James headlined Rockwood Music Hall at midnight last night.

DerekJamesSinging

Q: When you’re his self-anointed #1 fan, and he’s listed at midnight, and you would do whatever you can to see him perform, what drastic action do you take?

A: Nap!

Yes, good plan, I did indeed nap yesterday afternoon and it paid off big-time. It was so crowded at Rockwood that I had to stand for the entire set (somewhat rare nowadays, especially for a midnight set). That turned out to be a blessing. I wasn’t falling asleep, and I couldn’t stop moving to the rhythms anyway.

The set was perfect! I’d be thrilled to have that exact set repeated (on demand) any time I could. Any further description will detract from the actual experience, though I’m going to do it, if only for my own memory (I’ll know how much better it was than your interpretation of my words). Winking smile

I’ve seen Derek quite a number of times, across a multitude of lineups, acoustic and electrified. Not all combinations of The Lovely Fools (the generic name for Derek’s band) work as well as others. I honestly thought that the original (at least original from when I discovered Derek), Roy Gurel and Assaf Spector would not be topped.

The most recent iteration (which I think is Derek’s default, go-to band), came really close. Close enough for me to honestly stop pining for Roy and Assie to return. There was one change in that band last night, due to the bass player, Mike Tuccillo, being on the road supporting Jenny Owen Youngs. I am thoroughly happy with Mike’s play (supporting Jenny as well as Derek), but I admit, I was even happier with the replacement.

Derek was great on the guitar and his vocals were crystal clear. I’ve complained a time or two that at Rockwood 1, sometimes Derek’s vocals get washed out a bit. His energy was high, which was important, because it would have been difficult to satisfy the anticipation and enthusiasm in the room if he wasn’t totally on.

DerekJamesGuitar

Derek was supported by an extraordinary band, left-to-right on stage:

Jerry Fuentes on electric guitar and vocals. I’ve just recently written about an excellent performance by Jerry of his own music (which you can support at his PledgeMusic page). Jerry is a fabulous guitar player, and Derek’s music highlights it just the right amount. Jerry also sings a bunch of harmony with Derek, wonderfully!

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Chris Anderson on electric bass and light vocals. Chris substituted for Mike. As many bassists as I see and like, there’s little doubt that we see Chris more often than any other. In fact, we just saw him earlier that evening supporting Burlap to Cashmere, a group we discovered only because we’ll go see anyone Chris is playing with!

ChrisAndersonDerekJamesChrisAnderson

So, if Derek had called me to suggest someone to fill in for Mike, I wouldn’t have hesitated to say Chris. Derek didn’t call Sad smile but he made the right decision anyway! Smile Chris was fantastic! Like with Jerry, Derek’s music highlights the bass player dramatically. Assaf was so good at this particular role that I was afraid anyone else would be a letdown. Chris did not let me down.

ChrisAndersonHavingFun

Jamie Alegre on drums (again, no good individual link). If you believe me that Derek’s music brings out the best in a guitarist and a bassist, then you better believe me that the drummer is critical to the sound. Jamie’s beats were rocking the crowd throughout.

JamieAlegreJamieAlegreDrums

When the set was over, the lights were off and the band was already unplugging. The last thing they were expecting, or looking for, was an encore. The crowd had a different notion entirely. They were chanting one more song, repeatedly. The sound engineer (Drew) gave Derek the go-ahead, and they plugged back in. Derek said that this would be a crazy number and everyone better dance.

DrewTheSoundEngineer

Well, I can’t say that everyone danced, because I know all I did was sway. But, I can attest that a few people started dancing seriously (and vigorously) right near me, and that turned into a full blown conga line. Rockwood 1 is tiny to begin with, and it was so crowded you had to be careful not to hit your neighbor if you took a deep breath. And yet, somehow, a reasonably long conga line made a couple of back-and-forths in there. It was a thing to behold.

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Most of the staff at Rockwood (both rooms) are wonderful people. Good at what they do, but nice and interesting as well. At the very top of that heap is the person who served us the very first time we set foot in Rockwood, back in 2009!

Christina Shipp is an actress as well as an efficient contortionist, working her way through the Rockwood crowd to serve drinks, pick up the empties, pass around the tip jar and generally make the entire experience more pleasant for everyone in the room. It may sound silly, but Lois and I look forward to seeing her as much as we do seeing whatever artist we are showing up for. After all, we’ve had a three-year relationship with Christina. Smile

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Bed at 2am last night, but no worries, the nap saved the day (or night as the case may be!).

Here’s the set list (encore not included):

SetList

Here are a few of our friends hanging out with us outside of Rockwood, waiting for Derek’s set to begin:

KevinSamTeichmanTerry

Man, next to Rebecca Haviland, my head is a giant melon:

RebeccaHavilandHadar

Paula Valstein at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Paula Valstein headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. I’ve been wanting to see a full set of Paula’s for a while now. The fact that she was on right after the amazing Burlap to Cashmere meant that I would already be there and didn’t have to leave my seat.

I’ve seen Paula do a couple of numbers, at two different benefit concerts. The first was back in January 2010 at the Haiti Benefit show. The second was three months ago at the Holiday Benefit #5 show. Both times, Paula impressed, albeit briefly.

PaulaValsteinSinging

Paula has a fantastic voice and plays the piano extremely well. Last night she also played the electric guitar on one number, very nicely. I liked every one of the songs, which ranged from Pop to Rock, with Jazz tinges here and there. So, she’s a good songwriter too. In other words, Paula’s one talented lady.

PaulaValsteinPiano

Given my seat for the previous set, I had the misfortune of staring at her back for all but the song when she played the guitar (nice tattoo by the way) Winking smile. It didn’t affect what I heard (thankfully). Lois had a better angle, which is why you can even see Paula’s face. Smile

PaulaValsteinGuitar

I didn’t know what to expect (other than I knew about her voice and piano skills). What I found out is that Paul has a regular band, of very talented musicians, helping create a big sound that has a high energy level throughout the set.

Her guitarist was out sick. In addition to the rest of her band, she had one special guest, who I’ll mention after listing the band members.

I’ve complained in the past when an artist makes it hard to find their band members’ names. That complaint is valid to me when they have a regular band. In this case, let me do the opposite and praise Paula. She has a separate page that names each band member and has a photo of them as well. It’s named THE BAND. Thank you Paula. I admit that I would have had to spend considerable time tracking down the spelling of some of the names I thought I heard on stage last night!

Left-to-right on stage:

Ben Antelis on vocals and tambourine. Ben’s site lists him as a drummer, among other skills. Last night he sang a ton of harmony, perfectly. I sometimes hesitate to say sweetly when I’m writing about a guy, but I always mean it as a high compliment, so I’ll say it here. Ben sang harmony sweetly! His tambourine play was really good too, not surprising for a drummer/percussionist.

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Aaron Comess on drums. Aaron was excellent on the drums (more on that when I get to the guest). I admit to not recognizing the name, but when I visited his site now to get the link, I was quite impressed with his accomplishments, including being a founding member of Spin Doctors!

AaronComess

Daniel Ori on electric bass. Daniel was also excellent throughout the set. Clearly, talented musicians like to play with talented musicians, and Paul is one, and has gathered like-minded and like-talented people around her.

DanielOri

Michael Feigenbaum was a special guest. He provided great beat-boxing on one number. Toward the end of the song, he started a long-running duel with Aaron on drums. Michael would beat-box some rhythm, then turn and point to Aaron, who would wail on a drum solo, then back to Michael, etc. At first, the solos were on the longer side, showing each person’s individual talent. Each one got shorter, turning it more into a call-and-answer duel, with Michael belting out some short beat, expecting Aaron to mimic him. Extremely cool and very well done!

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I very much enjoyed the entire set and look forward to catching Paula again, perhaps from a better angle next time. Winking smile

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Burlap to Cashmere at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Burlap to Cashmere headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. We only discovered them exactly one week earlier, when they played the Next Charity Concert Series at Paulies in Pleasantville, NY.

BurlapToCashmere

Since that was my first time seeing them, it doesn’t make sense to repeat everything I said so recently, so if you don’t know them, please read last week’s post.

We were extremely excited to get a second helping of Burlap to Cashmere (B2C) so soon. There were some differences (as there usually are), and I’ll mention those. First, just a quick recap of the players, one of whom accounted for one of the differences.

Steven Delopoulos on acoustic guitar and lead vocals. In the last post I noted that his voice is very special. Last night it hit me, on many songs, there’s a Van Morrison quality to it that just hits my ears perfectly.

StevenDelopoulosStevenDelopoulosSinging

John Philippidis on acoustic guitar and harmony. Another outstanding performance on both the guitar (he’s crazy good) and excellent vocals. That said, given our specific seats, right up at the stage but as far left as can be (I was actually looking at the keyboards from behind them!), John’s guitar was the only instrument that was severely under-mic’ed. It might have sounded loud and proud elsewhere in Rockwood, but not at my seat.

JohnnyPhilippidisJohnnyPhilippidisGuitar

On the other hand, we were just a few feet from him, and the neck of the guitar was in full view throughout (before the show, I was worried that we might be staring at his back), so I was easily able to match up the weak volume of the guitar with his flying fingers, enhancing the sound in my head. Smile

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Theodore Pagano on drums. Another stellar performance.

TheodorePagano

Chris Anderson on electric and upright bass and background vocals. Even though I couldn’t see Chris from my seat, I could hear every single bass note on both the electric and the upright. Outstanding! Lois had an occasional view and also got up to get some photos of Chris.

ChrisAndersonUprightChrisAndersonElectricBassChrisAndersonRebeccaHaviland

Todd Caldwell on electronic keyboards and background vocals. Todd has been the regular keyboard player for B2C for the past year and half. We didn’t get to see him last week because he was rehearsing for an upcoming tour with Crosby, Stills and Nash. He was back in the saddle last night, and all of one foot away from me. He was fantastic, as he’s been every time we’ve seen him supporting Rebecca Haviland. He’s more familiar and intimate with the B2C material and I found his performance to be an upgrade from the previous week.

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So, in recapping the players, I highlighted the two most significant differences: 1) Johnny’s guitar was way too low volume for me (and it’s one of the biggest highlights of a B2C set) and 2) Todd Caldwell was a wonderful upgrade to the entire set.

In general, the sound at Paulies was way better. That night the system was brought in by BNK Productions. I noted that it was a system built for a larger place than Paulies, but they didn’t blast us out, so the sound engineer knew what he was doing. They were kind enough to comment on the post (about The Callen Sisters, who opened for B2C that night), so I now know who they are.

It’s quite possible (even probable) that it was purely my vantage point that caused the sound dropoff. On the other hand, I could hear the bass and keyboards perfectly, every note, so I just don’t know.

Another difference was that we got to bring our godchildren along. When I posted last week, I heard from both of our goddaughters that they were each big fans of B2C before their long hiatus. It was fun to take one of them, with her husband, to see B2C all these years later. A few notes into one of the songs, before any of the vocals came on, she leaned over to me and said “That’s the title track from their first album, Anybody Out There”. Indeed, she was correct. Smile

LauraHadar

Finally, this was a shorter set than the week before. Rockwood 2 had an unusual lineup of back-to-back ticketed one-hour sets. Amazingly, they accomplished the turnover more cleanly than I would have guessed, but largely because the band that was on before B2C seemed to play an exceptionally short set (unless they started much earlier than the listed time).

I really enjoyed seeing B2C again, and sharing the experience with our godchildren, but given the guitar sound issues, and our particular vantage point (not seeing Chris at all, for example), made the set less magical than the week before. No matter, the next time they play anywhere that I can get to, you can bet we’ll be there!

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The set list was identical to last week, except that songs #1 and #10 are struck through, because of the shorter set. I wouldn’t swear that they got through 11 songs either, but this is the best I can do. Smile

SetList

Jesse Ruben at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2

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Jesse Ruben headlined a set at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 last night. It’s been seven months since we’ve seen Jesse perform. The last time was also at Stage 2, covered here.

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The last show included a full band. Last night was (nearly) 100% solo. I was surprised, as Rockwood 2 tends to feature bigger sounds (many exceptions) and the one solo set that I saw of Jesse’s was at Rockwood 1.

Surprise aside, Jesse was great and the entire set was a joy to listen to. It’s nice to know that I won’t spend a second in the future thinking about whether to attend one of Jesse’s shows based on whether he’s solo or complemented by a band. Smile

Jesse opened the show with a comment that reflected the sentiment that he tweeted earlier in the day:

Jesse Ruben ? @jesseruben

twitter makes me forget that there are in fact other things happening on earth besides sxsw.

Amen brother. When you follow as many musicians as I do, your timeline blows up during the week of SXSW. In fact, since I follow a bunch of tech people too, the problem is even larger.

Jesse declared this set to be the Anti-SXSW show. Well, I would have accepted that, except that the single most important piece of information that I’ve gleaned from the billions of SXSW tweets is that there are more beards in Austin at the moment than there are in all other cities in the world, combined.

Jesse was sporting quite the beard himself last night. If he truly intended this to be the Anti-SXSW show, he should have shaved. Winking smile

The point of telling you all that (aside from having an excuse to praise Jesse’s beard) was to highlight Jesse’s stage presence, something I’ve written about glowingly twice before. He’s warm, funny, quick, without overdoing any of it. It flows and works.

So, I already told you that Jesse was great. In a few words, all of which are repetition from past posts, the reasons are:

  • He’s an excellent songwriter
  • He sings beautifully (at times really quietly, at times with intense emotion and volume)
  • He plays the guitar beautifully (most of the time rhythm, occasionally wonderful finger-picking)
  • He keeps the audience laughing (and thinking) between songs

JesseRubenSinging

In addition to playing a string of his hits (his word, delivered with sarcastic humility, though they should be hits), he invited one guest up to join him for a cover of Don’t Think Twice by Bob Dylan.

Alexis Babini joined Jesse and played the harmonica between verses. During each chorus, he looked like he was going to sing harmony as well, but he stayed just far enough away from the mic for that not have really happened from my perspective. That’s the only reason I added “(nearly)” when describing the show as 100% solo.

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There was a really nice crowd at Rockwood, so not every music lover ran to Austin this week. We’re very glad that we were part of it as well.

After the show, Lois asked Jesse for his set list. In fact, she just wanted to take a photo and return it to him. Before she could explain that, he ripped the page out of an actual book that he had written the set list in. The page ripped at the top left corner. Lois tried to paste a blank piece of paper in and fill in the missing piece of the first song title, but it came out worse/unreadable (in my opinion). The first song was Unbreakable, an absolutely fantastic song.

Here’s the set list:

SetList

Bryan Dunn Sweetheart of the Music Hall

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Bryan Dunn is releasing a new CD on April 6th, 2012. He’s performing a CD Release Show at Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 at 7pm. I’ll be there, you should be too.

It’s rare that I review CDs (before or after they are released). Mostly because I’m not a trained music critic/theoretician, nor a musician either. When I read reviews, they’re usually covering things I wouldn’t think to say, nor would I necessarily feel comfortable saying them even if I thought of it. Winking smile

So why bother reviewing this as-yet-unreleased CD? Because it’s worth it! Last Thursday we saw Jesse Terry play a show at Rockwood. Bryan happened to be in the audience and happened to bring a CD to give to Jesse. When Lois asked him whether he had some more on him, he did one and we bought it.

The last two lines of the post about Jesse’s show were:

Lois already listened to the CD and was blown away. I’ll be getting to it over the weekend.

Now that I’ve listened to it five times, I concur. End of review. Winking smile

Well, perhaps I could be coaxed to say a few more words…

The overall umbrella genre/feel of the CD is straight up Rock. By that, I mean no artificial DJ-like sounds to show off techno-wizardry, just excellent musicians making music.

That said, there is quite a variety of rock styles across the songs, including Classic Rock, Country Rock, Jazz/Swing Rock and perhaps a hint of Bluesy Rock thrown in to fool you. A couple of the songs could easily be in America’s Country Countdown, in my opinion.

All of that is actually secondary though, seriously. What separates Bryan from the pack are his (apparently) effortless lyrical masterpieces (song after song).

The lyrics are simultaneously sophisticated and simple. Huh? What I really mean are they are sophisticated but simultaneously accessible. Big words aren’t used to impress (and force us to look them up), they’re words that are more unexpected that paint a vivid image.

Since Lois and I are drawn to great lyricists, we know a lot of them. One problem that occasionally arises is that the songwriter will fall in love with a phrase, but can’t quite fit it in smoothly with the current melody and beat. The truly greats rework one or the other to make everything feel so natural that you wonder what came first, the lyrics or music. It’s like a marriage made in heaven.

If you couldn’t tell from the above paragraph, Bryan is in the latter category. The lyrics are so perfectly intertwined with the music that you can easily listen to every word while still getting completely lost in the music. Nothing jars you out of the trance with a phrasing that clearly doesn’t fit, no matter how clever it is.

I hesitate to pull out any specific lyrics. First, songs are contextual. Second, as specifically noted above, these lyrics are delivered married to the music (not that they aren’t also poetic in the stand-alone sense). Still, I’ll do it (under protest). This is the last verse in the song 3 Years On:

I have murdered minutes
But still there’s so much precious time to kill
The boy that she left waiting
I do believe he’s waiting for her still
I wrote her a letter on a stone
I don’t think I’m ever coming home

I’ve murdered minutes too…

One of the advantages of buying a physical CD is getting the liner notes (when an artist bothers to include them). We have all of the lyrics written out and Lois listened over and over with the lyrics in her hands and she continued to interrupt me while I was writing about Jesse, to tell me this line or that line that kept getting to her. Now I understand.

I’ll wrap up by saying that this CD was produced by Chris Cubeta. I only saw Chris perform for the first time last Wed night, but I’ve heard about what a great producer he is for a while (specifically with regard to the upcoming The Vanity Belles CD), and now I hear his work first hand.

For example, on Marlene, which has a lot of Swing elements to it, the use of the clarinet (Hideaki Aomori) fits perfectly. On other numbers he employs a trumpet or accordion (Michael Leonhart and JP Schlegelmilch respectively).

OK, I’m drifting into the territory that makes me uncomfortable, so I’ll just stop here. Come to Rockwood Music Hall Stage 2 at 7pm on April 6th and judge for yourself. Bryan will have physical CDs for sale there, so you can then experience what we’ve been enjoying for the past five days! Smile

Ceili Rain at Good Shepherd Church in Rhinebeck

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Ceili Rain performed at Good Shepherd Church in Rhinebeck, NY last night. This is the second night in a row that we’ve seen a group that most consider Christian music. There’s no doubt that the label is accurate (if you analyze their lyrics and message), but both groups are so much more, that compartmentalizing them is a mistake.

Here’s the difference between the two nights for us. When we saw Burlap to Cashmere, we had no idea what we were in for (nor did I remember that they flew at/near the top of the Christian Music scene). We attended because we love their bass player and discovered what we had been missing all these years.

With Ceili Rain, we’ve been fans for over 11 years, even though we’ve only seen them perform live twice before last night. We have a rule: if Ceili Rain has a show within a 2-hour drive of NYC, we’ll move Earth (and try to influence Heaven) to get there. Rhinebeck qualified, as it was roughly a 90-minute drive from our Westchester base. If you have a lot of patience, and any interest, you can read about how we discovered Ceili Rain in this post from nearly four years ago.

Neither group should be pigeon-holed. Aside from their message (which is as beautiful as you could want to listen to and embrace), they make music that is amazing on every level.

Bob Halligan Jr. is in a category that even the greatest songwriters rarely achieve. He’s prolific. For starters, here’s a 14-year-old article detailing his early career (he was already prolific then). He followed that up by penning 8+ additional CD’s after he formed Ceili Rain (Bob writes all of the songs). He continued to write for other groups as well. I believe that Bob has roughly 1,000 songs to his credit.

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You say, Hadar, why do you insist that I read so much? Can’t you make it easier for me to understand the magnitude of Bob’s songwriting achievements? OK, since you asked, just take a quick peek at this list of CD’s crediting Bob as a songwriter.

So he writes good songs, big deal. Why should you buy their CD’s? Because every musician on every song is exceptional on their respective instruments (yes, plural) and the production quality is outstanding. If you buy them, you’ll hear amazing musicians performing incredible songs (whether you buy into the message or not).

OK, so the CDs are good, big deal. Why should you drive two hours to see a show? Because Ceili Rain delivers a live performance that can only be described by one word: Joyous. Every time, every venue, no matter what they may have to overcome (last night’s performance was in a Church gym!, who cares, it was fantastic!).

Hadar, you’re finally going to describe last night’s show, right? Sure, but one last detail.

Lois called to find out if this show was open to the public. Yes, but she was told that it was part of a Youth Retreat. Cool, we like youths. Winking smile

Ceili Rain hit the stage (a very large one) exactly on time (8pm). They played for 2.5 hours with a 15-minute break. Their set list (not written down) was a great selection of their songs through the years, including my personal favorite (All the Lumber) and Lois’ (Love Travels, the closing number).

They played a medley of Irish/Celtic tunes (instrumental) two different times. When they did, step dancers (both professionals and extremely talented local amateurs) performed to everyone’s delight. The professionals were sisters, Christy and Leighann Kowalski. Their feet and legs moved so fast (and in perfect unison), that I don’t know how to adequately describe it.

KowalskiSistersLocalStepDancers

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They played parts of three different classic rock songs, again showing their raw musician chops, breaking the stereotype that people may have of them. But mostly, it was Heavenly Ceili Rain music (figuratively and literally).

Each member of the band deserves as much praise as I can muster, so I’ll start with Bob, (who is mostly center stage), then I’ll cover the rest, left-to-right:

Bob Halligan Jr. Up top, I praised Bob’s songwriting. Obviously, he doesn’t come on stage and read his songs like they were poems. Bob is an excellent musician. Last night he played exclusively on the acoustic guitar, but we’ve also seen him tear up the keyboards. Still, what makes Bob special is his voice and his energy.

BobHalliganJrGuitar

Bob has a wonderful voice that can smoothly and seamlessly hit high notes that infuse the music right into you. He dances on stage and generally doesn’t let up for a minute. I consider Bob a music delivery system, that comes across live as well (actually, perhaps even better) than it does on the CDs.

BobHalliganJrSinging

Because this was specifically a show put on as part of a Youth Retreat, Bob also paused a number of times to deliver very inspirational messages and guidance.

Burt Mitchell on penny whistle, flute, bagpipes, harmonica and light vocals. Basically, if you can blow on or in it, Burt can make it sound gorgeous. Burt kicks the show off accompanied only by a drum, getting the crowd worked up as he walks through the audience leading a procession which ends up with the full band on the stage.

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While every member of Ceilli Rain is a top musician, it’s Burt’s instruments (and his skill at every one of them) that really gives Ceili Rain their unique sound (that, plus Bob’s voice!).

BurtMitchellWhistleBurtMitchellFluteBurtMitchellHarmonica

The fact that Burt wore a kilt only added to the authenticity whenever he played the pipes. Smile

Joe Davoli on fiddle. Joe is masterful on the fiddle (we own some of his music apart from his work in Ceili Rain, he’s that good). While you can easily pick out Joe’s work during any Ceili Rain song, when he and Burt combine for the long Irish medleys, their interplay is mesmerizing.

JoeDavoliJoeDavoliFiddle

Bill Bleistine on drums and vocals. I could easily copy/paste what I said about Bill the first time I saw him play (nearly three years ago). While every word I wrote then still applies (and was evident last night), since then, we’ve immersed ourselves in the NYC indie music scene (drowned is a better description than immersed). That has led us to discover a slew of NYC-based drummers that we simply can’t get enough of. And still, seeing Bill last night brought back the realization that Bill is in a rarified class of drummers.

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Rather than quote the entire rave from that first show, let me quote my closing line:

Whew. Magic, magic, magic, magic (and then some more magic).

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We had a lot of time to bask in the show’s afterglow on our long ride home. One of the many things we discussed was Bill’s drum play. I noted that Ceili Rain music, with it’s non-stop joyous (there’s that word again) beat, is about as perfect a set of music for a great drummer to let loose on. The corollary is that said drummer better be as good as can be, or the music will no longer feel joyous and perfect. Obviously, Bill is as good as can be.

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Kevin de Souza on electric bass. I fell in love with Kevin’s bass play (and energy) the first time we saw him. All of that was repeated last night, including another amazing bass solo that started out super slow and built to a masterpiece that any lover of a great jazz bass solo would be thrilled to have seen. As he was building, the rest of the band was joining in, making Kevin the focal point (essentially like a lead electric guitar).

Kevin-de-SouzaKevin-de-SouzaBass

Raymond Arias on electric guitar and heavy vocals. Ray provides exceptional harmony with Bob on every song. At the same time, he’s ripping it up on the electric guitar, playing a number of styles and delivering high-speed leads when called upon.

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One of the highlights of a Ceili Rain show is when Bob interrupts the very long Irish medley to give every band member a turn at a solo (going across the stage in the order that I’m describing each of them). When their solo (an actual solo, with no one else playing) is over, the rest of the band joins in, with them still being the highlight (as I described with Kevin above). Then, whatever they were playing morphs back into the Irish medley. After a few more bars of the Irish tunes, the next soloist is called upon (by Bob pointing the neck of his guitar at them).

When it was Raymond’s turn (last in line), he mashed up two rock classics, the first of which was Wild Thing. While the others soloed on their instruments, Ray added fantastic vocals on both numbers, while wowing us with his guitar play.

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About 2/3’s of the way through the show, Bob called up a special guest.

Daniel Grimsland was recruited from Rhinebeck (or the surrounding area) to be one of the earlier bassists in Ceili Rain (I think he was with them from 2002-2005). He’s now part of a band called 3 (or so I discovered from Googling). He joined Ceili Rain for one song (I believe it was 40 Shades of Green), and of course, held his own, even though he’s been away from the group for seven years. Smile

Unfortunately, all of the photos of Daniel came out too poorly to post. In fact, apologies for the quality of a number of the photos. The gym lighting wasn’t the most conducive for Lois’ tiny point-and-shoot.

One of things that warmed our hearts last night was the audience. Aside from this being a Youth Retreat, it was really a family and community affair. There were little kids (dancing their hearts out!), all the way through to grandparents, enjoying and celebrating the music and their faith, together (that’s the key folks, none of us can have a meaningful life alone!).

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It didn’t take Ceili Rain to give them that spirit of family and community, but there’s no better way to come together than over a Ceili Rain show. Let’s think of them as a legal performance enhancing drug, for whatever you might otherwise enjoy doing!

After the show, we said a few hellos and goodbyes and hit the road. We got back around 12:35am (or actually 1:35am since I reset all the clocks before we hit the sack). Smile

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