Dusty Turntable

Dusty Turntable

Friday, November 28, 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014

170517 Richie Furay Band 70th Birthday Celebration with Special Guest Rusty Young 
and appearances by George Grantham - South Orange Performing Arts Center in NJ

Got to the venue exactly on time; sat in my specially selected mezzanine back row seat.  Announcer came out, made a couple of comments, and then said: “Tonight we’re going to upgrade one seat in the mezzanine to the front row- James O’Donnell, come on down!”  And so, for two hours or so the only thing between me and Richie Furay was a microphone stand.

The show was excellent, of course.  Anyone who has ever been to a Furay show knows he’s a great performer.  His singing, like his songwriting, is truly a work of craft.  Some few may not be so crazy about his voice (or so I’ve heard); those are probably the ones who need their art to be straightforward and lack an affinity for the genuine- the ol’ tyme twinge of a twang of a mountain tenor can be lost on a few unfortunate souls, I suppose.  They wouldn’t go for a song like “Crazy Eyes” even before RF hits the high notes (“Crazy Love” on the other hand... right up their poppy alley).  Richie performs a show like a great entertainer imbued with enough humility to keep him from going over the top in any way.  He’s not “too much” of anything, even as he is unmistakably original.  His banter, just enough of it, amuses and informs while reminding us that his pedigree and caliber make him a bona fide Hall-of-Famer.  The energy he puts into his performance shows a youthful heart, and the joy of God shows in his playing.  And he looks great! 

Daughter Jesse Lynch opened the show with the band, tearing through a few familiar rockers with ease and style.  This is a family affair, and an efficient show- no need to call in outsiders or let the house call in some locals.  The next set was a rare treat indeed- former band-mate Rusty Young came out for another preliminary set, singing (he’s been doing that for a while now) and playing a few acoustic numbers with his immaculate skill.  Rusty is pretty funny too, and he tells a story well; it’s hard to believe he’s the same skinny kid who used to stay behind the scenes (and his steel) and let others have the show, more or less (or so I imagine it- I missed a lot in those days).  A nice surprise came in the form of a DVD presentation for Richie’s 70th Birthday.  A couple or few dozen music friends and family offered up stories and well-wishes, and there were only one or two I didn’t recognize.  Jimmy Messina started it off and then a virtual parade followed.  I was especially gratified to see Al Perkins, a big fave for me (and probably millions of others) and Chris Hillman (of course!) among the presenters.  It seemed like they got everybody who’s anybody, even down to folks I had thought to be fairly obscure, like Gabe Katona (the lady next to me in my front-row seat knew who he was, though).  And some extra video covered the rest, like the old RF bands with John Mehler and Bill Batstone, reminding us that it’s all a legacy and not phases to be passed over like some.

Rusty Young, largely the reason I ponied up and ponied over (big bucks and long ride), joined the band for probably half the show.  He came and went, adding his touches and his presence in just the right measures.  And when George Grantham came out to add vocals to few songs, I figured this was probably the closest I would ever come (and literally, considering my unexpected good fortune) to a Poco reunion.  Rusty did say that “there will be no more Poco albums,” which is not surprising at this point really, although they do all show up at each others’ show every here and there.  But I had never heard of Rusty playing along with Richie at a show in this way, so I forked it over and made the drive, forsaking all other considerations (like a similar summit in Burlington Vermont with Twiddle and former Bangsta-mates).  And when I saw George’s autograph on some posters (I don’t buy none o’ that stuff), I knew this was a special event indeed.  Toward the end of the show, an even bigger surprise came in the form of ex-Turtle Mark Voorman, a guy who played a big part in Richie’s early career by letting him crash at his place for a while back in the day.  Richie seemed touched by this surprise appearance.

I’m conflicted.  Was this show a once-and-once-only?  I mean, Richie’s on tour, Rusty is part of the package, George is probably at most shows as he’s able; but it seems likely that the DVD is part of every show, and what about Mark Voorman?  Did they fly him in just for this one appearance, and maybe George too for that matter?  This is show business, after all.  So how much is unique to this date and how much of it is all just part of the show.  Cause Richie seemed really touched.  Much seemed singularly special.  Richie is a man of God- we all know the story; that’s part of the deal; I love that we’re in a day and age where we’re all more accepting of diversity than back in the day when record deals and promotion (and appreciation) depended on one’s category or classification.  Well, they still do, but some are able to “rise above” all that.  But... I’m left with a question of honesty versus showmanship.  In the end, though, no matter:  the experience I had was singular for me; the performance was great and I had a great time.

The set-list ran through mostly older Poco songs and newer RF songs.  The last time I saw Richie was a couple of years ago, at the Iron Horse in Northampton with my buddy Joe (the ‘other’ Joe, the ‘original’), and at that time they had just worked out Crazy Eyes and added it to their shows.  Scott Sellen proved himself to be a fine musician and a good sport by switching back and forth between guitar, banjo, and steel in all the right places as that nine-minute monster of composition marched through its many changes.  This time, he had an easier time of it, thanks to Rusty.  Tell ya what, though- last time was more exciting!  I think the band was at that time charged-up to play this thing, no small accomplishment by any stretch, and now they’ve grown used to it.  That’s my story, anyway; and just a wee bit of an answer for those who think I’m too positive.

Otherwise, the show was a great showcase for the star, his songs and his voice.  Being right up front as I was, I could hear Richie’s guitar so clearly that I was reminded of what a fine player he is.  He performs well, with reasonable antics and enthusiasm, but he plays real good too.  His tones are clear and touching to the soul.  His techniques are quite expert, I do believe, and he displays them all comfortably, not making a big show of it all.  He plays with the ease and subdued panache of an expert.  Here’s an odd comparison:  Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, another gracefully aging gentleman, not usually classed among the Greatest or Flashiest; but once we pay attention, we see that the skill is top-notch and world-class.  I know this because I see it and I sense it and then I hear others, better judges than I, say it (and print it). 

A number of tunes were from an upcoming release, so there’s a teaser.  Something to look forward too!  In fact, I hung for a while after the show, and waited for the marker-in-hand folks to do their business, and I found my moment to approach Mr. Furay.  I shook his hand and suggested he come and play when I turn 70 -which he took to be in 20 years, thank you very much- and then when I told him I’d been with him since 1976 and his first solo album -from whence my interest in Poco went back, but he’s still my “First Love” ...  that led him to mention the upcoming CD, so the moment of Real Love slipped away, organically and comfortably.  I expressed my appreciation, and that’s about all I have. 
After I took off, it occurred to me that I hadn’t shook Rusty’s hand; I would have liked to thank him for the years as well... ah well, maybe next time.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

140516b          Wildcat O’Halloran Largish Band at Amherst Pub

Wildcat told me he wanted me to see “this version” of the band- I feel like Steve Martin when he got his name in the phone book: “I’m Somebody!” Really, it’s hugely validating to have the attention and esteem of an artist in this way, especially when the artist is one of such stature and significance.  Not sure just how sarcastic I’m being here...  Fact is, the Cat has been doing what he’s been doing for decades; I first heard his name back in the days when Ed Vadas and Tommy Whalen and so many others were cutting their teeth at Sheehan’s and Rahar’s and so many other places- back before I got drunk and married for twenty years and then got buried at work for even longer.  When I started coming out of my shell a year or so ago, there was the Catman, running his Sunday Jams and asking me, again and again every week, “What do you play?”  The answer is nuthin’ and I don’t dance either, but I do clap pretty good.  So if all’s I can do to participate is talk about it in print, after the fact, well... we all have our parts to play and it’s hugely gratifying to have one’s contribution noticed and maybe even valued.

So this ‘version’ of the Wildcat O’Halloran Band included both harp and sax, or was at times doubly saxed, and a rhythm section of new names for me, as well as another new man-crush on second guitar.  As always, all these players are exceedingly friendly, easily dispelling any of those stereotypes about snobby or even too-busy musician-types. 

Doug Plavin, who I’m sure I’ve seen and heard around for a good long while, played drums as expertly as any I’ve heard, with rock-solid backing and perfectly placed percussive embellishments.  And he bears the mark of a real professional drummer:  he gots no hair.  Chris Ball almost looked like a slightly younger Loverboy, Wildcat’s regular bass player, with a similar stance and grip, and he played exactly as I’ve come to expect from anyone hanging with the Cat- perfectly, with chops at the ready when called for and otherwise right in the pocket, steady and solid and dependable.

Devin Griffiths was there- Yay!  What a nice guy; who’s a-thunk his momma was to raise a blues-man?  Walking down the street, you might think he’s a family man and a great Dad, maybe a creative type, like a writer... and he is all of these, but you might not guess you’re looking at a guitar-slinger, especially such a talented (and skilled) one.  There might be an interview and feature in the works here- Devin has kinda skirted the scene for some time now, but no one beside Wildcat has been able to seduce, coerce, or otherwise drag him into it with much visibility.  Which is a shame for the rest of us who are missing out, cuz Devin is a mighty fine player.  First time he showed up at the Jam, my buddy Joe was all like, “Ooh ooh- check this guy out, he’s really GOOD!”  And what I see, with my limited powers of observation, is a guy who looks kinda squeaky-clean and plays the same way.  His sounds are all really clear; no muddy smearing going on here.  It’s really fun to watch- his solos are precise and sharp, full of quick notes without shredding or overplaying at all.  In fact, he’s a fully capable axe-man but he’s in a mostly supporting role, so it goes without saying that showboating of any kind ain’t in the mix.  I couldn’t help but think of Glenn Schwartz, the James Gang’s original guitarist (yes, before Joe walsh) who had some success with Pacific Gas & Electric.  Look that one up in your Funk & Wagnall’s... or Wikipedia.

The band sported two guests this time out, one young ‘n’ purty and the other, not so much.  Emily Duff, a recent Master’s in music grad, had the good fortune to make acquaintance with Wildcat O’Halloran just in time to appear on his latest album, “Party Up In Heaven,” and he’s been following her around ever since.  “Doctor Luscious” shows up at the jam and every here & there, and now Uncle Wally Greaney is coaxing her along as well.  A graduate degree will teach plenty I’m sure, but a piece o’ paper can’t instill chops- those come as they will, and Emily looks to have ‘em.  Of all the band members, she got the most attention from attendees afterwards- yes, because of her playing!  She gets some grit going even though she seems mild-mannered.  Another pleasure to watch!

Which brings us to Mistah Wally Greaney, Sweet Daddy Cool Breeze himself.   You might know I can’t go a day without mentioning Tommy Whalen, so here it is... Wally plays with Tommy a lot.  No wait, that ain’t right.  They play with each other often.  Hmmm.  Wally is often the harp and sax player with Tommy Whalen and the Ragged Edge.  There.  In fact, he’s about the only guy around, maybe the only guy on the planet, good enough to be in Tommy’s -or Wildcat’s- band.  Wally also does the Sweet Daddy Cool Breeze Band from time to time; any of these options is well worth the watcher’s time and trouble to make the trip.  The thing about Wally is he’s really a real professional.  He plays, he performs, he entertains, all in balance as a contributor to the matters at hand.  Whether it’s Tommy or Wildcat or another guest slot, he takes his share of the floor without anywhere near taking over.  And Real Blues Harp is hard to come by these days, especially with the finesse that Wally brings- and bring it he do!

Having said all this, I guess I should mention that the music is pretty good too, and the master of the proceedings is a whole lot of fun as well.  Wildcat O’Hallorn heads up the pack with gusto and charm; he always manages to work in some humorous anecdotes and he acts the gracious host as well.  He plays real good too.  You ain’t never heard a Telecaster sound like this one; no twangy country here.  It’s partly in the build and muchly in the playing; he gots a lots o’ big, fat notes and low, rolling rumbles coming out o’ that thing.  Sometimes I think I hear Trower, strictly a Strat man, in his pedigree, especially with those hammer-ons that he uses to such great effect, but no- I’ve asked and Wildcat is all Wildcat with a long line of tradition, mostly (or entirely) American, I do believe.  I’ve seen him carry the show as a trio, I’ve seen him lead the Suday Blues Jam, and now I’ve seen him at the helm of a larger ensemble.  He does it all well, and there’s a lot else he does around the area too.  I reckon the dude is worth keeping an eye on.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Big Surprise of the Night for Thursday the 14th: a Girl Named Jenny!

I had almost thought about ditching my plans for the night, as another Big Thing (in my world anyway) was happening up in Vermont, but I decided to stay with what for me was a priority.  Gina Gunn had kinda promised she’d show up at Theodore’s to jam with Tommy Whalen, so I felt like I had (maybe just a little) orchestrated this little summit, so I wanted to follow through.  Besides, whenever Tommy Whalen plays, the Jam is sure to flow.  And I now know that the same holds true for Gina.  Twice now, I have seen her become the transforming force in facilitating a shift from an OK jam to full dance floor.  Tommy does that too, so together they’re like a double whammy.

I had a whole bunch of really cool stuff written about this whole thing, but I hit a wrong button and... well, you know.  Guess I’ll type on a Word Doc first from now on.  Now I gotta get going.  I got FOUR maybe even five places to be today/tonight.

So late on in the jam, Tony Lee Thomas came on.  He mostly played guitar, and when he sang I couldn’t quite hear his excellent voice, but I really wasn’t paying attention anyway (no offense I hope)... cuz while the band played, this lovely lady came from nowhere and stepped up to another mic and smiled a lot.  She sang nice backing vocals too, but what we couldn’t help noticing was her presence.  What a charmer!  Take everything I’ve ever said about Hayley Jane, modify it for someone a wee bit younger and so just a bit timid, as if unsure about stepping up, and you’ve got this Jenny lady.  I actually didn’t realize she was with Tony’s band- she looked like she was just having some fun with an available microphone.  But as she smiled and sang and gave a bit of performance, I realized she was every bit as professional as the rest of ‘em- just so sweet and charming that we were taken by surprise.  Is that what they mean by “beguiling?”

150516a          Return to Keilbasa Fest          Tony Lee Thomas       Acoustic Set

Not only did I have a good experience gaining re-entry into the Keibasa Festival today, with help from the very pleasant Carolyn of Wicked Cool Productions, but once I hit the tent -just as Tony Lee Thomas was starting- all my cares washed away...  I found myself falling into aNOTHER man-crush, yet again!  I met Tony briefly the other day when he played a little at Theodre’s jam, and Jenny sang some bgv’s.  I soon discovered that he isn’t some kid who just started dinking around- in fact, I feel kinda dopey; this guy has been at it for awhile.  I think I heard he’s been playing in other areas, so I guess I kinda missed out for awhile, but now I’m all over him... or something like that.  He comes from Pittsfield MA originally, so local boy makes good I guess.

What a style this feller has!  Like, If Cat Stevens had sung with reckless abandon and played like Jimi Hendrix (in fact, he kinda looks like a young Tony Marvici- which is to say, he looks a little like Carlos Santana); then update the mix with an infusion of Tracy Chapman...  we’re getting close to a comparison that almost fits Tony Lee Thomas.  Both his songs and his style could be called “epic.”  Even the artist himself jokes about his “musical ADHD” as he segues from one song to another for something like 20 minutes.  And his playing style is so aggressive that he broke no fewer than three -or was it four- string during his hour-long set.  He must be used it; I’ve never seen anyone change ‘em and tune ‘em so fast!  To say that he plays with enthusiasm, even ebullience, is understating it.  And he smiles the whole time, so it ain’t contrived.

Not that there are many pauses in the playing with this guy, but when he does take a minute for some banter, he’s really good at it.  Musta took a tip from the Jeff King playbook.  Laced with humor, self-deprecating and self-revealing (but not too much), one feels like we know each other a little better now.  He’s just full of energy in his playing and full of positivity in his overall manner, while and chatting after playing.  Really, he looks like he’s having a spiritual experience when he plays.  He’s a lot of fun to watch. 

He’s easy on the ears, too, in the sense that you can hear his lyrics.  He sings clearly, in terms of tone and diction, so I get the sense that he ‘knows how’ to sing.  Not everyone does.  Not that I really know the difference, but I think I have a good sense of it and I’m learning more with help from friends.  I woulda loved to turn him on to Mickey from Twiddle, or vicey-versey; I think I see some common ground here.  But whaddo I know?

140515            Double Header with an Extra Inning             Part Two- The Munich Haus

Katelyn Richards, my ‘other’ current crush (according to Eva- I think she’s just jealous) did a show at the Munich Haus in their beautiful Beirgarten.  I’m not sure how much of a garden it is, but there’s plenty of beer for sure; and it’s a great place to see live music.  Everybody oughtta play there; I couldn’t help but think how much I’d love to see any of my many crushes play there.  Well, OK, one in particular.  The place is only a year or so old; it was clearly designed and built for this kind of use.  The stage, neatly tucked into one corner, with what looks to be plenty of space for more than just a duo or trio, is separately lit and well-protected from the elements; large, sturdy umbrellas protected onlookers from what rains came down as well. 

Katelyn’s CD Producer and drummer, Lincoln Hubley accompanied with a nifty set-up consisting of a big kick drum and a bunch of conga-type percussors, which he played with hands and sticks (both ends), plus a couple of cymbals; and he sang both backing and lead vocals in all the right places.  Katelyn did quite a few songs from her album “Have Yours Too” and I for one was really happy about that.  The last times I had seen her, I was new to the Soundaliciousness of it all; now I am well-versed (so to speak) in at least a dozen of her songs.  I’d heard full-band versions at Theodore’s a couple of months ago; but with no earlier exposure, I had no reference or expectation (not a bad thing).  And a month or so ago, I heard a more strictly folksinger set, with lots of dinner-crowd pleasers and a few originals mixed in.  So I wanted to hear what I hoped would be a more ‘pure’ Katelyn set, and I think that’s pretty much what I got.  With a little Cat as well.

So, the acid test:  Can a singer (any singer, really) do the songs live and make them work as well as in recorded form?  Answer:  Katelyn can.  Cue:  sighs of relief (from me anyway).  As sweet as Katelyn’s voice is on record, and as much depth and range as she shows, are just as much in evidence in the live setting.  The songs are not ‘exactly’ the same (don’t be silly!) but any sentiment or expression-by-intonation is delivered just as effectively when it’s just the singer and her guitar; and the drums help to fill it out.  (In fact, it seems to me like a great answer to the age-old question of how to do the most with an unplugged act- just think if Art Gurfunkel had carried a small drum set.) 

Wildcat O’Halloran showed up after a while.  He threatened to via Facebook, so I was prepared.  Katelyn had him come up and play “Crossroads” while she sang; that was pretty neat- it’s not the kind of song you hear done with an acoustic guitar often.  And it takes a good player, I reckon, to pull it off.  Not that this is in doubt as regards the Cat.  He did a couple songs on his own next; skillful and entertaining as always.

Atmospheric songs, with those poetic lyrics and Katelyn’s lovely voice, kinda smoky and kinda sultry, but so sweet you don’t dare think like that, worked really well in this situation.  I asked for what I REALLY wanted, and I got it right away:  “Around the Corner.”  Chills.  I love that song.  I had to wait to hear some others first; I was afraid it might not have the same effect- the instrumentation, the arrangement, the vocal; and how it all mixes with the poignant lyric...  No, I was not to be disappointed, and I can live free from fear, at least as far as Katelyn is concerned and whether she’ll deliver live.  She does.  “Take Me With You, take me with you....”