Tuesday, September 29, 2009

ACL Festival 2009

It is ACL time again and I am blogging, posting pictures and streaming videos. This year, pictures will be split between my blog at http://aclfestival.blogspot.com and Facebook. You are welcome to friend me there if you'd like. See the link below. First music posts will probably be Thursday morning.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Sam Phillips and The Section Quartet in Santa Monica

The clouds hovered over So. Cal. Saturday night, making for a cool (finally) evening with some really cool music. Sam Phillips crossed the 405 into Santa Monica and performed with The Section Quartet at The Edye Theater. It is a 99 seat room, with the seats on three sides and Sam pretty much standing in the middle of the room. She entered the room dressed in a sparkling black outfit. Daphne from the Section Quartet followed her out and took her place behind the theremin. For those of you who do not know what a theremin is, think, the synthesized sound from the Beach Boy's "Good Vibrations". But Daphne has taken it to a level I've never seen before. She plays the air around it with the perfection of a classically trained musician, which of course she is. You have to see it to believe it. I was just blown away. After a few strange sounding noises, to get her hands into position, Sam and Daphne kicked off the show with "I wanted to be alone". It was gorgeous, spooky and funny all at the same time. The rest of the Section Quartet then joined Sam on stage and gave us a beautiful version of Sister Rosetta. Throughout the 75 or so minute set, Sam was backed by the quartet, or at times just Eric Gorfain (on guitar, violin and Stroh violin).

Sam was in a great mood, joking with the crowd and keeping it light, even if they were all in black and we didn't get the formal dress code notice. :-) At one point, just as a song started, someone dropped their keys. Sam, who had already started and stopped the song, stopped it again. Walked over to the person and picked up their keys for them. We were laughing so hard, but only until the song finally started up and then it was an "Oh Wow" moment. Sam dug out "I Don't Want To Fall in Love" from the archives; something she probably hasn't played live since the 90's. Eric's arrangement was fantastic. If you don't see this on one of the upcoming EP's, I'd be very surprised. And speaking of Eric, he was really the co-star of the show. There were plenty of new arrangements, since many of the songs were written for a more standard band (you know, drums, bass, keyboards... stuff like that). All of the arrangements added new textures to the songs, without venturing too far from the original feel. Still, we were all there to see Sam, and she did a brilliant job on old and new songs. Most of the 20 song set was from her last 3 releases. There were some new songs including, "So Glad You're Here", "Memory Slope" and "When You're Down" (okay this song is actually several years old, just unreleased... another strong candidate for the EP's). Her last song before the encore is one of my all time favorites, "I Need Love" (this version is available now on Sam's site... more on that in a moment). Even as an all acoustic number, it still has the magic it had 15 years ago (can you believe it has been 15 years?!).

After the show we all got a chance to chat with Sam, as she signed posters and chatted with everyone who was willing to wait in line. She spent a good hour chatting with whoever came before her. And we all had the chance to chat with each other too. It was great finally meeting Jill and it was good seeing Tom again and meeting his wife (they all came from central/northern CA for the show).

Below is the set list for the show. But before I get to that, if you haven't signed up for The Long Play, go to http://samphillips.com/thelongplay and for $52 you will get early releases of Sam's next 5 digital EP's and digital CD (all of which will be coming out over the next year). From what I understand, the plan is to release 40 or more songs over the next 12 months. What an interesting idea/experiment. The first mp3 is already available. As I mentioned above, the new version of "I Need Love (2009)" is on the site and waiting for you.

Okay, here is the set list:

I wanted to Be Alone
Sister Rosetta
What it All Means
Edge of the World
I Dreamed I Stopped Dreaming
Taking Pictures
Animals on Wheels (accompanied by her tape player)
Fan Dance
Little Plastic Life
Can't Come Down
I Don't Want To Fall In Love
Memory Slope
Say What You Mean
So Glad You're Here
When You're Down
If I Could Write
One Day Late
I Need Love (2009)
--- Encore ---
Zero Zero Zero

Cheryl Wheeler and Kenny White at McCabe's

Friday night we headed out to Santa Monica to see Maria's favorite folk singer and my favorite piano man. In another era, Kenny White would have already made it. He is not only an accomplished pianist, but also a fine singer, songwriter and producer. His music is filled with humor and thought provoking ideas. Friday night he played songs from an upcoming CD and even though it has been some time since his last full CD release, the songs sound just as good as his previous efforts. I can't wait to hear the final produced versions. Kenny played for about 40 minutes and although he finished with his standard closer, "In My Recurring Dream", the rest of the set was filled with unexpected turns. What is so interesting is that this is exactly opposite of what Cheryl brings to the table.

I've seen Cheryl Wheeler 4 or 5 times now. It is an interesting show because she tells many of the same jokes year in and year out, and yet you still end up laughing. Somehow, there is still a spontaneity to her delivery and it sure is hard to put her down for that. Most of the songs are part of a small group of songs that she plays every year. Still, they are fun songs and I don't hear them often so again, hard to quibble with her choices. She has actually recorded a few new songs this year and played some for us. There were also new stories to go along with those songs. So, over all, this was the best Cheryl Wheeler show I've seen since the first time I saw her. I don't mean to put her down. I will probably see her on her next tour out west and the next after that. She is such a warm and funny person on stage, you can't help but have a good time.

Music Hall Link - Alejandro Escovedo listen