Aplscruf's Music Blog

“Backwoods” in the Evening: A Rowdy Night with Massy Ferguson and Friends

Massy Ferguson celebrated another EP release on Friday, August 8 at Conor Byrne Pub in Ballard.  

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We began the warm summer night with a special treat: a parking spot directly in front of The Tractor, across the street from Conor Byrne. After all these years, we’ve never parked that close, especially on the first go ’round.

Fredd Luongo, lead singer of The Swearengens, stood in front of the Tractor with his band mates and watched us park the car.  I stayed in the car for a minute and pulled on my boots. I caught Fredd in my peripheral vision, staring me down.  His blue eyes followed me as I stepped onto the sidewalk, and I knew what he was going to say.

“You’re going to the Massy Ferguson show tonight, aren’t you?” A very sober look crossed his face.

“Uh, yes. Yes we are, Fredd,” I said, my voice full of remorse. “I’m so sorry!  We already committed to their show before realizing that you were playing tonight, too.  I’ll tell you what–if there’s time, we’ll run over and catch your show, I promise!”

I felt like some sort of traitor.  I love The Swearengens just as much as I love Massy Ferguson. Lately, for some reason, the timing has been off in our efforts to make it to a Swearengens show. Both bands have played in the Seattle area for years and tour with other local and national bands, too.  And this night, they played across the street from each other.  The stars were crossed tonight, I’m afraid.

With tails between our legs, Pat and I headed down the to Bad Albert’s for a quick and hearty dinner–pulled pork on toasted roll with slaw and fish sandwich and chips.  Great pub food, and inexpensive, too.

Conor Byrne is a long, rectangular brick building with a bar lining the left side and a few benches and tables along the right wall and scattered near the stage.  The triangular stage was ridiculously small for the piles of equipment loaded on and around it.  A low velvet couch against the wall near the side of the stage looked like it was built about the time of the opening of the original structure. We chose to sit on the couch and sunk way down into the worn, threadbare cushions.  That was OK–at least we didn’t have to stand for the show.  It was going to be a long night.

Hook and Anchor

Hook and Anchor

Hook and Anchor, a talented, five-piece, multi-instrumental Americana band opened the show. I liked their bluegrass vibe.  The female lead singer, Kati Claborn, had quite a large vocal range, and hit some beautiful high notes in a song near the end of the set.  She also played banjo and acoustic guitar.  She switched out to upright bass for one song and let the bass player Luke Ydstie lead on banjo.  Fiddler and guitarist Gabrielle Macrae sang her own song and accompanied on others. The band also included collaborator Erik Clampitt on vocals, guitar and steel, and Ryan Dobrowski on drums. They reminded me of The Gourds in the way they democratically let everyone take a turn at different instruments and vocals. The band had a helluva time switching out instruments, positioning amps and monitors, and changing places on the tiny stage.  They really deserve to be on a larger stage to showcase their fine talents without the distraction of trying not to get in each other’s way. 

Legendary Oaks

Legendary Oaks

Legendary Oaks, a four-piece rocking alt-country band loaded in after shuffling around the equipment. Pat and I talked to them outside before the show. We saw them back in January at The Sunset Tavern. I remember it well, because there was this strange turn on the dance floor that night.  The boys were up on stage rockin’ out, and these girls that looked like they’d just been to a Bellevue dance club came in wearing pretty dresses and high heels and started raising the roof!  We had a good laugh over that, and frontman Craig Schoen remembered my written account of the crazy evening. We were looking forward to another great show, but with probably a little less disco on the dance floor.

They rocked again with some psychedelic jams. Their lead guitarist Zoran Macesic could be The Edge’s protege, with echoing, haunting, repetitive guitar licks.  Schoen’s vocals turned a dark corner, Dave Grohl-style, and went from a smooth, even tone to a wail.  He jammed on his acoustic like a true rock star, with posturing and angst-riddled facial expressions.  Their sound has a bit of a Tom Petty vibe, too, which makes their songs so addictive.  Bassist Chris Jordan and drummer Justin Ansley kept the tight beat going for their strong set. They left the stage soaked in sweat.  Legendary Oaks also packed the floor, although the dancing was minimal this time around. 

As promised, we trotted across the street to see if The Swearengens were still on, hoping to catch a few songs before Massy Ferguson took the stage.  We just missed them.  Fredd was manning the merch table. We caught his eye and slowly waved goodbye to him with pouting faces.  Sorry, Fredd.

Massy Ferguson

Massy Ferguson L-R: Tony Mann, Dave Goedde, Adam Monda, Ethan Anderson

Massy Ferguson’s new 6-track, mostly acoustic album, entitled Backwoods is just what I would expect from the boys.  It has just the right balance of beer-swillin’ songs and sober, thoughtful tunes. Lead singer and bassist Ethan Anderson shared his thoughts about the new EP: 

An album is a time piece, I’ve always thought. It captures a moment, a snapshot of what an artist or band is or what they are feeling at the time. In that way, albums are bound and chained to the stage of life of the artist. And, honestly, these are more “sober” times for MF. Three of us have had kids with wives/girlfriend, etc., and all the grown-up stuff that comes with that, and Tony is leaving the band for the better part of a year (he’s headed to Costa Rica – hence the song “Last Note”). I think all of us have been feeling a little more worn down by the “business” of music–maybe it’s age, maybe it’s wisdom. Sober is not a bad thing, it gives you ability to better reflect; and I think this album is, at its core, quite reflective. Reflective on individual expectations, on art, on nature, on personal histories, on places and spaces we’ve occupied.

“We’ve proven over the years that we can write songs for the bar-room, but we had this palette of songs that were more pretty, introspective and acoustic – 6 of them to be exact – and they didn’t really fit in with the feel of our other new material. They felt like a break from what we do, and I’m really glad they turned out the way they did sonically.”

Massy Ferguson started off strong with the title track and “90’s Darlin'” from Backwoods.  They squeezed in a couple of female vocalists to the stage, adding to their already-big sound and filling up every square foot of stage space with instruments, pedals, and power cords (and power chords, of course).  The band got the people on their feet and clapping to their energized blend of alt-country, with mostly upbeat songs keeping them engaged throughout the night.  

DSC05956Ethan took a few moments during the set and christened the new EP with a poignant yet humorous speech about where he’s headed musically and where he’s ended up physically with this band.  He paraphrased it later: “…the moment right when you start to wake up in the morning where your brain is cloudy and you realize you are not in your bed at home. As a musician this is something I’ve experienced a lot. I’ve woken up in a bed next to Tony in a Richland, WA motel room, I’ve woken up next to a 68 year old British man named Nick on our recent UK tour, I’ve woken up on the floor of the Brick Tavern in Roslyn...Backwoods in the Morning is probably mostly about waking up (literally and metaphorically) in a better place, a better headspace, in a new recognition of your life and who you are, where you have been.”

Even the bar was a different space for them. “As for the Conor Byrne show, again, even the show was a departure from the usual. That’s not a room we play, but we’d heard it was a good room for acoustic music. The sound for us wasn’t as spectacular as I’d hoped, but the show was definitely fun. Once you’ve been a musician in a town for a long time, you like to shake things up a bit, and I  think we did just that with the Conor Byrne show. It was a bit more of an unknown commodity than, say, the Tractor or Nectar or places we’ve played a lot. And, truthfully, the EP is a bit more of an unknown commodity too, compared to what we usually do.”

Adam Monda on lead guitar decided to go all acoustic tonight and follow the tone for their new EP, which added a rich, subdued sound to some of the more rocking numbers.  It worked on this smaller stage, although as Ethan mentioned above, there were some sound issues and the occasional feedback hum.  Tony Mann had some great solos on keys, including a noticeable turn on “Last Note” from the EP.  Dave Goedde is fun to watch on drums; his long arms pounded out the strong country-rock beat.  He must have felt a little claustrophobic this night, crushed into the very back corner of the miniscule stage. 

Adam Monda (Guitar) and Ethan Anderson (Flute) of Massy Ferguson

Adam Monda (Guitar) and Ethan Anderson (Flute) of Massy Ferguson

Our favorite part of the night is when the flute comes out. We know there is going to be a sing-along to a cover song, and possibly a few extra fans or musicians on stage to help out.  Ethan held the revered flute up high and the audience cheered. The band held nothing back, and several of the other band members joined them until there was absolutely no room for any more people or instruments.  Guest percussionists pounded on pint glasses (more than one broke and ended up on the stage) to add to the wall of sound.  The audience, as instructed, sang and danced, bounced and clapped heartily as they played “Last Note” and “Bum Drunk” to finish off the fabulous night.  

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I enjoy evangelizing when it comes to our favorite Seattle bands.  We try to invite friends every time we go out to a show.  Many get the thrill of experiencing an unknown band for the first time.  It’s so invigorating to watch their eyes light up when a particularly rollicking song catches their attention.  I feel like we’ve done our part to spread the word about the great music that happens every week in Seattle.  This night was no exception.  Pat invited his friend and co-worker Gary, and he was thankful to get out and listen to new music tonight.  His wife and friend came to the show later after attending the Lady Gaga spectacle at Key Arena.  They were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the bands here in this tiny bar.  Quite a bit of a scene change from Lady Gaga.

The rowdy night ended with the setlist, signed CD’s, a drive with the top down, and Dick’s hamburgers at 1 am. 

Massy Ferguson Setlist

Massy Ferguson Setlist

**Catch Massy Ferguson around town over the next few weeks, including The Tractor Sept. 19th with Austin’s Band of Heathens, and Ballard’s Macefield Festival Oct. 3rd, where they will play at The Sunset.**

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Americana, aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Conor Byrne, Hook and Anchor, Legendary Oaks, Massy Ferguson | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

On The Road (Again)

My son, now a high school graduate, is doing what all young adults should do after graduating.  He’s hitting the road with his three best friends.  After weeks of planning, changing their minds a hundred times on where to stay, what to bring, when to leave and where to go, they finally piled in a Toyota mini van early this morning.  They’re on their way.  An adventure, says my mom, is something all people should experience.  Take a chance.  Hit the road.  Fly to an unexplored destination.

Of course with this road trip, the boys are bringing their highly organized play lists.  Jacob pored over his iTunes for just the right songs for the journey south.  Unfortunately, it did not include the ultimate road trip song, “On The Road Again” by Willie Nelson.  Cue the video:

The boys, being a bit on the nerdy side, made some rules, which included giving the driver the power to veto any song selection he felt unworthy or annoying.  The three remaining boys can only veto a song the driver chooses by a 3-vote unanimous agreement.  I’m sure there are other rules, but those stuck in my mind as the most important for any road trip with friends.

They’ll make their way from Washington (and enjoy rush-hour traffic on this beautiful Monday morning from Seattle to Portland) to their first overnight stop in Crescent City, CA.  The next day will be spent wandering through the mighty Redwoods before the long haul to Southern Cal, where they’ll spend a few days playing at Magic Mountain, Universal’s City Walk, and gawking in Hollywood.  Then, a weary journey north, back home.

While planning the trip over the last few weeks, we shoveled shitloads of advice at our son, most of it translated through his ears and into his intelligent brain as: “bla-bla bla bla bla bla-bla bla bla bla…”  Yeah, I know he’s a grownup and doesn’t need to hear our advice any longer.  But, we feel, as eternal parents, we must give our unsolicited advice to feel better about ourselves!  Disclaimers, if you will.  We TOLD him not to…so if he does it anyway, we’re off the hook.

We want him to be safe and just have a good time.  We want him to experience all the fun and joy of being free on the road, even just for this one week. Just so long as they don’t go so far as Jack Kerouac. It’s hard to let go.

“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
Jack Kerouac, On the Road

 

 

 

July 28, 2014 Posted by | aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Jack Kerouac, Uncategorized, Willie Nelson | , , , | 3 Comments

Will Kimbrough, Rodney Crowell and Jedd Hughes Toured The West

Jedd Hughes, Rodney Crowell and Will Kimbrough played a specacular show at The Triple Door - Seattle. Photo Credits: Jacob Knight

Jedd Hughes, Rodney Crowell and Will Kimbrough played a spectacular show at The Triple Door – Seattle. Photo Credits: Jacob Knight

 

I just finished a blog for No Depression regarding our fantastic trip to California which ended with a fabulous show at Slim’s in San Francisco to see Will Kimbrough, Rodney Crowell and Jedd Hughes.  We then followed the boys to Seattle where they tore it up at The Triple Door.  Spectacular.  Here’s the link to my blog:

http://www.nodepression.com/live-review/will-kimbrough-rodney-crowell-and-jedd-hughes-gain-new-fans-san-francisco-and-seattle

June 29, 2014 Posted by | Americana, aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Jedd Hughes, Music, Rodney Crowell, Seattle, Slim's San Francisco, The Triple Door, Will Kimbrough | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

UPDATE! Rodney Crowell Nominated for Americana Music Award!

Rodney Crowell at Silver Platter Records in Seattle

Rodney Crowell at Silver Platter Records in Seattle

Rodney Crowell, who is currently touring the country, just received an Americana Music Association nomination for Artist of the Year!  See the list of all nominess here: http://americanamusic.org/americana-announces-2014-award-nominees-cash-ellis-isbell-lead-nominations

He is also listed in the #1 spot for his new album, Tarpaper Sky on the Americana Music Association Radio Chart: http://americanaradio.org/ama/displaychart_beforetracks.asp?mode=lw&dtkey=

Mr. Crowell is coming to the West Coast in June.  Check out his website above for tour details.

Check out my post on Rodney’s last visit to Seattle here: https://aplscruf.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/rodney-crowell-at-silver-platters-seattle-wa-3-31-14/  I also posted the article on No Depression: http://www.nodepression.com/profiles/blogs/rodney-crowell-s-solo-performance-in-seattle-to-promote-tarpaper

 

 

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Americana, aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Rodney Crowell | , , | 3 Comments

Jackrabbit, Colt Kraft Band, Deception Past at Tractor Tavern 4.26.14

Jackrabbit at The Tractor in 2012

Jackrabbit at The Tractor in 2012

UPDATE: HERE’S MY BLOG OF THE SHOW I POSTED FOR NO DEPRESSION:

http://www.nodepression.com/article/jackrabbit-colt-kraft-and-deception-past-rocked-seattles-tractor-tavern

 

I’m looking forward to a night with Jackrabbit at The Tractor–and a Saturday night to boot.  Lately, it seems our favorite shows have been during the week, which makes for an exhausting night and a fuzzy work morning.  Saturday gives us a little time to relax and be prepared for a late show.  Yes, I am old.

Jackrabbit hasn’t played publicly since late last year.  We went to their private final show on a chilly winter’s eve, and it was a fantastic night of music and celebration.  The band was surrounded by their close friends and family.  Early this year, the girls, Moe Provencher and Aimee Zoe, took a sabbatical from Jackrabbit and cycled across New Zealand and Australia for three months. What an adventure! Not only did they travel on bicycles, but they played gigs at many stops along the way.

Jackrabbit’s frontman Tony Fulgham had his share of traveling around the globe for World Famous Inc. He wrote and directed a movie called Box Walk which is now showing at independent film festivals (most recently in Nashville).  Check out World Famous. The man is prolific.  How he has time to raise his adorable family is a mystery.

Deception Past is celebrating the release of another album Saturday night.  We saw them destroy it at The Green Frog in Bellingham last month. We’re anxious to hear some more great foot stompin’ country from them and to see how many people they can fit on their stage by the end of the night.

Colt Kraft Band is also dropping a new EP.  We haven’t see them before, and new music is always good for the soul.

Hope to see you Saturday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 24, 2014 Posted by | Americana, aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Deception Past, Jackrabbit, The Tractor Tavern | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Rodney Crowell at Silver Platters, Seattle, WA 3.31.14

Rodney Crowell at Silver Platter Records in Seattle

Rodney Crowell at Silver Platters Record Store in Seattle

Read this article on No Depression: http://www.nodepression.com/article/rodney-crowell-promotes-tarpaper-sky-seattle

After a busy day at work, “Operation Rodney Crowell” commenced.  I left a little early for our home in the ‘burbs, with the hope of beating some of Seattle’s rush-hour traffic on this Monday afternoon. My son Jacob–my handler and navigator–texted that he was on his way home from the high school.  I sent a note to his track coach excusing him early, stating that Jacob had a “family event” to attend in the afternoon.  I wasn’t lying.  Jacob and I are family, and we were going to an event.

On Saturday, just two days earlier, I happened to see a Facebook post on Rodney Crowell’s page that mentioned he was performing free solo shows in Seattle and Portland to promote his new album, Tarpaper Sky.  He was scheduled to perform at Silver Platters at 6:00 Monday, March 31.

Jacob’s first concert was in Coos Bay, Oregon in 2006 where Rodney and The Outsiders (including Will Kimbrough on guitar) played at an outdoor music festival. Jacob got to meet both Rodney and Will after the show.  At ten years old, this left quite an impression on the boy.  It was time to see Mr. Crowell again.

After topping off the tank, Jacob and I headed down the road to I-405.  Slow traffic in Bellevue was expected, but we soon found ourselves speeding over the I-90 bridge across Lake Washington, cruising by Safeco Field into the fray of Opening Night (sorry, Officer, I was in the wrong lane, and no, I don’t want to park here, I just need to pass through!), and continuing several blocks down First Avenue South, also known as the SoDo district of Seattle. Jacob’s eagle eyes spotted the Silver Platters sign.

I parked near front of the record store and I felt my nerves set in.  Jacob, donning his “handler” cap, told me to calm down.  I told him I wanted to be sure to tell Mr. Crowell everything I’d rehearsed.  “What’s the problem?” he said, “Just tell him we’re big fans, we saw him in Coos Bay, we know Will, and you’re going to write a blog about the show tonight.” Sure, I’ve got it down.  I can do this!  Sometimes, though, my shyness has paralyzing effects.

We walked into Silver Platters and I expected to see a big crowd, especially since Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris just won a GRAMMY for their Americana album Old Yellow Moon.  Both Rodney and Emmylou have churned out country hits for almost 40 years.  Although there wasn’t much of an advanced notice about the show, I believed the true fans would get their fannies down to SoDo to see him up close. Surprisingly, the store was almost empty except for rows and rows of new and vintage vinyl.  About a dozen people strolled the aisles, and a few more gathered near the little stage in the back.  I was almost relieved it wasn’t packed because I knew we’d have a great view of the stage and a greater chance to meet him afterward.  Selfish, yes.  Out of respect for Mr. Crowell, though, fans should have been lined up around the block.  Where were they? I felt privileged to be one of the few to witness this intimate solo performance, and I was a little indignant that more people didn’t make the drive to the show.

With our successful scheduling and navigation, we had enough time before the show to purchase an advance copy of Tarpaper Sky and receive a free poster.  I fidgeted for several minutes and pulled out my camera, checked my phone, assigned Jacob to book and poster duty and readied my journal and pen.

Just after 6 pm, Rodney sauntered up to the stage and strapped on his guitar amid hearty claps and whoops from the sparse crowd.  I noticed more people pushed in a little later.  I’m sure the increasing Seattle traffic hindered many people from attending the show on time.

Mr. Crowell’s a little shy, too, I suspect.  He acknowledged the audience, and with head bowed down toward the mic, quietly mentioned he wanted to play a few other songs first before diving in to Tarpaper Sky. He started with two songs from Townes Van Zandt, including a tender version of “Pancho and Lefty”, also famously covered by Emmylou Harris and the Willie Nelson/Merle Haggard duo.  With eyes closed, he tilted his head back to hit the higher notes.

He loosened up and and smiled as he started a third song that he said will be on his next album, as he’s trying to stay ahead of the curve.  I believe the upbeat song was called “Miss Claudia”.

A train horn sighed  in the background.  SoDo is an industrial area, and the tracks nearby run to and from the shipping docks, north and south to parts unknown. “I feel like I should play a freight train song,” Rodney chuckled, and the audience followed suit.  In fact, he said he just recorded a train song with Emmylou two weeks ago.  “Let’s see if I can remember it.” He plunked away at a soft melody for a few seconds, then sang “The Weight of The World” as the train blew past.  I’m looking forward to another album from the legendary pair.

He then moved on to a handful of Tarpaper Sky songs.

“Famous Last Words of a Fool in Love” was prefaced with the unseemly custom of older men trading in their spouses for younger women.  Rodney also quipped that his second wife left him for a younger man and a better producer, although he said he is a better producer in other ways.  Love is love, and he’s not here to judge, he disclaimed; he’s just here to observe and write songs:

Younger woman/Older man/Can we make this work?/Ah, you know we can/Famous last words of a fool in love

“God I’m Missing You”- Rodney shares writing credits on this song with his collaborator Mary Karr.  I found myself shaking my head in awe as the ache in his voice and mournful lyrics grabbed my heart:

You’re every curled rosebud/Enchanting my eye/Each turned up coat collar/And your gaze slides by/There’s a sanded down moon/In a tarpaper sky/God I’m missing you

“Frankie Please”- Rodney switched gears to roots rock. Lord, have mercy! I loved the playful rasp and yelp in his voice. I want to see him perform this with a full band sometime and include that rollicking Jerry Lee Lewis piano style so prominent on the album’s version:

You tore through my life like a tornado looking for a trailer park/And your white trash mishmash short of cash culture clash hit the mark
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGK55BNCuFg
“Fever on the Bayou” -Collaborating with Will Jennings (of Titanic’s “My Heart Will Go On” fame), this song was twenty years in the making.  Jennings gave him the chord progression and melody, but Rodney struggled with the last verse.  He didn’t want the song to become some “Cajun cliche shit”.  Instead, he added some Cajun French lyrics in his own way, and finally produced this lively mixed-breed love song, which I cannot remove from my head.

“The Flyboy and The Kid”-A tender dedication to Guy (Clark, perhaps?) on the album:

May the wind be at your back/And the world sit at your feet/May you waltz across Wyoming/With a rose clutched in your teeth/May the answers to your questions/Fall like raindrops right on queue/May you set up shop in heaven/’Fore the devil knows you’re due

The store manager gave Rodney the signal, or “the hook”, as Rodney said teasingly, and it was time to put the guitar down.  I was disappointed the show didn’t last longer.  I wanted to hear some more songs from the album, and maybe a couple of my favorites from the past, such as “This Too Will Pass”, his ode to George Harrison.

We then formed an organized line while the manager told the fans he would set up a table next to the stage so Rodney could sign autographs on our advance copy of Tarpaper Sky.  Well, Mr. Crowell was ready to go right now, no table necessary.  Clickety-clickety, he shook up his silver liquid Sharpie pen. One couple stood in front of us.  He signed their CD while I fumbled around, trying to get my CD out of my purse and out of the plastic wrapper.  I looked up.  My musical hero stood in front of me and smiled.  My mind went blank.

I did manage to tell  Mr. Crowell my name is Lisa (after he asked, so he could sign the CD), and I then told him the last time we saw him was at Coos Bay in 2006.  He remembered the lovely outdoor setting.  I failed to mention that we knew Will Kimbrough, and how our family befriended him and hosted him at our home during his tour in January.  Will’s backing vocals, guitar and accordion make a guest appearance on Tarpaper Sky.  Good Lord. I couldn’t find my words.

I also brought Marshall Chapman‘s book, They Came to Nashville.  In one of the chapters, Marshall interviews Rodney about his journey to Nashville, his struggles, and eventual rise to fame.  I marked the chapter for him to sign with my blogger business card. I clumsily switched out the CD for the book, turned to the marked page (and stuffed my card in my purse instead of handing it to him) and watched as he fiddled with his pen, trying to get it to work on the coarse paper.  I whispered, “Good ol’ Marshall…”  That’s it, Lisa?  That’s all you’re going to say?

He then looked over my head at Jacob who towered behind me while Rodney reached for our poster.  “And you are…?”

Jacob also smiled sheepishly and searched for words (See, Jacob? I told you it was not going to be easy!).  I interjected with, “Oh, this is Jacob.” I turned around and looked up at him when I said his name.  Rodney, half-hearing the name, wrote, “To Jay” on the poster.  Too late to turn back now!

“Thank you for coming, Jay!” smiled Rodney.  Jacob nodded and smiled back.  He will forever be known as Jay to Mr. Crowell. Who are we to correct him? We giggled about that later.

I glanced back and noticed the line was probably 40 people deep.  Our time was up.  Other people were waiting impatiently for their turn to meet this legendary artist. We said a quick goodbye, and I hoped I remembered to thank him for signing our things.

Oh, for ten more minutes.  I would have told him how honored we were to meet him again, how amazing the new album sounds, how dumbfounded that more people didn’t show up to this Seattle show, how I hoped he would come back to Seattle with a full band, how Jacob raved about him and how he was so glad he came with me, how I wanted to write a blog and ask him questions about the songs he sang for us and take a picture with himI’ll save it for next time.

“Anything else to add, Jacob?” I asked, after I let him read my draft.

“He was pitch-perfect.”

That just about sums it up.

 

Official Release Date of Tarpaper Sky is April 15, 2014.

 

 

 

April 3, 2014 Posted by | aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Rodney Crowell | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Honky Tonk Sweethearts and Country Dave at The Shanty Tavern 2.14.14

Honky Tonk Sweethearts with Country Dave Harmonson

Honky Tonk Sweethearts with Country Dave Harmonson

What better way to spend time with my sweetheart on Valentine’s Day than to see Honky Tonk Sweethearts at The Shanty Tavern in Lake City?

Walking into The Shanty Tavern is like walking back in time several decades. It’s as cozy as an old friend, though, with wood-wrapped walls, beer signs, one pool table, and a tired old L-shaped bar with a laminate top and brass rail.  We chose to sit at the bar for a better view, but there were several tables of various sizes separated by a wide aisle throughout the tavern.

We got there a little early, so we had time to chat with John Spacrotelli, a friendly Italian-American gentleman who charmed our hearts.  He’s been the the proprietor and bartender since 1961.  John poured us a couple of Manny’s pints, and with a big grin, asked if we were sweethearts. “Yeah, I guess so, we’ve been married over 25 years,” I said, smiling back at him.

“What?!” he exclaimed to Pat, with thick eyebrows raised in disbelief.  “Did you marry her when she was a baby?”  OK, I’ll take the compliment, although it was dark in there; he didn’t have an accurate view.  Mr. Spacrotelli said his own sweetheart is 10 years younger than him, so she keeps him feeling youthful.  And how much older is Pat? Two years.  I could see him doing the math.  How old is our son? Eighteen.  Hmmmm. Our bartender was so friendly and accommodating, it was hard to resist answering his probing questions.

John mentioned he came from a big Italian family, so we then got on the subject of traveling to Italy and compared cities we visited.  I dream of going back one day.  I think we’ll have to stop by again just to have a pint and a chat, and pick up where we left off.

L-R: Country Dave Harmonson, Marc and Gaby Bristol

L-R:  Robert Kahr (drums), Country Dave Harmonson, Marc and Gaby Bristol

We also spoke with Country Dave Harmonson before the show.  He’s looking forward to playing at some festivals this summer, including Pickathon in Oregon with Cahalen Morrison. Dave accompanies their band on guitar and steel.  Morrison and Dave also opened for Big Sandy at The Sunset in December.  Several festivals and dates are already popping up and filling with artists throughout Washington.  I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled.  Concert Season is here!

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Gaby Maag-Bristol, the bass player, is also a friend from our neighborhood.  It was nice to see her out at a show again, but this was the first time we got to see her play.  She said they hit the retirement home circuit that afternoon, but she enjoyed the gig because the patrons really appreciate their music and enjoy visiting with the band.  I said we’ll be there someday, too.   She added, “…and hopefully we’ll have people come visit and play for us!”

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On with the show!   Dave and Marc dressed in bright red satin shirts for Valentine’s Day. The bright red lights reflecting off their shirts gave the stage a crimson glow, a fitting color for the romantic eve.  The band’s sound was polished to a shiny glow, too.  They know their vintage country.  Marc Bristol’s smooth vocals belted out familiar tunes from Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Charley Pride, and Hank Williams, along with some great original songs in the same classic line. Gaby and Robert kept the beat alive and kicking along.  Country Dave’s solo picking on both guitar and steel added so much complexity and depth to the songs.  Watching him play is really a treat.  We first saw him play with The Swearengens at The Tractor a couple of years ago, and I haven’t met his equal on pedal steel.

Meanwhile, the dancers showed up.  At first, just two pairs of two-steppers braved the open floor.  Then about halfway through the set, a big crowd came in and joined them.  About 10 couples were dancing, filling up the entire floor of the little tavern.  I enjoyed watching them spin and step.  A song would end, and they would hurry back to their seats, only to be drawn back again by the next upbeat country song.  I think someone was dancing to just about every song they played.  Great fun!

Country Dave and The Pickin’ Crew were up next, but we couldn’t stay around for Dave’s band.  The long work day took its toll, and we called it a night.  We promised to catch him some other time.

February 21, 2014 Posted by | aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Country Dave Harmonson, Honky Tonk Sweethearts, The Shanty Tavern | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Brambles and Legendary Oaks – Sunset Tavern 1.18.2014

Legendary Oaks

Legendary Oaks

Although still exhausted from my crazy road trip from the week before and the sleepless aftermath of frantically writing the corresponding blog, we couldn’t pass up a chance to see some live music in Ballard.  Our neighbors invited us out to The Sunset Tavern January 18th.  They had seen Legendary Oaks before and thought we might like them, too.  The other two opening bands were unknown to all of us.  Check out the links of all the bands below and hear their music.  Watch their videos. Make a purchase and support our local musicians.

Day Laborers and Petty Intellectuals

Day Laborers and Petty Intellectuals

Day Laborers and Petty Intellectuals opened the show.  When I saw the name in the bill, I thought it might be a Tom Petty cover band.  I don’t usually enjoy cover bands, but I was willing to give it a shot this time, since it would be a comfort to sit back and enjoy some familiar music.  I was disappointed when I quickly realized they were not a TP cover band at all. This big band played original pop/folk (they call themselves a six-piece folk-apocalypse band) tunes and had an unusual narrative style that wasn’t hitting my sweet spot. Other audience members disagreed; many people seemed attentive and clapped heartily for them after each song.  Maybe I was having an off night.  Check them out for yourself.

The Brambles - Photo Credit: M. Kyle Moseby

The Brambles – Photo Credit: M. Kyle Moseby

The Brambles (aka West Coast Brambles–not to be confused with East Coast Brambles) were up next.  Their music definitely hit the spot for me.   They had a tight sound with a bluesy Americana vibe.  People danced to the nice two-step, upbeat tempo.  Some songs were more solemn than others, but it was a good mix of both. The guitarist, Omar Schambacher was amazing. It seemed he was dying for a chance to break out into a big, rockin’ solo.  We enjoyed watching him play.  Also, my husband enjoyed Vanessa Small, the lead singer.  She was “not bad to look at” according to P, in his usual subdued enthusiasm, and she had a great voice for Americana.

Next, the headliner, Legendary Oaks came out fightin’.  The lead singer, Craig Schoen admitted he had a good buzz on and dove right in.  Their music was loud and rocking with a psychedelic alt-country twang, sans fiddler.  Our neighbor informed us that the last time he saw Legendary Oaks, not only was Schoen piss drunk, but he chewed out his fiddler onstage for being completely out of key on a song.  Awesome.  They seemed to do just fine without her and filled the whole room with sound.

Right about the time Legendary Oaks took the stage, the dance floor shifted from two-step to a Bellevue up-scale club scene.  It was surreal. Women with up-dos and pretty dresses you’d see at cocktail parties or conventions sauntered in and proceeded to dance, Night-at-the-Roxbury-style, in too-high heels.  There was also a small bachelorette party that joined them. The band was obviously amused by this strange turn on the dance floor. Schoen was on stage screamin’, cussin’ and wailin’ on his acoustic guitar while the girls raised the roof and tried to look like their shoes weren’t mangling their feet.  Oh, we had a good laugh at the bizarre dichotomy!  But as Kevin Shinyribs Russell says, “There’s no wrong way to dance!” So I had to give the girls credit for getting out there and shaking it.  We certainly wouldn’t be shaking anything but the last drop outta the can of PBR this night.

February 13, 2014 Posted by | Americana, aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Legendary Oaks, The Brambles, The Sunset Tavern | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Willie Sugarcapps at Eddie’s Attic, Decatur, GA February 1, 2014

Willie Sugarcapps L-R: Corky Hughes, Grayson Capps, Will Kimbrough, Savana Lee and Anthony Crawford
Photo Credit: Keith Necaise Photography

I posted the following blog on No Depression: http://www.nodepression.com/article/willie-sugarcapps-eddies-attic-decatur-ga

My husband Pat is a bona fide Willie Sugarcapps groupie.  I blame myself.   I’m seriously considering changing the name of my blog to “Diary of a Married Groupie’s WIFE.” A decade ago, I encouraged him to see some live music and get away from the TV. We started slowly, maybe a few shows a year.  Now, we go to a show every time we have a free weekend.  His enthusiasm for live music has definitely grown over the years, especially since we moved away from 10,000 seat arenas and planted ourselves firmly near the stages of small venues all over Seattle.

Willie Sugarcapps, a band that sprouted organically down in the muddy waters of Lower Alabama, is garnering some national attention.  Their self-titled debut album is hitting the Americana charts and showed up on many must-have lists of 2013, including #7 on No Depression’s Top 50 of 2013. Their song “Gypsy Train” landed a spot on the Grammy consideration list.  Every song on the album is a jewel, and each member is given an opportunity to shine.

Will Kimbrough, singer/songwriter and founding member of Willie Sugarcapps, toured the Northwest as a solo artist in January, and also played songs from the Willie Sugarcapps album at his shows.  My husband and I were honored to be a part of his road crew.  It was definitely a highlight of my life, driving hundreds of miles up and down Washington State and spending quality time with one of my musical heroes.

Will Kimbrough at Adrift Hotel

Will Kimbrough at Adrift Hotel, Long Beach, WA

Kimbrough’s excellent solo album, Sideshow Love is also getting respect on the AMA charts and moved up to #31 this week.   The album will be officially released on February 14–a fitting day for this collection of love and lust. Join him at Nashville’s Basement for the party.  When he’s not touring solo, he’s playing with Willie Sugarcapps, mostly in the Southern states, and keeping close to home.

Back to my groupie husband…

Pat flew to Alabama on business last Friday and called me on Saturday, February 1, the day after he arrived.  I could hear traffic noise and chatter in the background, and knew he was driving somewhere with his work buddy Gary.

“Guess where we’re going?” he asked, in a teasing manner.  It was Twenty Questions time.

“I dunno,” I said, in my bored voice, “BBQ? Chick Fil-A? White Castle?”  No to all three.

“We’re going to Decatur, Georgia!” he exclaimed.  I could hear the excitement in his loud voice.  My heart skipped a beat, but I kept a nonchalant attitude.

“Oh? And why are you going to Decatur, Georgia?”

“We rented a car, a hotel room, and we bought tickets to see  Willie Sugarcapps at Eddie’s Attic tonight!”

“Holy Crap!” I yelled.  “You are officially a bigger groupie than I am! I cannot believe you’re driving to Decatur!”

Decatur, a suburb outside of Atlanta, was about 200 miles away from Huntsville–almost a four-hour drive.  They just spent all day flying to Alabama via Atlanta the day before.  Well, they didn’t have anything else to do today, so why not?

I asked Pat if Will knew they were coming.

“NO!  And don’t say a word to him or post anything on Facebook.  I want to surprise him.”

They still had a couple of hours driving ahead of them, but I told him to check in with me once in a while. Meanwhile, I was on pins and needles waiting to hear if they made it to the show and if they surprised Will.  I took a walk, wrote a couple of emails and washed the dishes.  Purple dish gloves on, hands on hips.  Hurry up, already.

Finally, I received a text:  “So sorry you missed this!  Playing Mr. Lee.”  Later, “Oh, Colorado! Two words: Holy Sh*t!!!!!”

My husband never gets overly excited.  Is not in his quiet nature to exclaim anything, unless maybe while watching a closely matched football game, but certainly not at a concert.  Even at The Troubadour, where we were so lucky to see Tom Petty, Pat only smiled and nodded once in a while; he let me do the screaming and cussing.  For him to frantically text me during the show (which is a no-no, by the way, but I let is pass this time since I had to live vicariously) I could only imagine how magical the Willie Sugarcapps show must have been.

After about a half hour into the performance, Pat stepped outside and called me.  He gushed and repeated, “Oh, Lisa, I’m so sorry you’re missing this.  Oh, my god, they’re so amazing!  Their harmonies and solos are just perfect. Everyone is blown away.  It’s the best show I’ve ever seen–better than Tom Petty! It’s such a small theater, the acoustics are incredible, and it’s packed with people!”

On and on he spouted.  I could only listen with tears in my eyes, so happy he was having such a moving experience. I thought back to a decade ago when he had little interest in seeing live music.  And now, he’s become “One Of Us”.

He also mentioned that they surprised Will.  Pat walked right up to him before the show, just like he imagined. Will turned around, and with a perplexed and surprised look said, “Pat?!”  and proceeded to give Pat a big hug. Awesome. Pat, the stalker-groupie.

The video below does not compare to the enchanting experience of the live show; but at least it paints a picture of some of the magic moments, like when Corky Hughes goes crazy on that lap steel and when Will shreds on his mandolin. I could tell they were having a fantastic time together.  I grieved that I wasn’t there, but was so happy that Pat and Gary made the trip.

Here is “Mr. Lee” at Eddie’s Attic from that night:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnB2LJakG28

Pat also said he got to speak with Brigitte DeMeyer, with whom Will has collaborated.  She opened the show, and Pat was very impressed by her sultry voice.  She later gave Pat and Gary a CD for helping her walk to her car.  I can’t wait to hear it.

Later, I told Will how moved Pat was by the show, and how there is something magical about that band.

“Atlanta, in particular, felt like a step up and forward for WSC,” said Will. “The band is just trying to survive growing pains—mainly, that people want to hear us but we can’t really afford to go play for them.  I feel like if we could get out and hit all the cities, 2015 would be a big festival year for us.  But you know what?  It will happen in its own time.  This is no longer the world where you get record company backing when you have a great band.  You do it yourself as best you can.  You do Kickstarter, or whatever, and you try to step it up a notch.  I’m ok with things going along and going well.”

In other words, don’t expect a sweeping national tour anytime soon. If you do have a chance to see Willie Sugarcapps or any of the members of this band, please go and support them.  Become a groupie.  Check the flight schedules and plan a vacation around their show. Go spend some family time in beautiful Gulf Shores, Alabama and run over to see them play at The Frog Pond in Silverhill. You will not regret it.  In the meantime, be sure to pick up their self-titled album and a buy a few for your friends.

February 7, 2014 Posted by | Americana, aplscruf, Concert Season 2014, Eddie's Attic, Music in Atlanta, Will Kimbrough, Willie Sugarcapps | , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Will Kimbrough – Mud and Moss Tour – Day 3: Friday, Jan10, 2014 Lori Gras!

Will Kimbrough Plays Lori Gras! Bellingham, WA

Will Kimbrough Plays Lori Gras! Bellingham, WA

Day 3: Lori Gras! – Bellingham, WA Friday, January 10

Click [here] and [here] for Days 1 and 2 of the big tour!

We were all up and ready to head out of the house at 6:45 to meet Lori and Kenny.  First, we ate breakfast at a local diner before they showed up to make the exchange.  After many attempts to load all of Will and Sara’s luggage into Kenny’s car, it finally fit like a game of Tetris.  Off they went to Bellingham, the final tour destination in Washington.

Pat and I came home and collapsed for a few hours.  I tried to sleep, but I had way too many thoughts running through my head. I’m a perpetual list-maker.  I checked and re-checked my lists, making sure I had everything ready for this final leg of the tour.  I lay down, but kept popping up to add something to a list, make a phone call or send an email.  No sleeping for me.  Time to get up and re-pack.

Our son was also joining us for the show, so we waited for his return from school before heading north to Bellingham, about two hours away.  We didn’t leave until 3:00, and ran into heavy traffic through Everett and Marysville.  It finally cleared out just north of Marysville, and we checked in to our roadside motel around 5:00.

We were supposed to go to a wine tasting in Lori’s honor at Purple Space, an events space related to Purple Smile Wines, where Lori works.  We had to hurry and change; the theme of the night was all black with colorful beads and decorations to celebrate Lori Gras! (like Marti Gras, get it?).  It was party time.  After showing up a bit late, we ordered some delicious Mexican food from a local food truck called Jalepeno stationed outside Purple Space.  The two-story space was cool, with dark wood and iron railings.  Upstairs, the hosts served wine and ale, with a special porter brewed just for Lori with her picture displayed on the Lori Gras! label.

Jacob met up with Will again and spent some time talking music with him.  He enjoyed that.  I wasn’t really sure how to handle this weekend with the boy.  His birthday was the next day, the 11th.   I knew he would have preferred a sleep-over birthday party with his best pals rather than hanging out with his parents in Bellingham.  But the fact that he got to meet Will and talk shop changed his tune.  It made for a very special 18th birthday.

After mingling at the Space for about and hour or so, we drove over to the big party at Bellingham Yacht Club, a few blocks away. The downstairs room was set up for a bash with streamers, palm trees, a beer and wine bar and a hot food buffet. Will’s stage was in one corner, ready to go.  Couches and chairs surrounded the stage.  We milled around and found other people we knew. There is something familial about the music world.  Someone runs into someone else at a show.  They become best friends, meet other people at another show, and it becomes one big happy family.  I first met Lori, Tim and Kenny at a Todd Snider show in Sparks, NV.  Will played guitar for Todd as part of his band, The Nervous Wrecks.  After the second night, we met them in the hotel bar where they invited us to their after-party.  Will showed up that night with drummer Paul Griffith [see my blog of that show here].  I have since run into Lori and more friends at other shows, including Tom Petty and Willie Nelson.  The family tree keeps growing and thriving!

Will took his place in the corner and the audience was asked to please SHUT UP.  Thanks, Kenny! ha

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Set List for Bellingham Yacht Club Lori Gras! Celebration:

Piece of Work

Let the Big World Spin

Sideshow Love

Rocket Fuel

Trouble

Mud Bottom – INCREDIBLE SLIDE

Another Train


Mud and Moss – Will dedicated this song to Lori.  Her joyful reaction was infectious.  He actually wrote it that day!  Everyone was awestruck.  The lyrics were hilarious and very meaningful to our long and crazy road trip:

Lyrics for "Mud and Moss" written that afternoon!

Lyrics for “Mud and Moss” written that afternoon!

Wings – He wrote this for Jimmy Buffett – over the years, he’s written about a dozen songs for Jimmy

You Made Your Bed – The next four or five songs on mandolin, one blended into the next, crazy crowd dancing

Mandolin Jam!

Mandolin Jam!

I Don’t Like It

Mr. Lee

Glory Be

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Cape Henry

Nobody From Nowhere

Horshoe Lake -before this song, Tim introduced three ladies that surprised Lori. They were old friends of hers who came to the party.

Mud and Moss -encore- people wanted to hear it again!

When Your Loving Comes Around

Leavin’ Now

Lonesome Train on a Lonesome Track

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Magnolia Springs

He Ain’t Right

Soulfully -Jimmy Buffett also covered this

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Get Rhythm When You Get the Blues

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry -Hank Williams Cover

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Everybody Wanna Go To Heaven, Nobody Wanna Die

Goodnight Moon and another segue to Wind Cries Mary

Encore – Yo Yo Ma!  – Going waay back to The bis-quits! More dancing ensued!

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Oh, what a fantastic night and climactic ending to the Washington leg of the tour!  People danced to a solo guitar and mandolin (Jake called it Old White People Dancing: stiff arms, stiff necks, stiff backs- ha); Lori laughed and cried and danced with husband Tim and her son Kai as well as several friends; we made new friends; we saw old acquaintances; people celebrated, partied, and toasted Lori’s 50th in grand style.  What a wonderful time for all.

The next morning, we met Will, Lori and Sara for breakfast at a coffee shop near the hotel.  We wished Jacob a happy 18th birthday.  Not a bad way to spend it so far, hanging out with Will after a glorious night of music and revelry.  Jacob was a big part of the show, and was one of the photographers, videographers and reluctant dancers.

Thanks to Kenny, Will and Sara had a car waiting for them to drive down to Portland to continue the tour.  We each purchased another CD, hugged it out, and wished them a safe journey to Oregon.  Pat, Jacob and I continued northward to visit our old friend Ralph and deliver a signed CD. Lori went home to her Seahawk nest and celebrated their big win against the Saints with her friends and family surrounding her.

Will and Sara continued their tour to Portland and Cottage Grove.

Sara was kind enough to send over the set list for the first show in Portland before returning to her home in California (another successful night!):

Set List

Secret Society – Portland, OR Saturday, January 11

Trouble

Mr. Lee

Mud Bottom

I Want Too Much

When Your Loving Comes Around

Let The Big World Spin

Sideshow Love

Soulfully

Hill Country Girl

Champion of the World

Three Angels

Wash and Fold

I am still reeling from this trip. My life feels like a heartbeat. There are moments, hours, and sometimes days of intense, vertical spikes of activity followed by a need to stay horizontal and buffer myself from the rest of the world until I can fall into a normal rhythm again.

My husband asked if my soul is full. Yes–overflowing.

Another pic for The Music Wall of Fame

Another pic for The Music Wall of Fame

Willie, Willie, Willie, get yo’self on home, boy…

January 19, 2014 Posted by | Americana, aplscruf, Bellingham, Concert Season 2014, Lori Gras, Music, Will Kimbrough, Willie Sugarcapps | , , , , | 6 Comments