February 4, 2019

Concert #861 - Hubby Jenkins at McCabe's Guitar Shop (February 2, 2019)

Saturday night at McCabe's I witnessed the performances of not one, but two musicians who, in my opinion, fit the "niche artist" label to perfection. Indeed, both Hubby Jenkins, the headliner, and John Reed Torres, the evening's opening act, specialize in genres that are seldom heard, certainly not by the followers of mainstream music.

With catchy gospel songs like "Jesus Walked This Lonesome Valley", "The Last Month Of The Year", "Down On Me" and "I Heard The Angels Sing", Hubby Jenkins grabbed my attention from the very beginning. Alternating between his acoustic guitar and banjo, he kept me thoroughly entertained not only with his music, but also with his storytelling. Hubby turned out to be a treasure trove of knowledge about old-time music, as well as the social and racial injustice of those troubled times - listening to Hubby's stories about slavery and black banjo players made me feel a bit like a student in a classroom. But there were also moments of levity, with Hubby reading out loud random parts from a few Choose Your Own Adventure books, with the full participation of the audience. I could have done with a little less of that and a little more music.

Hubby Jenkins playing his guitar at McCabe's
Hubby Jenkins playing his banjo at McCabe's
I was very impressed with Hubby's guitar and banjo picking and I liked his singing, too. His rendition of the music of Blind Willie Johnson, Bukka White, Uncle Dave Macon and others sounded great to these ears. One of the highlights of the show was the thought-provoking "Little Log Cabin In The Lane", a song written more than one hundred years ago by a white man named Will S. Hays, about a slave missing the comfort of slavery, as Hubby put it. "John Henry" and "Coo Coo Bird" were two other stand-out tracks.

In the absence of a predetermined set list, the entire evening had a free-flowing feel to it, very much like spending time in the living room of a musician friend. I'm pretty sure this was not my last encounter with Hubby.

Hubby Jenkins at McCabe's
The evening kicked off with a thirty-minute set by John Reed Torres, a credible ragtime pianist who has played at various ragtime festivals in Europe, South America and the States. His first number, Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag", was followed by five self-penned tunes and one other Scott Joplin composition titled "Gladiolas". In between songs, John spoke with eloquence about the history of ragtime music, a genre that most people know precious little about. While I liked his performance, I think that John's show could have benefited from the inclusion of a well-known rock or pop song re-imagined as a ragtime number.

John Reed Torres at McCabe's
Hubby Jenkins chatting with fans after the show
The stage

February 3, 2019

Concert #860 - The Accidentals at McCabe's Guitar Shop (February 1, 2019)

This was my first time to see the Accidentals in concert and one thing is for sure: it won't be my last.

Friday night at McCabe's, Savannah Buist, Katie Larson and Michael Dause, collectively known as The Accidentals, put on a show that, in most respects, far exceeded my most optimistic expectations. These guys know how to put their musical talents to good use, as they blend disparate genres, like rock, folk, jazz, pop and classical, into an infectious mix that sounded profoundly modern to these ears. I was also very impressed with the speed with which Savannah and Katie switched from one stringed instrument to another. Their use of the electric cello and electric violin, each sporting slimmed-down bodies, was particularly captivating. 

The Accidentals at McCabe's
Some of the younger acts I have seen in recent years put on performances that I found to be excessively lethargic, but that was definitely not the case Friday night. The trio's show was exceptionally well-paced, with just the right amount of spoken word and plenty of dynamic moments - one could just feel the energy building up toward the glorious crescendo that ended their set. Occasionally striking rock & roll stances, Sav and Katie were exceptionally good and so was Michael, whose powerful drumming was an equal contributor to the success of the evening. 

Savannah Buist playing her electric violin at McCabe's
The Accidentals at McCabe's
The Accidentals having some fun at McCabe's
I suppose that most of the songs played by the Accidentals were self-penned and there wasn't a single dud among them. I recognized only one cover, Dave Brubeck's "Take Five", then - for the evening's encore - the trio lined-up at the edge of the stage to deliver what I think was their only other cover song, "Shining In The Distance", from the repertoire of Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys.

The evening's encore
So, do I have anything negative to say about the concert? Yes, I do. The show just wasn't long enough. Indeed, clocking in at only seventy-five minutes, theirs was one of the shortest headlining sets I have ever caught at McCabe's. Still, no complaints, as the trio held nothing back. No doubt, if the band ever comes back to McCabe's, I will be there.

Katie Larson playing her electric cello at McCabe's
Savannah Buist at McCabe's
Michael Dause at McCabe's
The set list
The stage
Katie & Savannah at the merch table, after the concert

January 23, 2019

Concert #859 - Lacy J. Dalton at McCabe's Guitar Shop (January 20, 2019)

I cannot count myself among the followers of Lacy J. Dalton's career, so I used the concert announcement as an opportunity to get up to speed with her music. And you guessed it right, there was a lot of catching up to do, as I could name only one song from her decades-long career. I'm talking about "16th Avenue", Lacy's well-known signature song. After the initial concert announcement, my interest in the event was further heightened by the addition of two more acts, namely Quincy Coleman, a critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles and jackiO, a band that includes two former members of Oingo Boingo, a band I have always loved.

Lacy J. Dalton took the stage after a short introduction by Leslie Adams, her manager. The set that followed had two distinct parts. For the first hour or so, Lacy played an all-acoustic set, accompanied by her long-time musical partner, guitarist Dale Poune. At the respectable age of seventy-two, Lacy's voice is a bit deeper now, but she still has the vocal strength and physical stamina to put on a good show. Appearing extremely comfortable on the stage, she sang songs that I had just become acquainted with and also a few that were new to me.

Lacy J. Dalton at McCabe's
To these ears, the best songs of the evening were "The Heart", a song written by the great Kris Kristofferson and Lacy's own "Got No Place To Call Home", the latter featuring Dale's fabulous guitar playing. Two other songs stood out: "Listen To The Wind" and "Black Coffee", both culled from Lacy's older albums.

Lacy J. Dalton & Dale Poune at McCabe's
Lacy J. Dalton at McCabe's
The evening's acoustic set ended with "My Little Yellow Duck", a song that generated lots of laughter,.after the initial few raised eyebrows. Throughout the acoustic set, Dale's accompaniment on guitar and mandolin was top-notch. He also sang backup vocals.

The second part of the show featured Lacy and jackiO, a band of seasoned musicians who had just recorded an EP with Lacy. Two band members, Steve Bartek and John Avila, have played with Oingo Boingo for many years.
Band line-up
Ira Ingber (guitar)
Steve Bartek (guitar)
John Avila (vocals, bass)
David Raven (drums)

We got to hear the entire EP recorded by jackiO with Lacy, but at first blush, none of those songs caught my ear. Still, with so much musical talent right in front of me, I found this part of the show quite enjoyable. After the fourth song, Lacy left the stage, but not before asking jackiO to close the show with a song of their own. That final song turned out to be one of the evening's best moments - I absolutely loved the dueling guitars of Ira and Steve and John's singing was very good as well. Sadly, I don't know the title of the song.

Steve Bartek, Ira Ingber & John Avila at McCabe's (from left to right)
The evening kicked off with a short set by Quincy Coleman and her guitar accompanist, Vito Gregoli. Quincy's  first three songs, "This Could Last", "Heartbreaking" and "Want Me Back", were exceedingly slow and had melodic lines that did not instantly grab me. Things improved quite a bit with her final two songs, "Come Away With Me" and "I'm Coming Home" which I thought were exceptionally good both in terms of songwriting and also delivery. As far as I know, she wrote all the songs she performed for us at McCabe's. In spite of her slow start, I believe that Quincy is an artist who definitely deserves our attention.

Quincy Coleman at McCabe's
Quincy Coleman & Vito Gregoli at McCabe's
Lacy J. Dalton's set list
Quincy Coleman's set list
Manager Leslie Adams introducing Lacy J. Dalton
The stage
Sign in the window at McCabe's

January 21, 2019

Concert #858 - Loudon Wainwright at McCabe's Guitar Shop (January 19, 2019)

In his seventy-second year of existence, Loudon Wainwright has remained the same incredible performer who picks you up the moment he takes the stage and never lets you go. With his trademark mix of humorous and thought-provoking songs and chatter, he touches me like few other artists. His Saturday night appearance at McCabe's was my twentieth time to see Loudon live and - spoiler alert - I went home absolutely elated by the quality of his performance.

With his voice and wit virtually intact, Loudon kicked off the proceeding with "A Little Piece Of Me" and "Grey In LA". What followed was a good mix of newer songs as well as old favorites, such as "The Swimming Song", "Cardboard Boxes", and the hilarious "Grammy Song", which he delivered interspersed with equally funny readings from "Liner Notes", his first and so far only book. Other songs that I really enjoyed hearing again: "White Winos" and "Be Careful There's A Baby In The House".

Loudon Wainwright at McCabe's
Two songs stood out from among those few numbers that were new to me: "Love Gifts" and "Presidents' Day", the latter generating quite a bit of laughter in the room. Late in the show, Loudon surprised me with the singing of Richard Thompson's "Down Where The Drunkards Roll", which sounded great. By the way, Loudon and Richard are good friends.

Loudon also played two numbers on the piano, "Kick In The Head", a song he wrote in the seventies and the much more recent "Song In C".

Needless to say, Loudon also sang and spoke about his father, grandfather and a few other Wainwrights, so there wasn't anything revolutionary in his show but that suited everyone just fine. I loved everything Loudon did and, as I said, I went home extremely happy. 
Loudon Wainwright at McCabe's
Loudon Wainwright playing the piano at McCabe's
The stage
Sign in the window at McCabe's

January 15, 2019

Concert #857 - The Brother Brothers at McCabe's Guitar Shop (January 13, 2019)

To no one's surprise, my first concert of the new year took place at McCabe's Guitar Shop and it was a good one.

It didn't take long for Adam and David Moss, collectively known as the Brother Brothers, to conjure up favorable comparisons with the likes of the Everly Brothers and Simon & Garfunkel. Indeed, their vocal harmonies are some of the finest I have ever heard and I'm not exaggerating. Moreover, they write good songs, play multiple instruments, have likeable personalities, so they do have most of what it takes to put on a good show.

The Brother Brothers at McCabe's
Playing without a predetermined set list, Adam and David delivered many songs from "Some People I Know", their recently released debut album. The ones I liked the best were "Red And Gold", "Banjo Song" and Peter Rowan's "Paper Bride". Not on the album, but sounding equally good, were "Bird In A Tree" and "Notary Public".

The Brother Brothers at McCabe's
The duo's two-song encore consisted of David Houston's "I Told Them All About You" and Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You". Both sounded great.

Overall, Adam and David impressed me quite a bit. I have nothing negative to say about their performance, but as I was driving home, I thought that the inclusion of an uptempo medley of a few Everly Brothers hits would have brought the house down. 

The Brother Brothers at McCabe's

Connor & Arianne Vance, the evening's opening act, played a short set that, in one word, can be described as pleasant. Their best number was "We Are Not The Jet Set", originally recorded by John Prine & Iris DeMent a couple of decades ago. Connor is well-known to me as the Dustbowl Revival's devilishly good fiddler. 

Connor & Arianne Vance at McCabe's
Connor & Arianne Vance's set list

January 14, 2019

Concerts #855 & 856 - Jackshit at McCabe's Guitar Shop (December 14-15, 2018)

This year I caught two of the band's three Christmas shows and, just like all the other fans of this incredible trio, I did not mind shelling out the big bucks, just to make sure that I won't be left out. Reflecting the ever-growing popularity of the band in general and their Christmas shows in particular, ticket prices have been creeping up in recent years, so that their most recent price hike did not come as a total surprise.

Gone are the days when a $15 ticket would get you seated for a Jackshit concert. This time around, the cheapest tickets had a face value of $60, while the VIP tickets set us back by a whopping $100. By the way, the VIP ticket holders received priority seating.
VIP ticket (2018)

The shows were phenomenal. Val McCallum, Davey Faragher and Pete Thomas amazed us once again with their musical skills, intensity and humor. Their unannounced guests were equally good. On December 14 we got to see guitar legend Albert Lee and also mandolin virtuoso George Doering, along with his singing wife, Jo Ellen. It was pure joy watching how well Albert and Val played off of each other, with mutually admirative looks on their smiling faces. Albert played "I'm Ready", "Spellbound", "Tear It Up" and "Leave My Woman Alone", four songs associated with Fats Domino, Paul Kennerley, Johnny Burnette and Ray Charles, respectively.

Jackshit and unannounced guest Albert Lee (right)
Albert Lee at McCabe's

George & Jo Ellen Doering played Bo Diddley's "You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover", "The Letter" (the biggest hit of the Box Tops) and Ralph Stanley's "Gonna Paint The Town".

George & Jo Ellen Doering at McCabe's
Val McCallum at McCabe's 
Davey Faragher having fun at McCabe's
Rock & Roll Hall-of-Famer Pete Thomas at McCabe's
On December 15, the band was joined by Grammy-winner Dave Alvin, whose all-electric set was exceptionally good. Surprisingly, his set included Joe South's "Games People Play", in addition to four of his own compositions, see set list below. The Doerings also appeared - they performed the same three songs we heard the night before.

Dave Alvin (right) & Davey Faragher at McCabe's
Dave Alvin's set list
Dave Alvin at McCabe's
Set List - December 14, 2018
Stella McCallum, Val's daughter, delivered a gentle rendition of "Blackbird", the Beatles song. She was accompanied by her dad on acoustic guitar.

Val & Stella McCallum at McCabe's
Val McCallum & George Doering at McCabe's
Even though new songs do get added with some regularity, the repertoire of the band remains a somewhat slow-changing thing and that is quite understandable, considering Val, Davey and Pete's busy recording and touring schedules. I'm particularly happy that "Ugly And Slouchy" and its brilliant rock & roll medley is back in heavy rotation.

Let's just hope that this fantastic trio will continue to function for many more years.
The stage
Val McCallum's gear