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Posts Tagged ‘folk’

I made Serenity (and a few other friends) jealous last Friday when I tweeted, “So excited to see The Civil Wars in concert tonight!” I promised a review, so here it is in one word:

Stunning.

In a few more words:

The Berklee Performance Center is a lovely venue, all dark wood paneling and soaring acoustics and rows of comfy seats. (It was a packed house.) The opening act, Milo Greene, was astonishing – five musicians, four of whom sang, and all of whom (except the drummer) played “Chinese fire drill” with their instruments, handing off their guitars to one another and (in one case) sometimes picking up a tambourine. They electrified the place with their energy, and as J said, “I love bands where everybody sings.” We were both wowed and smitten, and we bought their EP after the show. (3 songs for $5. A bargain.)

And then the Civil Wars came out, and we floated away on a tide of gorgeous harmonies.

Sounds a bit dramatic, perhaps, but John Paul White and Joy Williams left us gaping at the sheer, aching beauty of their intertwined voices. They both seemed to intuit the other person’s every move – even their ad-libbing was perfectly in sync. And it was plain they were having so much fun up there – whether they were jamming out on “Barton Hollow” and “From This Valley,” winking at the audience on covers of “Billie Jean” and “Dance Me to the End of Love,” or holding out those notes of love and longing on “Poison & Wine.”

I think the best musicians know how to connect with both the audience and one another – and Joy and John Paul did that perfectly. She took the lead on the between-songs patter, teasing John Paul and flashing her dazzling smile at the audience, and he responded with deadpan comments that had us all howling with laughter. (Side note: he really does bear an uncanny resemblance to Johnny Depp.)

Even though the theatre was packed, it still felt intimate – “like a big living room,” as Joy said. A big living room full of music from two incredibly talented artists. I could have listened and laughed and clapped all night long.

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list #26: summer music

Summer calls for laid-back, driving-with-the-windows-down songs. And for me, it always speaks of country music – fireflies and sunsets and a little twang. Here are a few of my faves:

1. “Take Me Out to the Dance Hall,” Pat Green
2. “Tim McGraw,” Taylor Swift
3. “The Long Way Home,” Norah Jones
4. “The Girl From Ipanema,” Frank Sinatra
5. “Italy,” Grace Pettis
6. “The Coast,” Court Yard Hounds
7. “Betting on Trains,” HEM
8. anything by the Beach Boys (of course!)
9. anything by George Strait, especially his mid – to late-80s hits like “Ocean Front Property” and “Amarillo By Morning”
10. “La Vie En Rose,” Louis Armstrong (though I love it all year long)

What’s on your summer playlist?

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I have to brag on Cole. Or just give him a massive shout out. After spending last Friday evening listening to JamisonPriest play their charming folk songs at Mezamiz Deux, I bought their latest CD, Dreams I’ll Never Know. And I am hooked. I can’t stop listening. In fact, it’s playing right now as I write this blog entry. If you don’t own it, you should contact Cole about obtaining a copy. Right now.

I’m a fan of mellow guitar and gentle, lilting “ramblin'” songs (Jenni’s favorites) as well as tender love ballads and rollicking tunes that tell stories or are just fun. I love the thunder in the chords of “Weatherman” (the first song on the CD) and the rich, sometimes unexpected harmonies of Cole’s and Jenni’s and Ed’s voices. But what really grabs me about these songs are the lyrics. I’m a words person, so naturally, the words in songs mean a lot to me. And three of the songs on this CD that have absolutely grabbed my heart were written by our friend Cole.

I first heard “Lost Generation (The New London Song)” in a Honolulu living room last summer…the other side of Scott’s duplex, where we girls were staying. Cole brought out his guitar and played it for us, and Krissi and I sat there sniffling as she recorded it on video. She’s from Overton, not far from New London, and the rest of us – Karen, Laura and I – were struck by the quiet tragedy of the story. The line “Today all the playgrounds lie cold in the sun” still gives me chills.

“Small Town Sara” may soon be the subject of an article…I CANNOT stop listening to this song. It’s about a waitress who dreams of the big city, but spends her days serving plate-lunch specials and iced tea and smiling at her customers. I’ve worked in a small-town coffee house, so I identify strongly with Sara. Granted, the Ground Floor was a summer/holiday job, and I always knew I was going to leave it one day. But I was once the girl who “poured her soul in every empty cup” and had customers who “loved me like their own.” And even while I pursue another path, I miss that life. I loved it. And it loved me back.

Finally, “Infamy” is the story of a woman who lost her husband at Pearl Harbor, and it’s heartbreaking, but beautiful. She keeps a pair of unworn Mary Janes in her closet, as if waiting for her husband to come back and take her dancing to “the big band and the horn.” Even her turn signal is “blinking jump-swing time” as she thinks about him. It’s gorgeous. Makes me remember walking around above the sunken Arizona at Pearl Harbor. (To which, bless him, Cole actually took me, on my last day in Honolulu. Thanks, Cole.)

You can read the full lyrics at www.jamisonpriest.com. But you should really get a copy of the CD. The words are lovely by themselves, but with the music, they’re pure magic.

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