I had hoped to update my travels around the CMJ Music Marathon in semi-real time last week. But in hindisght, that was probably a little too ambitious. Between panels during the day, endless showcases at night and the general frantic rhythm of of the city, I barely had time to catch my breath, let alone sit down and write. So, in the interest of jotting my scattered thoughts down and sharing what I found, here are a some highlights — and maybe a lowlight or two — from the week that was.
BEST SHOW (CMJ EDITION): The Lumineers
Denver's the Lumineers put on the coolest show I saw during the Music Marathon, and it wasn't really close. The trio had the crowd at the Mercury Lounge hanging on — and often singing along with — every melodious word with an irresisitble blend of sing-song pop and rootsy Americana that recalls the sweeter side of the Avett Brothers, or perhaps Bowerbirds in their more uptempo moments.
Here's a video of one of my favorite tunes, "The Dead Sea."
And here's one from a performance at the Skinny Pancake in Burlington last March.
After a delay plagued arrival in NYC yesterday afternoon and a minor fiasco at registration — no, we don't know, or care, who you are. So you just go ahead and wait two hours for your credentials like everybody else, asshole — I finally found myself settled in for four days of rock and or roll in the city that never sleeps.
For the uninitiated, the CMJ Music Marathon is kind of like an east coast version of South by Southwest. For the next four days, every single band in the world will descend on the city and play showcase gigs at clubs and bars all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, in hopes that some killer label or high-powered record exec will discover them and turn them into the next Vampire Weekend. OK, that's maybe a slight exaggeration. It only feels like every band on the planet must be here. Still, it's an underground music lover's paradise. So obviously, the first thing on my agenda this week was … um, standup comedy.
Eschewing the musical madness in Manhattan (for one night, anyway), I decided to begin the week's journey last night in Park Slope, Brooklyn, at a bar called Union Hall, for a performance by standup comic Mike Birbiglia. Birbiglia is a personal favorite, and the opportunity to catch him in an intimate setting was too good to pass up. I wasn't disappointed. And yeah, it was part of the Music Marathon. So there.
If you've never seen or heard him — he's an occasional contributor to "This American Life" and "the Moth" on NPR — Birbiglia is not a traditional standup. He doesn't tell jokes so much as stories about his own bizarre life experiences and general social awkwardness. While his bits are often wincingly uncomfortable, he also also exudes an irresistible charm that lures you in. Even when riffing on topics as dark as cancer or death, there is a sweet vulnerability in his style that makes him uncommonly relatable. His weaknesses and insecurities — outlandish almost to the point of caricature — make your own seem somehow more manageable. Or at least less crippling by comparison.
Sporting a scruffy beard, his set in the cramped basement of Union Hall — a remarkably cool bar overall, though the noise from the joint's indoor clay bocce courts upstairs was occasionally distracting … yes, you read that correctly — was an unguarded glimpse into Birbiglia's uniquely skewed psyche. The set was billed as his most recent touring show and album, "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend." In reality, it was a loose mix of stories from that show, his "What I Should Have Said Was Nothing" days and his off-Broadway show, "Sleepwalk with Me." But even his more familiar and structured bits — for example, his well-documented battle with sleep disorder — took on an almost improvisational feel. At times, it was as if he was opening his mental notebook to let us see his sketches in their rawest form. It was a treat.
Particularly engaging was the impromptu Q&A with which he closed his set. Birbiglia answered questions about living in New York (very expensive, apparently … who knew?), the week he spent living in a display window at Macy's (kinda creepy) and whether he ever hears from Dennis Eckersley. (That's a great story.) He also mentioned that he's currently editing a film version of "Sleepwalk With Me." You can check out a clip of the standup version below.
In today's column, I mentioned Justin Levinson would be taking to the stage at Nectar's this Friday, celebrating the release of a new single he recently recorded with Nashville's Madi Diaz. Here's that very single, in clever video form.
It seems things at Parima are devolving faster than anyone expected. As Joe Adler, now-formally the talent buyer at the doomed Thai restaurant/music joint, writes today, the upcoming music calendar has been pretty much wiped clean, from now until the Pearl St. haunt closes in mid-September. All but a few shows have been canceled — including Burgundy Thursday tonight and the entirety of this weekend's slate. The full list of canceled shows is below. In other news, fuck.
Thurs, 8/4 - Burgundy Thursdays with Joe Adler featuring The Beerworth Sisters / Dusty Jewels / Don & Jenn (Singer/Songwriter / Main Stage) 8:30pm, $3
Fri, 8/5 - Kelly Ravin with Lisa Marie Fischer opening (Blues Rock / Main Stage) 7pm, $3
Fri, 8/5 - Second Agenda (Rock Hop Rebel Folk / Main Stage) 10pm, $3
Sat, 8/6 - Modern Grass Quintet (Bluegrass / Main Stage) 7pm, $3
Sat, 8/6 - Squid City / Project Organ Trio (Jazz / Rock / Main Stage) 9:30pm, $5
Sun, 8/7 - Queen City Bossa (Bossa Nova / Main Stage) 7pm, $3
Thurs, 8/11 - Eric and Matthias (Singer/Songwriter / Main Stage) 7pm, $3
Thurs, 8/11 - Burgundy Thursdays with Joe Adler featuring Carrie Ferguson / Bill Buyer / Chris Lewis / Tim Berry (Singer/Songwriter / Main Stage) 7pm, $3
Fri, 8/12 - Last October (Acoustic/Folk / Main Stage) 7pm, $3
Fri, 8/12 - Charley Orlando with Steve Hartmann opening (Jam/Soul/Rock / Main Stage) 9:30pm, $5
Fri, 8/12 - African Party (Acoustic Lounge) 11:30pm, $5, 60/40 (doors at 11)
Sun, 8/14 - Sarah Louise Pieplow / The Wendigos (Punky Folk/Garage Rock / Main Stage) 7pm, $3
Wed, 8/17 - Too Tight Trio with Kip Meaker (Blues Rock / Main Stage) 7pm, $5
Thurs, 8/18 - Burgundy Thursdays with Joe Adler featuring Phil Yates & The Affiliates / Jimmy Ruin / Chris Jenkins / UMMA / TBA / TBA (Singer/Songwriter / Main Stage) 7pm, $3
Sat, 8/20 - Matt Graham Quartet (Jazz / Main Stage)7pm, $3
Wed, 8/24 - Too Tight Trio with Kip Meaker (Blues Rock / Main Stage) 7pm, $5
Thurs, 8/25 - Burgundy Thursdays with Joe Adler featuring Robin Reid / James McSheffrey / Clara Berry / Kevin Greenblott / TBA / TBA (Singer/Songwriter / Main Stage) 7pm, $3
Fri, 8/26 - Ragged Glory (Neil Young Tribute / Main Stage) 7pm, $3
Fri, 8/26 - Funkwagon with Dr Ruckus opening (Funk/Soul / Main Stage) 10pm, $5
Sat, 8/27 - Clara Engel (Blues/Experimental / Main Stage) 7pm, $3
Sat, 8/27 - Bobby Messano Band with Midnight Jones opening (Blues / Main Stage) 10pm, $5
Fri, 9/2 - Black Mountain Symphony (Progressive Folk / Main Stage) 7pm, $3
I ran into Matt Hagen of Lendway/Nefarius Frenzy a week or two back, and he was positively raving about a surprise act at a recent Metal Monday, the metal series at Nectar's he's been curating/hosting with Metal Matt Longo from WRUV/mindovermetal.org. I mean, like, wouldn't-shut-about-it raving. The performer's name is Vika, and she plays instrumental versions of metal songs on her piano. And she rawks. Here's a clip from her last appearance at Metal Monday, playing Slayer's "Reign in Blood." FYI, I'm told she'll be back at Nectar's tonight …
This just in from the lads at Angioplasty Media and GPN's Matt Burr, Daytrotter's Barnstormer series is coming to Vermont. Specifically, the Old Lantern in Charlotte on Sunday August 28.
For the unfamiliar, Barnstormer is like a mobile mini-festival curated by music site Daytrotter that, as its name implies, storms through barns — or in our case, barn-like structures — in random locales around the country, bringing buckets of indie rock cheer where e'er they roam. The VT date features some seriously rad acts, including White Rabbits, Deer Tick (uh-mazing website, BTW), We Are Augustines, Blood Orange and Doug Paisley (no relation to country star Brad Paisley … I think). Ticket info is right here.
Well folks, another one bites the dust. And this one stings.
I've just gotten off the phone with Parima talent buyer, Joe Adler, who informed me that the venerable Thai restaurant/increasingly killer music venue will close its doors for good in September. The building was recently sold to another local business, which, for now, will remain anonymous until it has had a chance to inform its employees and make a formal announcement. Adler did note, however, that the plans for the new venture do not include entertainment. What a waste.
Adler said a blowout farewell party is planned for Saturday, September 17 featuring Jen Hartswick, Nick Cassarino and host of other local favorites. "It will be the craziest party you can imagine," he promised.
I don't know, Joe, I can imagine some pretty crazy parties. Although, I've been to several wild shindigs at Parima in recent months. Over the last year-plus, the juke joint has gone from being a fairly awkward place to see a show to one of the more consistently entertaining venues in town. From his weekly Burgundy Thursday series and the monthly Full Moon Masquerade party to puling in big ticket acts such as the Barr Brothers and Marco Benevento and lining up great local artists week in and week out, Adler and company have created a welcome addition to our cozy little music scene. Parima's impending closure will mean a big, honkin' void for local music fans this fall.
Unfortunately, news of this show came in too late for me to make mention of or list in the paper this week. But local indie pop outfit Hello Shark are playing Muddy Waters in Burlington this very evening at 10 p.m. Here's hoping the heat has receded to not-life-threatening levels by then and/or that the AC at Muddy's is cranking.
Anyway, to help keep you cool in the meantime, here's a vid of Hello Shark from a recent performance at Foodbar in Portsmouth, NH. Enjoy.
This just in from the folks at Ye Olde North End Ramble (July 30), the deadline to sign up to be involved, whether as a performer, host venue, volunteer or sugar daddy financier, has been extended to this Friday, July 15. You can pick up forms at variety of Burlington locations, including Radio Bean, Jamba's Junktiques and Viva Espresso.
There is also now a Ramble Kickstarter page, which features the promotional video below. A nine-minute-long promotional video. Nine minutes. Seriously. Anyway, they need to hit a grand in the next 16 days. I'm betting they get there.
Yeah, yeah. I know. It's been a while. I could make excuses for the dearth of posts this past month. I could offer sincere regrets, guarantees it will never happen again, solemn vows to be a more vigilant blurbsmith. But we both know such promises would, while well-intentioned, ring hollow, much like Hank Moody apologizing to his eternally wounded and increasingly jaded daughter, Becca, for the thousandth time: sincerely remorseful, yet fully aware — as she is — that he will inevitably fuck up again, most likely in boozy and spectacular fashion. (Yes, I've been on a "Californication" kick lately.)
Anyway, in the interest of playing catchup/stopping the bleeding/not doing other work, I thought we'd bust out an old fashioned smattering of randomness to get us relatively up to date. Here goes.
- This just in from Higher Ground: LoCash Cowboys have cancelled their appearance at the club scheduled for this Sunday. Figures, the one time I throw airbrushed pop-country a rhinestone-studded bone, I jinx the show. My bad.
- Wanna see some naked musicians? Local videographer Matt Day, on the heels of a successful opening at the BCA Center last month, finally has an online home for his Naked Musicians video project, nakedmusicians.com. It's an interesting project, showcasing (mostly) local tunesmiths playing (clothed) in casual surroundings. It's also very well done. Plus, bonus points to Day for the lurid website title, which will undoubtedly draw a bazilion extra hits from pervy Googlers. Well played! Anyway, here's a vid from the project featuring Paper Castles.
- Any Amerpunkgrassrockjazzicana fans in the house? Go see the Defibulators at Nectar's on Thursday. Trust me.
- Remember back in February of 2010, when Rapper Big Pooh and his crew nearly died on I-89 when their van flipped en route to a show at Club Metronome? No? Well, they did. Not only that, they still played the gig. Anyway, it seems Pooh's group, Little Brother, recently broke up under some unfortunate and convoluted circumstances, as detailed in this excellent article in North Carolina's Independent Weekly by Grayson Currin, which leads with a description of the accident outside Randolph. (Full disclosure: this story is up for an AAN award this year, which is sort of like the Oscars for alt-weekly journalism. A story I wrote is actually nominated in the same category. But were I a betting man, my money would be on Currin. This is a prime example of arts-related alt-journalism at its best.)
- I was on vacation when this was announced, but I couldn't be happier about Gillian Welch coming to the Flynn in October. As an aside, Welch's Time (the Revelator) remains the only album my dad has ever borrowed from me and never returned. I don't blame him. Tix go on sale Friday.
The countdown on Langdon Street Café closing stands at t-minus three days and change, which … well, absolutely sucks. The quirky java joint is closing for financial reasons, and even after Boston-based circus punks Cirkestra draw the curtain for the last time on Saturday night, the cash-strapped café will long be dealing with the financial fallout of a rocky final few months.
To help out, the fine folks from the Golden Dome Musician's Collective in Montpelier and State and Main Records have put together a stellar new compilation, State and Main Records: Volume 1.5 — A Benefit for the Langdon Street Café. The download-only comp is a followup to the label's debut offering, State and Main Records: Volume 1, released in February to rave reviews — at least from me. After a few cursory listens, I'm finding Volume 1.5 just as entertaining.
You can grab the comp here, for a measly $10, proceeds of which go directly to LSC. To wet your whistle, here's a snippet, "Sticks and Stones," by Simple Heart.
Man, I hate being the bearer of bad news. And this is seriously bad news indeed. The following is an email that went out to various press outlets this morning from Meg Hammond and Ben T. Matchstick at the Langdon Street Café.
To all the friends, family, community, and performers of the Langdon Street Café,
After doing business in downtown Montpelier for six and a half years, the Café has faced a difficult decision. Due to increasing financial difficulties and circumstances, the Langdon Street Café will permanently close its doors on May 28th. This decision has not been an easy one for us.
We would like to thank everyone who has participated in the Langdon Street Café over the years—especially the Café’s founders and all of the employees past and present who have worked so hard and volunteered extra efforts to keep it going. We would also like to thank our families, tenants, and volunteer crews who have helped reinvent the space numerous times. A big thanks goes out to all the Café’s customers for feeling right at home, keeping us afloat, and for recharging our spirit. Finally, thank you to the downtown business community and to the City of Montpelier for making this town the most brilliant little star on the map.
We will greatly miss hosting you at the Café. Please come in and enjoy the Café throughout the month of May. Visit our website and Facebook pages where you can share your photos and stories. langdonstreetcafe.com
You gotta hand it to Grace Potter and her merry band of Nocturnals, this is pretty friggin' cool.
Yesterday morning, Higher Ground announced the lineup for this summer's Lake Champlain Maritime Festival, the annual nautically themed bash on Burlington's waterfront that GPN have traditionally played as a homecoming gig after a summer of touring the country. But this year, rather than blow into town, play a set or two and skeedaddle, they've curated an entire weekend-long festival-within-a-festival, dubbed "Grand Point North" — GPN, get it? And while the band is pulling in some serious marquee talent, the bulk of weekend will have a distinctly local flavor. Check the lineup:
The fest runs August 13 and 14, with GPN headlining both nights. I'm told they'll split the two evenings roughly along genre lines, with the rootsier acts dominating one night and the louder, more indie flavored bands the other. Tickets go on sale this Friday.
The fine folks from the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival held their annual press conference this afternoon to thank their long list of sponsors, ply the media with ice cream and give Bob Kiss something to talk about that doesn't involve Burlington Telecom. Oh, and also to announce the bulk of this year's lineup, which, while maybe not as top-heavy with monster marquee acts as in recent years, appears solid from top to bottom, including some undercard acts that could well steal the fest.
Also at the top of the docket, Bitches Brew Revisited, an all-star tribute to Miles Davis' groundbreaking 1970 record, Bitches Brew. The band features Vernon Reid, Graham Haynes, Marco Benevento and DJ Logic, among some other choice heavy hitters. Local improv jazz outfit — and a personal favorite — YoUSAy Placate open the Flynn MainStage show, which opens the entire fest on Friday June 3. The BDJF is also launching a contest inviting local artists to reimagine the cover art from Davis' landmark album. For more details on that, visit the BDJF site.
The BDJF always does well giving women in jazz their due. But, intentional or not, it seems there is an increased focus on lady songbirds this year, highlighted by a double bill at the FlynnSpace featuring vocalists Jay Clayton and Sheila Jordan on Tuesday, June 7. Other choice acts include vocalist Catherine Russell (6/8, FlynnSpace), ecelectic electro-acoustic outfit the Myra Melford Be Bread Sextet (6/9, FlynnSpace) and a MainStage double bill that will see renowned vocalist Roberta Gambarini share the stage with the Roy Hargrove Quintet on Saturday, June 11.
There's obviously much more to talk about, and in the coming weeks, we surely will. Most of the lineup and schedule info is up on the BDJF site. But there are still a few shows that have yet to be announced and should be made public within the next week or so. Stay tuned.
Wanna see Starfucker? I've got two tickets to give away to tonight's show at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge. To win, just tell me why you think you deserve to go in the comments section. Best answer, as judged by a panel of … well, me, wins. Be sure to leave your real name and email addy so I can contact you/have the band's management put you on the list. Contest closes at 2 p.m. Aaaaaand go!
For the past couple of months, videographer Elizabeth Rossano (of "Alice Eats" renown) and I have been working on developing a music video series for Seven Days, tentatively titled "Signs of Life." The idea is, well, kind of a ripoff of the Take Away Shows — which I adore and have touted on numerous occassions on this here blog. What's that saying about the sincerest form of flattery?
Anyway, the gist is that rather than doing straight-up concert videos, we wanted to capture local musicians performing in unusual locations around Vermont, or in scenarios that simply speak, in some small way, to life as an artist in our oddball little state. We have a couple of sessions in the books and hope to start rolling these out on roughly a monthly basis, at least to start.
Here is a rough cut of a session we did with Farm at their rehearsal/studio space, the Cave of Legends, underneath Ben Maddox's shop, the Flying Disc, in Enosburgh. Keep in mind that this is by no means the finished product. But before we officially launch the series, we were hoping to elicit some constructive feedback from you, dear readers. Did we blow your freakin' mind? Is there something in this video you feel just doesn't work? Anything you'd like to see more of? Less of? Whatever your thoughts, we'd love to hear 'em.
In my column last week, I left you with a riddle: "What is red and white — like really, really white — has 16 arms and loves you?"
This week, I promised I would share the answer here on the blog today, as revealing said answer in print would violate the only real rule my eds have ever given me: not writing about projects with which I am involved … in the paper. Due to the wonders of Facebook, and the general closeness of life in a small community like Burlington, this almost feels anti-climactic. It seems there's already a decent buzz around the event in question. But a promise is a promise. So without further ado …
Q: What is red and white, has 16 arms and loves you?
A: The Ginger Snaps.
(smattering of applause and confused murmuring)
For more on this developing story, let's bust out an old-school FAQ, shall we?
Q: Um, OK. So, who, or what the hell are the Ginger Snaps?
A: So glad you asked! The Ginger Snaps are VTs finest/only all-redhead all-star band. They're playing their one and only show this Monday, Valentine's Day, at Club Metronome with Kyle the Rider and the Human Canvas.
Q: Wait … really?
Q: All redheads? Are there really enough of you to make up a whole band?
A: And then some. Though finding a drummer proved tricky.
Q: So, if you're involved, does that mean we've drastically lowered the bar on just what exactly qualifies as an "all-star"?
A: Probably. I'm undoubtedly the weakest link. But the only reason I'm mentioning this at all is because the caliber of the rest of the band is pretty noteworthy. When you get people like Bob Wagner, Swale's Amanda Gustafson and Jeremy Fredericks, Heloise and the Savoir Faire's Rob O' Dea and That Toga Band's Tyler Minetti all on the same stage, cool stuff is bound to happen. Plus, we've got a pair of killer backing dancer/vocalists in Trena Isley and Myesha Gosselin. Next to those cats, my only real qualification for being in the group are my raven tresses.
Q: Hold on a sec. O' Dea is bald, and Fredericks ain't a redhead.
A: That's not really a question, but I'll enlighten you anyway. Both O'Dea and Fredericks were gingers as kids. We have photographic proof. Once a ginger, always a ginger.
Q: Fair enough. So are you guys just doing Willie Nelson and Rick Astley covers?
A: Not at all! We actually have a set of about 12 original tunes, written by gingers, for gingers. Some titles include "Everybody Knows the Beach Fucking Sucks," "Does the Carpet Match the Drapes," "Little Red Haired Girl," "Fetish" and "Sunblock Cockblock." We'll also probably toss in a love song or three to satisfy Cupid's bloodlust.
Q: Hey, Neko Case is a redhead, right?
A: Sigh …
Q: This is wacky. Who's dumb idea was this?
A: That's open to debate. Though the specific origins are unclear, what is known is that the idea developed between Bob Wagner and myself over way too many beers at Radio Bean last fall. Max Schwartz, late of the Jazz Guys, is rumored to have been an instigator as well. I maintain it was all Bob's fault, er, idea.
Q: $1000 question: Are you guys any good?
A: We'll see. At the very least, it'll be an interesting show. Plus, there is the very real possibility that this gig will be our collective undoing in Burlington. Do you really want to miss that?
Q: Last question: What is the preferred nomenclature here? I mean, is it OK to use the term "ginger"?
American Flatbread, 51 Main and Two Brothers Tavern are joining forces to host a monster Battle of the Bands in early April. The opening round of the town-wide showdown begins Thursday, March 31 and runs through Saturday, April 2. Bands selected to compete will each perform once on one of the three nights. Winners from each evening's rocking will advance to the final round, to be held Saturday, April 9, at which point they will fight to death, er, rock out for the right to be named the opening act at Middlebury College's annual Spring Concert. Middlebury's Student Activities Board has yet to announce this year's headliner, but it's a safe bet it will be kind of a big deal. Past performers have included the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Cake, Wyclef Jean and … Naughty By Nature? Really? Wow. Midd kids, apparently, are down with O.P.P.
If you, or your friend's band that is really-really-awesome-and-ohmigod-you've-just-gotta-hear-them would like to compete, applications can be submitted at middbattlebands.com. But hurry. Applications are due by Wednesday, February 2.
Perhaps you've noticed, but there was not a new edition of Seven Days stuffed into area newsstands this week. As we do each year, the last issue of 2010 was a double issue, covering both this week and last. (Though if you're jonesing for your "Free Will Astrology" fix, you can catch this week's forecast on the 7D site — the stars, of course, don't take vacations.)
Much to our collective chagrin here at "Vermont's Independent Voice," just because we stop working for ten days doesn't mean you folks stop making news. Or in the case of my particular bailiwick, music. So I would be remiss if I failed to bring to your attention Requited, the brilliant new record from Sara Grace & the Suits, which will be released this Saturday at Burlington's FlynnSpace. Enjoy. [DB]
Sara Grace & the Suits, Requited
Vermonters didn't have to wait long for a great local release in 2011. For years a well-kept secret of central VT music fans, Montpelier-based roots-soul collective Sara Grace & the Suits are set to unveil their hotly anticipated debut album, Requited. Richly orchestrated, imaginatively crafted and expertly executed, the record is a tour de force, revealing the explosive talents of a dynamic local songwriter and serving as a declaration that there may well be more than one Grace to watch for in the Green Mountains.
As its title suggests, Requited is a meditation on finding and then somehow keeping love. The lead track, "Angel," adresses the former with simmering intensity. Asa Brosius' steel lines lap against Ray Paczkowski's organ trills, while a gentle acoustic guitar bobs along in the eddying current. Grace is subdued but compelling as she introduces us to her title character.
"An angel fell from the sky and slipped me a key. / I know she's not mine, not meant for me," she sings, a barely perceptible quiver lacing her delivery. But the promise of love is that even amid despair there is hope. She closes the verse singing, "I need it all, so open the door," as if imploring the chorus of exultant horns that follows to deliver her from self-doubt.
After the ornate arrangements on both "Angel," and the following track, "The Tide," "Behind Shadows" feels bare by comparison. Though the song features a leaner assortment of players, it is nonetheless a deeply nuanced composition. In addition to her veteran backing band, the Suits, Grace has enlisted a wide assortment of guest stars — including vocalist Miriam Bernardo on the lead cut. Here, Anaïs Mitchell's uniquely skinny timbre provides a steely counter to Grace's rich, somber delivery.
Grace was an original cast member in the theatrical productions of Mitchell's folk opera "Hadestown," the star-studded studio recording of which catapulted Vermont's Righteous Babe to international acclaim. Not surprisingly, Grace seems to have taken a few cues from the experience. In particular, her ear for sly, subversive arrangement bears resemblance to that of the opera's aesthetic architect, Michael Chorney, who appears on the record numerous times on baritone sax. The multi-instrumentalist and composer rounds out an impressive horn section that also features trumpeter Brian Boyce, tenor saxophonist Terry Youk and trombone prodigy Andrew Moroz, who, with Grace, co-wrote the album's striking horn arrangements.
From start to finish, Grace proves a sturdy, if direct songwriter. But what sets her apart, what makes her special, is discipline. Rarely are her wounded musings overwrought, and rarely are her more joyful moments — fleeting though they may be — earnest or cloying. Similarly, though she is quite obviously capable of jaw-dropping vocal acrobatics, she is judicious in the deployment of her considerable ability. She teases and flirts, favoring measured cool over inflated histrionics. Of course, that tantalizing tension only makes the eventual release more satisfying, as on the scintillating album closer, "Woman Sweet Woman," which burns and bends with smoldering blues fire as Grace finally indulges her elite chops. Requited, indeed.
This just in from the good folks at Higher Ground: In celebration of the club's 12th anniversary, they've just announced the incomparable Lauryn Hill will play the Ballroom on Wednesday, December 15. And according to HG's Nick Vaden, she's bringing a 10-piece band. Dang. Tickets go on sale this Friday. And at $60 a pop, here's hoping there's Fugee or two involved … ahem.
In the meantime, here's a clip from Hill's "MTV Unplugged" appearance in 2002.