Drink The Wine
Sample several varieties of singer/songwriters, and guzzle a glass of premium jazz.
Thursday, October 19, 2000
what''s up, chuck?
While the rock environment struggles locally, and blues offerings have generally lapsed into a comfortable repertoire of performers, the singer/songwriter scene remains strong. Probably the biggest reason for that is obvious: It''s a lot cheaper to pay for a guy/gal with a guitar who can plug into a basic sound system than it is to shell out bigger bucks for a full band. That means a promoter doesn''t have to draw as big a crowd, charge a huge cover fee, or sell a lot of drinks to cover their nut. That''s good for those of us who are fond of more intimate forms of music.
The bad thing is that there can be a numbing similarity to the music. It''s all too easy to get cynical about the parade of performers who are sincerely pouring their souls into their music. But, like discriminating between different varieties of wine, taking the time to appreciate the differences is what makes the listening worthwhile.
Take this week for example...
Bob Norman makes an annual pilgrimage to California from his digs back on the East Coast, and this year, he''s touring in support of his newest CD, Love, Lust and Lilacs. Norman''s a dyed-in-the-wool folkie with a pedigree that includes a seven-year stint in the ''70s as the editor of Sing Out!, one of the leading magazines covering the folk music scene in this country. We''re talking about a guy who''s approach to the music is as intellectually informed as it is emotionally propelled. So it''s not surprising to hear a ghostly host of influences in his music.
It almost goes without saying that the music of today''s folksingers owe a debt to Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. So let''s not say the obvious about Norman''s LLL. What''s more interesting is to hear the other influences--the things that make Norman''s variety of folk taste different than the other red wines...er...sound different from the other musics...in the category. In a couple offerings, there''s a taste of high-lonesome Jimmie Rodgers (sans yodelling) harmonica that''s a little less obvious in today''s music and, even more interesting, there''s also a touch of Phil Ochs on "Land of the Winds." It''s not that Norman has the soaring voice of that sad, doomed singer, but there''s an almost ethereal willingness to rely on that emotionality to carry the poetry of the song.
But Norman sounds more comfortable on songs like "Lady With the Lilacs," that evoke something of the sound of early Jimmy Buffett (you remember, before he became a parrots-and-rum parody of himself) or, on "The Long Road to Lawrenceville" and "The Camera Doesn''t Lie" (a duet with Linda LoPresti) the easy, almost singalong quality of a Jerry Jeff Walker.
In fact, picking the influences on the Love, Lust and Lilacs may be its biggest charm. There''s nothing groundbreaking here but it''s an interesting combination of sounds and styles.
Bob Norman, Saturday, 7pm. Henry Miller Library, Highway 1, Big Sur. $8. 667-2574.
On the country side of things, Adie Grey delivers an intimate sound that''s powered by bluegrass. Despite the fact that she''s traveling down a well-worn path, there''s still an intimate quality to her music that makes it distinctively her own.
Prior to moving to Nashville and embarking on a solo career in 1989, Grey was a backup singer (with Vonda "Ally McBeal" Shepard, David Olney, Jo-El Sonnier and others) in Los Angeles, so she had a pretty good idea what she wanted out of her music before she headed down the country road to Nashville. The way Grey''s music has evolved, she has a style that''s somehow reminiscent of Allison Krauss'', teetering on the brink of crossing over into something more mainstream than bluegrass.
Most of the songs on Grey''s most recent album, Grandpa''s Advice, were co-written with Dave McKenzie, who will also be performing at Tuesday''s gig.
Adie Grey/Dave McKenzie, Tuesday, 7pm. Christian Church, 442 Central, Pacific Grove. $15. 372-0363.
Santa Cruz singer/songwriter Keith Greeninger and his band, Water, are no strangers to the Monterey area. Greeninger and band are performing as part of the benefit series to save the Fox Theater in Salinas.
Keith Greeninger, Saturday, 7pm. Fox Theater, 239 Main, Salinas. $15. 444-6320.
There are some musicians where you don''t even try to explain their music. You just list their accomplishments and let the facts speak for themselves. Vibraphonist Terry Gibbs is one of those.
We''re talking about a guy who''s been performing for more than 50 years, who has recorded 65 albums and who has written more than 300 compositions that have been recorded by a sky-full of stars (including Nat King Cole, Les Brown, Cannonball Adderly, Count Basie...)
Hell, in 1997, the city of Los Angeles set aside a "Terry Gibbs Day" to honor Gibbs'' contributions both to the city and the music industry. What more can I add?
Terry Gibbs & The Swing Fever Band, Saturday, 7:30pm. Jazz & Blues Company, Carmel. $50, $40. 624-6431.