Archive for May, 2012

critic’s pick 230

On a dynamic new concert recording, the husband and wife team of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi have all but redefined the jam band fabric as we have come to know it over the past two decades. And they do so not by cultivating new, modernized means of improvisation but by tossing the whole genre headfirst into soul music tradition.

Everybody’s Talkin’ offers an extensive performance look at the Tedechi Trucks Band pieced together from shows last October in Toronto, Washington and Bridgeport, Conn.

Guitarist Trucks, not surprisingly, has a field day displaying his typically versed songbook of guitar influences – from the tasty slide grace of Duane Allman (founder of the Allman Brothers Band, which Trucks also serves in) peppered throughout the album to the frenzied variation on jazz giant Wes Montgomery’s rhythmic playing during the home stretch of  Nobody’s Free to a raga-like solo reminiscent of early ‘70s Carlos Santana that opens Midnight in Harlem. But the one doing the singing on Everybody’s Talkin’ is Mrs. Trucks.

Tedeschi long ago proved her might as a vocalist through recordings with her own band. But she has never sounded so grounded, assured and tireless as he does here. Her tone is husky, expressive and remarkably mature, which helps transform the blues classic Rollin’ and Tumblin’ into a brassy, roadhouse-worthy party tune that approximates rock pioneers like Ronnie Hawkins.

Representing a wholly different extreme is the album’s big curiosity, a lively update of John Sebastian’s Darling Be Home Soon. Here, Tedeschi’s vocals take a wonderfully torchy turn reminiscent of vintage Bonnie Raitt – that is, until Trucks takes over with a solo that recalls the winding turbulence of prog-rock guitar great Allan Holdsworth.

Though deceptively introverted in appearance onstage, Trucks plays with scholarly ingenuity throughout the album. During the 13 minute version of the band original Bound for Glory, Trucks works off of churchy organ runs and the band’s relaxed Southern shuffle to create a roaring slide guitar adventure that would do Brother Duane proud. And during Love Has Something to Say, Trucks’ beefy, wah-wah guitar lead proves a wonderful foil for Tedeschi’s vocal grind.

Amazingly, all this is but a fraction of the ground Everybody’s Talkin’ covers. The ensemble’s 11 players includes a full horn section, current Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge and a repertoire that moves from loose, Traffic-style flute jams to the full tilt gospel drive of the album-closing cover of Wade in the Water.

There a few excesses, to be sure, such as the obligatory bass and drums solos situated in the middle of the Stevie Wonder classic Uptight. Mostly, though, this blues-soul feast abounds with spicy, inventive dialogue where everybody is indeed talking. But, more importantly, everyone has something intriguing to say.

doc watson, 1923-2012

doc watson

 One of my favorite performance snapshots of the great Doc Watson, who died yesterday at the age of 89, stems back to a rainy September evening at English Park in Owensboro.

The year was 1993 and the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards, still in its infancy, was winding up a day long festival with a bill featuring Alison Krauss, Del McCoury, Mac Wiseman, Tim O’Brien, the Nashville Bluegrass Band and, right around the dinner hour, the brilliantly unassuming guitarist from Deep Gap, North Carolina born Arthel Lane Watson.

It was cold and damp in a way that only a mid-autumn evening could get. “You can roll around in the mud,” remarked Krauss to the audience. “Makes it more interesting than just getting wet.”

But for an hour, Watson spilled some glorious acoustic sunshine around the festival site, teaming at various points with such stellar instrumentalists as Stuart Duncan and beckoning other festival artists to join him for his finale of Mama Don’t Allow No Music.

Sure, the guitarwork – an effortless blend of pre-bluegrass country, mountain soul and unassuming flat and finger picking grace – was sublime. But like so much of Watson’s music over the years, it possessed an authenticity that was pure, unspoiled and powerfully inviting. While his playing so often reached into the realm of virtuosos, his stage demeanor never left the back porch.

“I’m humbly proud, yes sir,” Watson told me prior to a May 1995 performance at the Kentucky Theatre, referring to a musical career that was then stretching into its fourth decade. “Not the pedestal type proud. But thankful. Very thankful.”

Coming to national prominence during an early ‘60s folk boom, Watson’s life and career were also defined by the obstacles he overcame.

Left blind by an eye infection as an infant, he told me that his music and career would have taken an entirely different route had he retained his sight.

“It was meant to be the way it is,” he said. “If I could see, music would have just been a hobby.”

The death of son and performance partner Merle Watson proved a far greater hardship.

“Playing with Merle… oh God, that was so wonderful. To work with Merle on the stage was like playing with your second self.”

Watson leaves a mountain of extraordinary music behind him. Highly recommended are 1964’s Doc Watson, 1975’s Memories, 1983’s Doc and Merle Watson’s Guitar Album and the 1997 collaboration with mandolinist David Grisman Doc and Dawg.

“The good Lord gave me the talent. So I believe it was right for me to earn a living for my family with it. It’s something that I love.”

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in performance: alejandro escovedo

alejandro escovedo.

Slapping together The Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog with a comparatively recent original, Chelsea Hotel ’78, seemed like an unlikely move as Alejandro Escovedo’s performance last night at Headliners Music Hall in Louisville hit the half way point.

The former has been a favored cover tune by the Texas songsmith for as long as he has been playing in Kentucky (roughly 15 years). But last night he disengaged from the song’s plentiful power chords and recalibrated the tune with a slower, metal-esque swagger. That his vocals were purposely mutated by muddy distortion was a bonus. The latter tune, from the 2008 album Real Animal, became something of a guitar shredders’ paradise with new guitarist Billy White and Escovedo trading off scorched, fractured solos that cracked what had been a quite orderly rock show wide open.

“That pretty much sums up how we feel about rock ‘n’ roll,” Escovedo said after this 12 minute electric firestorm died down. No argument there.

Granted, Escovedo had a bigger agenda for evening – namely the introduction of five songs from his soon-to-released Big Station album. The new music revealed greater stylistic variety than any Escovedo recording since 2001’s A Man Under the Influence.

The show-opening Sally Was a Cop was a nicely textured guitar meditation, Man of the World was introduced as being influenced by Eddie Cochran (even though it sounded like Iggy Pop), Can’t Make Me Run fortified it’s Sonny Liston-inspired storyline with a Heathen-era David Bowie beat, San Antonio Rain let a tasty guitar disturbance rupture a neatly folkish façade and the encore of Sabor A Mi had Escovedo crooning in Spanish.

The only nods to pre-Real Animal material came with the expected crowd pleaser Castanets and a jacked up run through of Crooked Frame that put the newest lineup of Escovedo’s Sensitive Boys band – White, drummer Chris Searles and mainstay bassist Bobby Daniel – through the paces.

Some songs (Anchor, from 2010’s Street Songs of Love) possessed greater immediacy than others (an encore version of The Rolling Stones’ Beast Of Burden with show opener Jesse Malin that simply imploded). But that earlier medley, where Escovedo’s still-vital rock ‘n’ roll heart roared beside the spirit of The Stooges, more than justified the Sunday night road rip. It’s comforting to know that Escovedo, after all these years, still wants to be your dog.

Alejandro Escovedo performs again at 7 tonight with Joseph Arthur at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 East Main St. for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Admission is $10. Call (859) 252-8888.

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current listening 05/26/12

+ Grateful Dead: Dave’s Picks, Vol. 2 (2012/1974) – Sporting a leaner sound than usual thanks to the economical playing of drummer Bill Kreutzmann and keyboardist Keith Godchaux, this latest mail-order-only archival live release from 1974 showcases the Dead’s strengths (Jerry Garcia’s exquisite guitar improvs during I Know You Rider and Wharf Rat) and shortcomings (the paint-peeling singing of Donna Jean Godchaux). Then you have those great ensemble blasts, as on Jack Straw, where the Dead simply soar.

+ Doug Dillard: The Banjo Album (1994/1970) – The pop world mourned the deaths of Donna Summer and Robin Gibb last week. But behind the headlines was news of banjoist Doug Dillard’s passing. This 1994 reissue of Dillard’s aptly titled 1970 instrumental album serves as a brilliant intro (and postscript) to his playing. Backed by giants like John Hartford and Gene Clark, Dillard ran circles around bluegrass and old timey tunes. But Bells of St. Mary’s backed by harpsichord? That proved just how wily Dillard was.

+ Joe Cocker: Sheffield Steel (2002/1982) – Released 30 years ago today, Sheffield Steel took Cocker to Nassau for recording sessions with producer Chris Blackwell and the all-star reggae duo of drummer Sly Dunbar and bassist Robbie Shakespeare. What resulted wasn’t reggae, but a fascinating, groove-centric blend of rock, dub and soul. The medley of Bill Withers’ ominous Ruby Dee and the churchy Jimmy Cliff gem Many Rivers to Cross reveals how readily Cocker’s grizzled vocals took to the music and material.

+ Argent: All Together Now (2012/1972) – Funny how Argent’s most popular album was also the entry in its Epic Records catalogue that has been out-of-print the longest. The British label Esoteric finally resurrected it this spring. The radio hit Hold Your Head Up hardly sounds dated at all since its release 40 summers ago. More prog-directed extremes like the playful suite Fantasia and the anthemic I Am the Dance of Ages, less so. But the record remains a wonderful timepiece of proud, prog-ish pop and Argent’s finest hour.

+ Jeff Parker Trio: Bright Light in Winter (2012) – Parker is a true rarity among jazz guitarists. On this wonderfully atmospheric album, he offers nine tunes that stroll along with casual, emotive fire, coloring a traditional guitar/bass/drums trio with very subtle electronics and, on occasion, flute (courtesy of bassist Chris Lopes). In less industrious hands, such a formula would disintegrate into cosmic wallpaper music. But this is substantial jazz all the way that, despite the album title, casts an inviting, summery glow.

station man

alejandro escovedo.

 On his last two studio albums, Alejandro Escovedo saw a career that stretches back over 25 years grab the serious, lasting attention of the rock mainstream.

Admittedly, Kentucky audiences recognized the literate, emotive and stylistic depth of the Texas songsmith’s music as far back as the mid ‘90s through regular club appearances that were backed by such stellar albums as Gravity, Thirteen Years, With These Hands and the superb live collection More Miles Than Money. Escovedo’s songs possessed a folk artist’s gift for narrative and were often delivered in either a chamber-like acoustic setting draped by cello and violin or with a tirelessly electric rock ‘n’ roll heart that summoned the spirits of such greats as The Stooges, The MC5 and Mott the Hoople.

But it was with the more streamlined music on 2008’s Real Animal and 2010’s Street Songs of Love, that Escovedo – with the help of veteran producer Tony Visconti (of David Bowie and T. Rex fame) and acclaimed San Francisco pop stylist Chuck Prophet (who co-wrote much of the albums’ material) – that Escovedo tightened the electric grip of his songs, earning accolades from the likes The New York Times and Rolling Stone.

Of course, the loyal Kentucky following could take heart as the rest of the country took notice as Escovedo recorded Real Animal and Street Songs of Love in Lexington.

But for his new Big Station album, due for release on June 5, Escovedo wanted a change.

For starters, he and Prophet prepped for writing with some intense listening sessions. They soaked in music by The Clash (specifically, 1980’s Sandinista! Album), the New York rock troupe Suicide, the desert nomad ensemble Tinariwen, the Algerian singer/activist Rachid Taha and the veteran punk-soul band Mink DeVille. Then the songwriting went South – as in across the border. And a lot of what they saw wasn’t pretty. (all names cq)

“The album was really about looking outward at some of the things Chuck and I had seen together just as tourists in Mexico,” Escovedo said by phone last week. “It was about the way the media had kind of overwhelmed us in some cases, like being able to see 35 bodies dumped by the side of the road in Veracruz. You couldn’t help but be taken by the effect the cartels have had on the people. Those were the images we were faced with. The world has changed. That’s what we wanted to write about.”

One of the more absorbing snapshots from his travels emerges in a Big Station song called Sally Was a Cop. It depicts a Mexican girl loyal to her homeland to the point of having to defend it militarily.

“Even in a little tourist area like Cabo San Lucas, where people would surf around, the militia was quite present. We were very much aware that soldiers were around us at all times. Chuck was also really taken by the poverty we saw in Mexico. So we wrote this tune about a girl who wants to be part of her community and help her community but is put into a position of having to defend it against all the horrific things happening around her.”

This isn’t to say Big Station is all doom and despair. Among its highlights is San Antonio Rain, a warm, spacious sounding serenade to the city where Escovedo was born.

“Last year, we began to play in San Antonio again. It was wonderful to re-connect with my relatives and see so many old cousins, uncles and aunts. The song deals with the drought that hit Texas so hard, too. But it’s mostly about getting back to where you’re from. There was just something about that that was very special.”

There are some changes and holdovers within the team that made Big Station, too. Two longtime mates – drummer Hector Munoz and guitarist David Pulkingham – have been replaced by Chris Searles (who toured as Escovedo’s drummer after Gravity’s release in 1992) and Billy White (a one-time contributor to arena rocker Don Dokken’s solo projects who spent subsequent years learning to play flamenco guitar). Escovedo also chose to cut Big Station in Austin, but hinted he may return to Lexington to make his next record.

Visconti and Prophet remain team captains. The alliance with Prophet is especially intriguing, as Escovedo has only occasionally collaborated with other songwriters in the past.

“Part of Alejandro’s gift is that he is easy company,” Prophet said prior to his performance here at Cosmic Charlie’s earlier this month. “He has the ability to make you feel like you’ve known him your whole life. Of course, in my case, I actually have known him a long time.

“But when you’re songwriting with someone, you need to feel uninhibited. I think that’s what we bring out in each other. That’s where the good ideas come from because they’re unfiltered.”

“At the core of it all is friendship,” Escovedo said of writing with Prophet. “We have a real blast of a time just hanging out. I suppose we’re always trying to outdo each other in a real friendly way. But it just makes for a great creative process that is nothing but a pleasure.”

Alejandro Escovedo performs with Jesse Malin at Headliners Music Hall. 1386 Lexington Rd. in Louisville (8 p.m. May 27, $15) and with Joseph Arthur at the Kentucky Theatre, 214 East Main for the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour (7 p.m. May 28, $10). Contact (502) 584-8088/http://headlinerslouisville.com for the Louisville concert and (859) 252-8888/www.woodsongs.com for the WoodSongs performance.

critic’s pick 229

One has to wonder what was going through Paul McCartney’s mind as he was recording Ram, possibly the most homemade and low-fi recording to bear his name, as the winter of 1970 bled into1971.

With The Beatles gone for early a near, the most visible presence any of the Fab Four had on radio came not through McCartney, but from George Harrison’s sublime All Thing Must Pass. You almost have to surmise that the Beatle we today can call Sir Paul was fed up enough with pop stardom to retreat to “the wee hills of Scotland” with then-wife Linda to fashion a record of splintered but gloriously unadorned beauty.

How curious then that a new edition of Ram, the latest in a very gradual re-issue program of McCartney’s post-Beatles recordings, comes to us on the heels of a largely demo-style Harrison set aptly titled Early Takes, Volume 1. The artistic aims of the two artists were likely light years apart. Yet when listened to back-to-back, these albums abound with an appealing, though somewhat weary innocence. They possess music made by two mates that had seen the world and went in search of something less.

Early Takes isn’t going to take any prize for insight or generosity. It is poorly annotated, cheaply packaged and boasts a running time of less than 35 minutes. But then you slip on the music – all of which was unreleased until now – and that brilliant Harrison contentment, that soft-spoken mix of pop tradition and spiritual yearning, pours out in heartfelt demo versions of My Sweet Lord, Run of the Mill and All Things Must Pass’s title tune.

Not all of the music stays locked in the early ‘70s. A cover of the pop standard Let It Be Me delivered by a far more aged Harrison (again, no recording dates or info are provided) reveals how the Beatle continued to walk the tightrope between the spiritual and material worlds with unassuming grace.

Ram, in contrast, remains brash, electric and a whole lot of sloppy fun. There is hardly a tune here that, 41 summers after its initial release, makes complete sense, although a genuine pop poignancy emerges during the two Ram On interludes and the album-closing Back Seat of My Car.

But as rough-hewn as much of Ram seems, the still-wonderful Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey remains an elaborate pop creation that gives an obvious nod to Beatles producer George Martin. Essentially a cartoon brought to life, the tune is both bittersweet and cheery. It stands as lasting proof that the Beatles’ pop magic still thrived during the early ‘70s, even it was dispensed through a series of fractured, fascinating solo adventures.

heart of the heartless

heartless bastards: jesse ebagh, dave colvin, erika wennerstrom and mark nathan.

The inside artwork to Arrow, the newest set of earthy guitar rock meditations from Heartless Bastards, serves as a road map of sorts.

There are shots of stark, mountainous terrains presented with a dull, dusty tint. Across the skylines are scribbled bits of lyrics – lines like “the sky forms shadows all across the land” and “searching for a connection, I went in every direction.”

Match the muted imagery with the narrative sense of uncertain adventure and you at least have a starting point for the songs penned by band leader and founder Erika Wennerstrom– that, and a sense of rock urgency that offsets blasting guitar rituals with scorched, folkish reflection.

But on Arrow, the lyrical and musical thrust is a little more, well, pointed. If the band’s previous albums, including 2009’s sublime The Mountain consisted of rockish still lifes, Arrow places all of Wennerstrom’s fascinating imagery in motion.

Perhaps that’s because much of the lyrical inspiration on the new album came from two solo road trips the singer embarked on between recording sessions. One took her through Kentucky and the Cincinnati/Dayton region she grew up in to the Catskill Mountains. The other sent her in the opposite direction to the heart of West Texas.

“For every song I’ve written, the ideas for music come first,” Wennerstrom said. “It starts with a melody that will just appear in my head. But I tend to have a lot of writer’s block when I try to express myself within words, so lyrics become the big challenge. I had ideas for all of these songs, almost every one we put on the album, but was having a lot of difficulty putting my thoughts into words. So I got into my car.

“First, I took a trip to the East Coast and wound up at All Tomorrow’s Parties in the Catskills. I saw some friends here and there, but I would take several days and just go somewhere by myself and try to focus. That helped inspire a lot of the subject matter. I already knew what I wanted to say. It was just figuring out a way to say it.”

The muse was no less profound when she journeyed west from her current Austin, Tx. digs.

“The trip to West Texas was a huge inspiration, as well. I have a friend who has a ranch by the Davis Mountains. You can’t see any other houses or anything anywhere else from there. You’re just walking along this golden desert grass. That was really inspiring for writing songs on the new album like Parted Ways and The Arrow Killed the Beast.

One of the Arrow songs that perhaps best depicts a world removed from the mainstream yet still very much in motion is the album-opening Marathon. While the chiming guitar intro and relaxed vocal moan combine for an almost campfire feel (or at least the rock ‘n’ roll equivalent of one), the lyrics trace a race run within a cosmopolitan cityscape. Then comes the payoff – the line that suggests the city and country limits depicted in the storyline are all part of the same distressed world: “We’re all racing for own reasons.”

Marathon was supposed to be on the last album,” Wennerstrom said. “We had to leave it off because we just ran out of time. I remember being disappointed about that. But at the time, the song hadn’t really gotten to where I wanted it. Getting to play it repeatedly since then as a band helped the song evolve. It became a kind of blessing that we got to start Arrow where we left off with The Mountain.

Creating much of the rest of Arrow on her own and on the road also underscores a perhaps unexpected aspect of Wennerstrom’s life as a transplanted Ohio native now residing in one of the country’s most musically lauded cities.

“I feel what I am as a songwriter is this accumulation of experiences and influences taken from my whole life. I’m sure the present songs I write are influenced in a lot of ways by my present home. But I don’t know if living in Austin has specifically changed the direction of how I approach songwriting.

“Now, I definitely find it inspiring to live down here. There is always so much music going on. But when I see a great show, I don’t specifically aim to go out and sound like that particular artist. I’ve had so many sounds and influences around me for a long time. I always feel like I’m exploring something different.”

Heartless Bastards play at 9 p.m. May 23 at Cosmic Charlie’s, 388 Woodland Ave. Tickets are $14. Call (859) 309-9499 or go to http://cosmic-charlies.com. The band will also perform a free in-store set at 6 p.m. May 23 at CD Central, 377 South Limestone Street. Call (859) 233-3472 or go to www.cdcentralmusic.com.

in performance: jeb bishop/tim daisy duo

jeb bishop.

It began with the ring of a hand held cymbal, a solitary tone one might associate with a spiritual ceremony. While one could find a contemplative, though complex aura in the sounds that followed, this greeting served as a lone preamble to a novel musical conversation – one devoted almost exclusively to trombone and percussion.

Piloting this latest presentation of the Outside the Spotlight Series last night at the new Mecca studio on Manchester St. were Chicago improvisers Jeb Bishop and Tim Daisy. Both are veterans of numerous OTS ensemble performances over the past decade. But this hour-long performance – the first concert on a five city tour – dispensed with all other band support and had the players conversing on their own over the course of two extended, untitled improvisational pieces.

The first largely left trombonist Bishop in the driver’s seat to create shards of bop and blues (among many other stylistic fragments) that flirted with melodies as the music gradually built to a boil. Bishop also briefly broke away from trombone to color the piece with the deeper tone of a 19th century baritone horn – a concise variation of the euphonium with an even brighter sound. 

tim daisy

Drummer Daisy busily stirred the pot under the brass with fluid rumbles of rhythm punctuated by the occasional percussive crack that kept the music from becoming even remotely passive. While grooves occasionally surfaced in his playing, Daisy’s propulsive drive didn’t call attention to itself. Instead, he moved the piece with gradual but strikingly textured invention.

The second improv sent the music – initially, at least – into space. Bishop used a hand held electronic device to creative coarser, theramin-like soundscapes. Daisy responded with jagged effects created by chains, gongs, brushes and cymbals placed on drum heads. Once Bishop returned to trombone, the music formed more circular rhythmic patterns briefly held in place by Daisy’s hand slaps on the hi-hat.

Asserting the complete nature of the performance, both improvs quietly deflated upon completion, diminishing to a solemn hush that brought the interplay – and the audience – safely back home.

conversing with trombone and drums

tim daisy.

The instruments begin as distant members of a single, brewing conversation.

On one side, we hear studied but melodic phrasings on trombone proceeding in a manner both contemplative and funereal.

To its opposite is the chatter of cymbals. The percussive rattling is lighter in tone, but more tense and textured in design. The sound seems eager to engage.

And engage they do, first through subtle sweeps that suggest swing and blues and later through a pronounced, lyrical groove. After 12 minutes, the discussion ends as the instruments disengage from one another to make unassuming, separate exits.

Such is the course Jeb Bishop and Tim Daisy, two of the finer stylists to emerge out of a fertile Chicago improvisatory music scene over the past two decades, follow on House Sounds. The makeshift tune is one of the intriguing dialogues from the duo’s new album Old Shoulders.

Bishop and Daisy are longtime pals and frequent bandmates. On Lexington turf alone, they have performed for the Outside the Spotlight Series in the free jazz-based ensembles Engines and The Vandermark 5. But those are fully armed groups (or, at least they were; The Vandermark 5 has disbanded). When Bishop and Daisy return for an OTS performance tonight at the new Mecca studio on Manchester, they will have only each other’s intuition, musical cunning and technical chops to work off of.  

jeb bishop.

That’s right. The performance will feature only trombone and drums. It’s a combination so unlikely that even these two practiced improvisers were hard pressed to name another duo with the same musical make-up.

“It’s certainly not a common instrumentation to find,” admitted trombonist Bishop. “But this kind of a duo offers me complete liberty to go anywhere I want to go. And with Tim, I know that means we can cover a lot of ground and all kinds of grooves and rhythms as well as a lot of territory that doesn’t fall into a regular groove – territory where the music becomes a more textural thing.”

“This might sound a bit odd, but in a trombone/drum duo, the actual sound brings me back to a more trad jazz kind-of-space,” added drummer/percussionist Daisy, who has been a mainstay member of nearly a dozen different ensembles that have played OTS concerts in Lexington over the past decade. “When I’m thinking trombone, I’m thinking traditional. What is interesting about that is I’m not a traditional jazz drummer in any sense of the term. I love that vocabulary, but that’s not who I am as a player. But to have that kind of traditional sound floating around in my head really informs my free playing. It puts me in a different space.”

Forming a trombone/drums duo was an idea that presented itself once Daisy was approached in 2010 by a Chicago website, coachhousesonds.com. The site invites local and touring bands to record an impromptu session in their home studio for posting online ahead of their live Chicago-area performance.

“The idea is that the artists come in, set up and play as if they were performing a concert,” Bishop said. “But the audience is basically just the guys setting up the session.”

“Once they contacted me, I knew what I wanted to do. Jeb and I had worked together in so many different ensembles, but never did anything that was just the two of us. So we did a recording at the Coach House.”

Two years and some modest post production touches later, the Coach House session is getting a limited release as Old Shoulders. Ironically, the record is surfacing just as Bishop is making plans to relocate from Chicago to his native North Carolina, where his wife has accepted a job.

“Without going into details, it’s a very good move for her,” Bishop said. “That’s going to mean some changes in my working methods. But I still have some commitments for projects here in Chicago that will keep me going back and forth for awhile.”

“The thing that strikes me so much about working with Jeb is his versatility,” Daisy said. “He is comfortable soloing over my most low dynamic, textural playing. But he is also super comfortable playing really loud, in-your-face free jazz. And if I go into a groove, he is comfortable with that, too.

Does that mean tonight’s duo performance could delve into any or all of these areas?

Daisy’s reply was as concise as his playing is expansive: “Let’s hope so.”

Jeb Bishop and Tim Daisy perform at 7 p.m. May 18 at Mecca Dance Studio, 948 Manchester St. Admission is $5. Call (859) 536-5568.

in performance: chuck prophet and the mission express

chuck prophet.

Among the topics up for discussion at last night’s splendidly soulful performance by Chuck Prophet at Cosmic Charlie’s dealt with what could best be described as emotive day planning (well, technically, evening planning). It posed this question: Of all the weeknights, which is the saddest? Prophet quickly whittled the possibilities down to Tuesday or Wednesday.

“A lot of people who come out on Tuesday still think it’s the weekend,” he remarked. But those who brave the night life on Wednesday, he added, already have the following weekend on their minds. Such reasoning seemed conveniently diplomatic. But the crowd on hand seemed to show little concern that this very potent rock show fell on a school night. From the moment the 1 ¾ hour performance commenced with the bountiful riffs and dual guitar colors of Storm Across the Sea, the audience bought in fully to a show Prophet later summarized as a “poetry reading.”

Really, poetry? Granted, Prophet writes literate, emotive songs rich on narrative detail and vivid characterizations. That was abundantly clear within the material he offered from his new Temple Beautiful. The concert featured 8 of the album’s 12 tunes, including a sibling saga of murder and forgiveness, The Left Hand and the Right Hand, and an engaging San Francisco scrapbook remembrance, Willie Mays is Up At Bat.

But there were also instances where Prophet’s keen rock ‘n’ roll instincts took over the Temple tunes, as in the punkish howl that served as a coda to White Night, Big City, the brilliant power pop charge that ignited Castro Halloween and the Byrds-like Americana drive of I Felt Like Jesus.

And on Temple Beautiful’s ultra-fun title tune, lyrics and mood became one. After all, how much more of narrative arc does a song need when it chorus boasts such affirmations as “shooby dooby bop bop.”

The rest of the performance boasted a few surprises, specifically Look Both Ways (from Prophet’s 1990 solo debut album Brother Aldo) and a pair of very playful encore covers – a hullabaloo version of the Flamin’ Groovies’ Shake Some Action and the surf classic Pipeline.

But the highlight was the set-closing You Did. The pop parable let Prophet stretch out on guitar, creating long shards of vintage Neil Young-style grit after the lyrics dispensed more of his expert rock and soul semantics: “Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?”

Now that’s poetry.

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