Sunday, November 7, 2010

Orbiting Utah's Acoustic Music Scene at Songwriters In The Round

How do you top off a close-to-spectacular week?   With a song or two or six or so.  I arrived early at Intermountain Acoustic Music Association's "Songwriters In The Round" to save seats near the front for a couple friends who were meeting me.  Yes, if you bring the wine and cheese, I'll save seats for you, too. While I waited, I perused the IAMA newsletter, which was chock full of November's concerts, CD releases, and music jams.

Paul Boruff's "Sir Eric and the Dragon," opened the first set and extended the creepy, haunting season yet another week.  (Note: They're still selling chocolate covered pumpkin flavored marshmallow Peeps at the grocery, so Halloween ain't over yet.  I'd sure be interested to know if anyone gets cravings for those.)  The chorus made me shiver:

He said, "Let me protect you from Ghoulies and Ghosties
Long legged beasties and things that go bump in the night.
Boruff asked the audience if anyone had a dog named Max.  My grandma used to call my dog Max, even though his name was Mac.  The sentimental lyrics were a dog-lover's treasure trove.  The words pierced me as I thought of Mac, who left for the Rainbow Bridge in March.  

Look at the dog, lyin' by the fire
Crazy dog, sleeping by the fire
What is he good for?
He's good for chasing sheep in his sleep, 
Late at night when the stars are shining bright
In the morning he shares my coffee with me 
And we go hiking to see what we'll see
And late at night when it starts to freeze, 
I bring him in from the cold ...

On his website, Boruff mentions Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, and others -- including his father -- in his list of influences.  He sang Marty Robbins' "The Red Hills of Utah" and sounded reasonably just like Robbins, but at other points in his performance, I kept hearing Peter Yarrow from Peter, Paul, and Mary.  Bottom line: Boruff was versatile, to say the least.
Jen Hajj and Utah Slim epitomized a deliberate blend of poetry and harmony.  Jen's soprano voice and classical background are now channeled to Utah Slim's "desert rat" poetry.  Utah Slim's cowboyish yodel and their exceptional harmonizations about the Colorado Plateau were stirring.  Slim and Jen painted pictures of red rocks, blue skies, and hawks in "Yearning," and "Colorado Plateau."   A new camera is on my most wanted list but even such won't help if I'm so enchanted by the performance that I forget to take a photo or happen to have someone's head directly in front of me.  My apologies. Jen's voice is unbelievable and their beautiful folk poetry harmonies are not to be missed.

Songstress Alicia McGovern introduced herself to me before the show.  I'd missed her CD release party because I was at the Marcos de Niza HS reunion in Arizona.  Down-to-earth, friendly Alicia made sure I was signed up on her mailing list.  We chatted about her songwriting approach and her upcoming concerts and events.  Unassuming, it was only when she was introduced that I learned she'd placed in the Tucson Folk Festival Songwriting Contest.  Tucson, yet another place I've lived.
"I'll Keep Trying" was a reminder of unfinished business:  "In my dream, I am the fiddle I never learned to play."  After a few dozen Celtic rock or bluegrass concerts, who doesn't want to learn to play the fiddle?  "So Many Songs" reminded me of an Appalachian ballad ... "all the songs still to be sung on the days and nights to come."  "You Ran Off With the Gypsies" was Alicia's poetic explanation of how she and her twin wandered to places far from home.
Opening the second set, Karsyn Robb's stage presence, confidence, and musical ability didn't hint that she'll be getting her drivers license for the first time next week.  Yes, 15 and performing since age three, Karsyn has a musical resume that reads like someone at least twice her age.  On my way out, I picked up one of her business cards, which has links to her three websites.  Naturally, when you're looking forward to birthdays, you sing about them.  "16 Changes Things," was the first song in Karsyn's lineup.  Someone in the audience shouted that 21 would change things even more.  She continued with "Drive Me Away" and teenage thoughts about life's challenges with "That's Just Life."  Karsyn has a crystal voice, one of the most passionate guitar strums I've ever seen, and a long musical runway. 

"Right as the Rain," was Shaney McCoy's contrast of the magical fairy tale romance and every day lovers looking for the sun during a rainstorm.  After she sang "Scars," my friend and I said to each other, "did that remind you of ...?" with tears in our eyes.  They were the cute, happy couple when I met them several years back.  But then ... he bolted in favor of a steady diet of  No, it's not my story, in case you were wondering.  Healing from a love relationship gone askew is far different from moving on after casual dating.  You can see the scars on her soul, probably questioning herself even though she's plenty beautiful inside and out.  Shaney's words echoed that thought ... "Our faces and our bodies are our storybooks."  If it's possible to feel the pain and take it from someone, we did at least for an emotionally draining moment.  I wish her peace, sensitive and loving friends, and, when she's ready, a man with whom she kind find true happiness.

Shaney, who's releasing a CD on November 15th in Salt Lake City, has a Mary Chapin Carpenteresque, bluesy feel about her music.  "Stop It Some More" is a banter of male-female dynamics which she sang with flirtatious posturing.

Don’t look at me like that, don’t talk that way
Don’t make me believe you’re gonna stay
I know you’re not for real, just hit the door
Don’t make my heart beat oh so fast
Don’t hold me so tight I think it’ll last
Just stop it – stop it some more

Lowell Blue wore a new, dark brown hat.  A 30+ year veteran on the music scene, Blue pointed out he's offering FREE downloads of his entire CD on his website for a limited time.  In his clear, deep, Johnny Cash-like voice, he sang but a tiny fraction of his rock-bluegrass-country repertoire.  "Take It Down" about circumstances and relationships that were never meant to last.  "I Got Something in My Eye," captured the fragile nature of love with an analogy to butterfly wings in the wind.  While the other artists were self-professed songwriters, Blue admitted he was a song stealer.  Richard Thompson's "Red Molly" includes suitor James' disclaimer that he's a dangerous man.  So considerate to make such disclosures before the relationship, even if it's with a motorcycle, goes to the next level.

From a musical perspective, the evening was exceptional and colorful.  The pieces were varied and the flow from musician to musician was seamless.  As is oft the case, the lyrics spoke to me profoundly.  And the musicians, who sang but three songs each, left me hungry for more.  All of them are a great tribute to the burgeoning Utah music scene.

One has to wonder how $5 per person value pricing for admission is paying the bills.  As we sauntered out towards our cars, we chatted about the "Ah-Zee-Mah-Oh" sing-along at a recent Michael Meade ("Fate and Destiny: The Two Agreements of the Soul") lecture and an upcoming house concert.  We quickly devoured the Cadbury peppermint chocolate I'd forgotten to serve because I was so enthralled by the concert, and yes, just because ... .  {la la la la la la}

Disclosure: Admission price for this event was $5. I received NO compensation for this review.

No comments:

Post a Comment