Well, I was surprised when the six woman band accompanying Dave Alvin came out on the stage. What a hot night it was. Dave Alvin is one of the great guitarists of the world. His last appearance at Stephen Talkhouse had him on the electric guitar for the whole show with the Guilty Men. He was more sober, and less acoustic. This time his cast led him in a different direction. There were four and five part harmonies in songs like ‘Downey Girl’ and fiddle solos by Laurie Lewis and Amy Farris; hot lap steel guitar solos by the beautiful Cindy Cashdollar; super-steady drumming by Lisa Pankratz (who looked like Diego Rivera’s wife (twice married – to each other) Frida Kahlo with that flower in her hair off to the left side), and Sarah Brown in the middle of it all holding it together on the bass. Oh, and then there is Dave’s childhood sweatheart Christy McWilson on the lead vocals of songs like ‘Weight of the World’ and ‘Potter’s Field’ – the latter having mucho four and five part harmonies as the ladies sang the chorus ‘Bury Me in Potter’s Field’. A bit morbid, but you gotta go anyway and sometimes we do think about it and Christy wrote this song and it’s on the new CD. Apparently this group was assembled in only 2008 for a San Francisco bluegrass festival, and now they are on the road tearing it up.
For the entire show proper, Dave played acoustic guitar, and the band was showcased to great pleasure. Then for the demanded encore(s) Dave strapped on his electric instrument and wowed us all out in Amagansett, especially with the last tune that ‘tells us everything that we have to know about life…a tune written by….?Doris Day?’ Yeah. Don’t know if my mother would have adequately appreciated undoubtedly the hottest version of ‘Que Sera Sera’ ever performed. Maybe 8 or 9 minutes with everybody cookin’ but especially Mr. Alvin blasting thru it, flying and penetrating the tune’s essence and rocking beyond anything else done last night. That peaked off the night.
P.S. I picked up a Laurie Lewis CD called ‘Earth and Sky’ that is stupendous. Mostly bluegrass. Just about every song is terrific. She hails out of Berkeley, California. Downey is where Dave is from. He and his brother formed the Blasters out of Downey. Which is just down dee road from Whittier, where Christy McWilson hails from (also shamed ex-President Richard Nixon). These are towns in the San Bernadino valley west of Los Angeles. Where all the smog collects when the ocean breezes blow it from the freeways and city, toward the trapping mountains….
P.T. Walkley and his band were a magical surprise show at the Stephen Talkhouse
last Saturday, June 6, 2009. P.T., a rather experienced songsmith and singer, with
terrific phrasing skills and a great lyricist – – with the words not flowing quite as
expected they would – – proved that going out to the Talkhouse, after missing Reel Karma a few nights before, still made for a wonderfully inspiring evening. Many of the tunes were short and sweet. The tang and beauty of the melodies linger still, especially the guitars as they faded away in the super short pieces: Lizzy Lee Vincent (no relation to Gene ???) from Birmingham (Burmingumm) UK
was the man in the black tie and gray shirt on the lead, and P.T. did his overall choreographing/trumming and plucking and driving songs from beginning to end. Mike Nolan was loverly in his little hat on the pedal steel, especially on the last few songs. But the star for me for joie de vivre, energy, and expertise was the vibrant, wild, sometimes manic, fiddler Earl Maneein. He had a brimmed Mao Tse Tung kine of green hat and stomped his brisk feet whether he was firing thru
a song or stomping about the extablishment. Absolutely loved him and his contribution to the music. The Brothers Kulund, Nicky (drums) and David (bass) bottomed up the rhythm section with fire, constancy and pizzazz. Marc Trachtenberg played pretty extemperaneous fitting piano
noteage thru each tune upon which he tickled his keys – – he also contributed to the vocals.
How about this for an example of Walkley’s lyrics: from ‘Comin Over’ with the great last line >
Biding my time/One glass, I’m passing through/Waving goodbye while whispering I love you/I think about you/I think without you I’d be blue/Is it coming over you/Wake me when my dream comes true…..
Yes, P.T. is a very romantic fellow. In fact, his tall slim beautiful wife Michel sings in the band and plays the tambourine. Many of the tunes are actually rather Beatle-esque. Though without a doubt in my mind, the hottest song done by the band that night was ‘Four Cheers.’ Apparently, this song was originally done with/by P.T.’s former band the Blue Jackets. There is a video of
it available on the internet via YouTube, but it pales in comparison to how they all did it live at the Talkhouse toward the end of the show (after a ‘Suicide..’ David Bowie cover that was mildly fair). Lizzy Lee played some really hot licks to begin the tune, his loose tie ahangin’ over the guitar neck, then the band came in, and they cooked. My advice to P.T. is: record your current members doing this song either live or in the studio and release it! If it comes out close to how you sounded on June 6, 2009, maybe you will have yourselves a beeeeeg hit!?!
The two songs ‘Mediocre’ and ‘To Be Somebody’ were interesting to end the CD ‘Mr Macy wakes alone’ and similarly in concert…but not the ideal subjects for music to play over and over again.
P.T. Walkley has a very very bright future. He and his band sound great in person. Go out and see hem whenever they come to your town. They/he may likely become a familiar and popular ame/phrase/buzzword in American culture in the years ahead.