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Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women Heat Up The Talkhouse 7 12 09

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….

Danny Kalb Great Guitarist Performs At The Talkhouse in Amagansett, April 10, 2009

Danny Kalb used to be the lead guitarist with the Blues Project back in the 1960′s, with fellow prominent band member Al Kooper. Most of you today will know the band Blood Sweat & Tears, which Mr. Kooper formed after the Blues Project broke up. Mr. Kalb was not part of that band. Great show April 10, 2009; band members described, song by song laid out for you from that night.


Shinobi Ninja Rocks The Talkhouse July 1 2009

Shinobi Ninja! High energy, Baby Girl, D.A. rapping and rocking,
twin brothers Maniac Mike (guitar) and Terminator Dave (drums)
anchoring the band, six terrific musicians putting their
hearts and souls out there in Amagansett at Stephen Talkhouse
to start off the month of July 2009. Watch out for this band. They will make you shout and pout and be happy and wacky, bouncing off the walls, partying defiantly, leaping into a low ceiling somewhere in Brooklyn or Mumbai….


Rickie Lee Jones Performs Fantastically At the Talkhouse Summer 2008

Rickie Lee Jones, the ‘legend’ as it says on the plastic paste-on to her 2003 release
‘The Evening Of My Best Day,’ visited the Stephen Talkhouse for the first time on the
first full day of summer, June 21 2008. She used to be gay and cool, actually gave
herself the title ‘Duchess of Coolsville’ for her triple Rhino CD compilation, but this
nite she was very diva. Very strict. Someone talked in the front row and she commented on
it in the middle of one of her songs very acidly. That was in the middle of the show.
When she was at the piano playing a song she said she seldom does in concert ‘Pirates’ some
bobo’s cellphone went off several times in a row. She didn’t say anything because she
was too into singing lyrics like “I’m just tryin to have some fun/until the Pirates come/and
take me//and I won’t need a pilot/got a pirate who might sail/somewhere I heard far away/
you answer me/so I’m holding on/to your rainbow sleeves//well, goodbye boys, oh my buddy
boys/oh my sad-eyed Sinatras/it’s a a cold globe around the sea/you keep the shirt that I
bought ya/and I know you’ll get the chance to make it/and nothin’s gonna stop you/you just
reach out and take it/You say – So Long, Lonely Avenue/So Long, Lonely Avenue.”

(Rickie Lee probably loved and repeatedly listened to David ‘Fathead’ Newman’s great jazz
version of ‘Lonely Avenue’ released in 1972, of which its composer, Doc Pomus, said
“‘Lonely Avenue’ has been recorded many many times, but I can’t think of a version that
I find more satisfying.” ‘Pirates’ is actually the title cut of Ms. Jones’ 1981 Warner Bros.

Yes! The Duchess, the legend, expects to be treated appropriate to her talent, which is immense and amazing. Thaint no one on this Earth that can sing, or would sing like Rickie Lee. She can purr and raise her voice to the rafters and still hit every note. She does this continuous sustaining of her voice, especially near the end of songs, where other bands might be doing an electric guitar or maybe a flute solo. On one song she used the pocket and curve and flexion and opening of her right hand to change the flow of her vocal sounds to the microphone.

This was an experience of a lifetime to see where she has progressed to in the
performance and composition of her music. Especially sitting about nine feet away from
her, in the fantastic Talkhouse, where I’ve been lucky enough to see musicians from
Buddy Guy to Diblo Dibala to Jesse Colin Young to a super-hot Los Lobos one magic
night several years ago.

Ms. Jones’ music can be very jazzy, innocent, rocky (as in rock and roll), feminine,
slinky, sunny, funky, full of the grandeur of falling in love, or the pain of a life
lived for celebration, but sometimes falling into deep holes. She says in her latest
release (2006) liner notes that the inspiration for its songs came from a book
called ‘The Words’ by Lee Cantelon, which she states is “a modern rendering of the
words of Christ.” She did the song ‘Nobody Know My Name’ from that CD amidst a very
clean guitar framework, building and stalwart, around her incredible vocal. When
you heard a song start this night, the beat, the rhythm, the melody, might seem
one way, but then, when Rickie Lee came in…who knew it could go in this direction that
she was taking it. By the way, the CD, the latest one, is called ‘The Sermon On
Exposition Boulevard.’ Just checking it out actually, but all the vocals are

Rickie Lee was telling us that these last eight years have been terrible. She went to
say how you couldn’t write straight plain songs about the Bush administration’s
mal-doings because then you might not be able to get a job. But, with a devilish smile,
she revealed that she had created ‘Ugly Man,’ obviously about our current and
worst president evah. It’s a sort of jazzy sad tune, where she does mention his father.
It’s the first cut on her 2003 CD, by the way, where she also has a tune
called ‘Tell Somebody (Repeal The Patriot Act)’ so don’t think Rickie Lee has
gone totally inner and indulgent in her middle age.

And her guitar playing led the way, including a very unique wah-wah solo on a song
called ‘Scary Chinese Movie’ which sounded totally different from her recorded version,
and at least a thousand times more interesting and rocky and searing.

Seeing her in person again, and understanding the lyrics, allowed some songs to be
appreciated in a different way. Here, I would give you ‘The Horses’ as one example,
where she is singing about her daughter going through heroin problems, as she had,
but she can listen, hoping her daughter will talk to her about it all, and she’d
‘Pick You Up, Pick You Up, Pick You Up….if you fall.’ Of course, that verse is
what stands out when you listen to ‘The Horses.’ But, with different listenings
different words can be heard, as when we were present this night at the Talkhouse.
But basically she is trying to be there for her daughter and singing to us “Don’t
you worry ’bout a thing little girl/Because I was young myself not so long ago/
And when I was young/And when I was young, oh I was a wild, wild one.”
(‘The Horses’ is from a 1989 release ‘Flying Cowboys.’)

Rickie Lee sang one of her more haunting ballads, probably one every Rickie Lee
Jones fan loves: ‘The Last Chance Texaco’ off her 1979 self-titled first vinyl album.
It has California based/placed lyrics like “A long stretch of headlights/Bends into
I-9/Tiptoe into truck stops/And sleepy diesel eyes/Volcanoes rumble in the taxi/
And glow in the dark/Camels in the driver’s seat/A slow, easy mark…Well, he
tried to be Standard/He tried to be Mobil/He tried living in a World/And in a
Shell/There was this block-busted blonde/He lover her – - free parts and
labor/But she broke down and died/And threw all the rods he gave her/But
this one ain’t fuel-injected/Her plug’s disconnected/She gets scared and she
stalls/She just needs a man, that’s all.”

That was her solution back then, when she was young and bouncy and beautiful
and wild and crazy. Her audience has aged with her. It is always interesting to
see the crowd any performer draws into the Talkhouse. This one was semi-hippie,
not too many folk under 40, everyone very respectful, except for a few talkers that
Rickie reprimanded. But then they must’ve been a bit dipsy-doodled too, as the one
feller who called out in request “Play Last Chance Texaco” about five songs after
she had already done it. Many of us reminded him how out of it he was, though,
it should be said that most songs were performed in unusual styles and arrangements
as compared to their recorded, commonly expected versions.

For her first encore Rickie Lee happily did ‘Chuck E.’s In Love’ which was very
popular for her back in 1979. That was the very first cut on side one (vinyl albums
have two sides for you too young to know) of ‘Rickie Lee Jones.’ The lyrics are
very jivey, like: “He sure has acquired a cool and inspired sorta jazz when he
walk/Where’s his jacket and his old blue jeans?/If this ain’t healthy it is some kinda
clean?…I think that Chuck E.’s in love/Chuck E.’s in love/With the little girl who’s
singin’ this song….”

There’s a lot of joy and mischief and poetry in Ms. Jones’ music. Lately, add religion
to the mix, or maybe spirituality. She’s not had it easy with problems with cocaine and
heroin and who knows what else. But she still can sing and perform with the
best of our living musicians today. I am very grateful to have seen her again, in
still top form and irascible as she is. By the way, she did apologize to the audience
as she finally walked off the stage saying “I hope I didn’t scare you too much.”
Rickie Lee…Rickie Lee….