Monday, January 12, 2009

Songwriter's Open Mic with John Saylor

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The Cave, Chapel Hill
January 6, 2009

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One of the best kept secrets of folk and roots music in town happens the first Tuesday of every month at The Cave in Chapel Hill. With jangly acoustic guitars and a mixed-bag round-about of folk singers and their sorted influences, each month on this night The Cave plays host to a celebration of it's own roots at the songwriter's open mic.

Special not only because folk musicians are stepping onto a stage three songs at a time in a bar that has been baked into the history of the American folk music movement since the sixties, but also for the melange of styles played and stories told. Seldom will you see so many heart felt performances by such a varied cast of musicians in one night.

On Tuesday January 6 with my guitar in one hand and a camera in the other, I went to The Cave to sing my three songs and take pictures of everyone else's. Here is a quick run-up of the night.

John Fallon
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John has a poppy cadence to his songs. His smooth Irish dialect is wrapped in tight bouncy chord progressions. Its performances such as John's that deliver a melange of style and influence to the show. Every performance is different and intriguing and John's brings that concept home.

Ken Cleary
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Ken's set was the essence of roots folk music. He sang about his life. He sang how it was, how it is now and the mixed emotions that come with it. His cautionary tale of himself as a younger man discarding good advice in favor of hubris is a look into a mirror.

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Yes, that's a kilt. I left shortly after midnight and regrettably missed this gentleman's performance. Hopefully next time.

Blind Walter Titmous & Brooooose
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Blind Walter's voice and songs struck me as a cross between Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash. Gently plucking his acoustic with Brooooose backing on bass, Blind Walter's set was blues drenched and deep. Brooooose took the mic after backing Blind Walter for a set. Brooooose's voice reminded me of Neil Young. He is a white bearded fellow but his voice is ageless.

John Saylor
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John Saylor hosts the event and brought forth his posse to include Blind Walter, Brooooose, and Pete to sing a whimsical but talent soaked song. It's John's willingness to do more for others than he does for himself that makes this one of the most successful and meaningful open-mic events anywhere. Thank you John!

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Rua fronts Raleigh band Last Night in Glasgow, a three piece electronic indie pop band whom recently formed and is planning their first appearances. Last Night in Glasgow has a Morrissey essence but Ruas acoustic set reminded me of Billy Corgan and perhaps Art Alexakis.

Daniel Sean
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Daniel plays a gorgeous Martin D-48 and it sounded as good as it looks. I could hear Dave Matthews and Jack Johnson influences.

Steph Stewart
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With raspy twang and soul-filled delivery, Steph's voice holds a rustic and old-fashioned coal-miner's daughter authenticity. I can't help but draw a Tift Merritt or Lucinda Williams-like comparison.

Clare Means
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Clare stunned us all with a beautiful voice and expert finger style guitar picking. I should have known when I saw the CBGB sticker on her guitar case that we were in for a surprise. Clare, my favorite track on your CD is "Haunt You" and it's been spinning in my car CD player for a week. Nice song!

Jack E. Bananas
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Jack's songs were long on retrospective and and sang over soothing and somber guitar chords.

View a slideshow of the entire night including opening act Anis Hoffman below.


  1. Great post! John Saylor's Open Mike night doesnt get nearly enough credit.

  2. Dear Jeremy from Effingtropolis
    Thank You for Documenting this lovely Remembrance of the show that was in fact the 100th Monthliversary of the
    "First Tuesday of the Month Songwriter's Open Mic with johnsaylor"

    "First Tuesday of The Month Songwriter's Open Mic-
    Always Different, Frequently Delightful" tm