Monday, October 10, 2011
When Kings Barcade reopened last year in the fabled Martin Street upstairs space, the skeptics voiced concern over the spot's lack luster history as a rock venue, having opened and closed under three different names since 2004...but the wise voiced reason that Kings' ability to attract solid out of town headliners will be the difference that stops the name game for 14 West Martin Street. Tomorrow's line-up stands as evidence that the wise were right. Ex-Tulsa front man Carter Tanton tours through town in support of his first solo album Freeclouds which gives us plenty of reasons to make it out on a Tuesday night. Tanton's is a refreshingly talented voice and this performance will be a excellent option for the bar hopping acoustic singer-songwriter crowd who is ready for something more upbeat and original. Freeclouds possesses a David Gray softness with delicate and sophisticated instrumental refrains, but the powerful harmonies are the album's real show. The War on Drugs headline with their signature stripped-naked indy rock loosely covered by a fuzzy ambient blanket. --Carrboro Ninja
Per King's; admission is twelve dollars the day of the show, or ten dollars in advance. Doors are at 9:00 pm, show at 9:30. buy print-at-home tickets: etix
Saturday, October 8, 2011
The first couple tracks on Greg Humphreys People You May Know are a delightful journey to a long forgotten era when humor was as big a part of performance as was enjoyable rhythms and a comfortable voice. These songs look back to the smooth and steady bump and thump of acoustic bass, softly brushed drum kit, a tickling of the ivories and a sultry voice crooning into a ribbon microphone for a slowly waltzing room of flapper dresses and pin stripe suits. Humphreys succeeds in a very delicate and elegant style here. The album's lead off song "Only One of Me" is a classic finger snapping waltz possessing fun Christmas song-like cheer which is kept in check with a few quick witted one-liners. The devilish grin in his eyes is evident in the recording and it translates to an amused smile for the listener. And where the former is a devilish grin, the second track "Must Be the Moon" is an evil little wink. Humphreys cleverly orchestrates the ol' one-two as the song's helplessly romantic protagonist leads us away with a chorus singing "must be the moon," just to bring us back chuckling on the ending "...shine," ...an unexpected hilarity within the context of a golden age lost-in-love piece.
From here, Humphreys slowly evolves the album through the free love decades and into modern singer-songwriter territory. "Oo La La" (I Love You) is a shimmering tale of chance encounter resulting in sparks, long walks on the beach, and lots of "I love you's" all wrapped in the haze of a 60's pop ballad aesthetic. "Low and Meddlesome Sound" is the soulful telling of a deep South blues story, beginning with heartache, ending with pain, and recounting sins for all involved. One after another Humphreys leads us through the remainder of the album's softly spoken ballads, each heavily accentuated by experience and brought to life by his smokey voice. --Carrboro Ninja
The album can be streamed and purchased at the artist's Bandcamp page: greghumphreys.bandcamp
Greg Humphreys performing at The Cashbah in Durham on September 18th 2011.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
The Cave, Chapel Hill
Sept 29, 2011
As I walked down the middle of the dark and gritty ally that serves the seedy rear entrances to the four-hundred block of Franklin Street diners and pubs, I noted the mild weather. "Could have brought a jacket tonight." I thought. The heat had finally begun to lower the flag of Summer. It's foot soldiers just days before had gathered in force at every corner of Chapel Hill. Humid, cloaked in vapor, and standing steadfast, they peered over the tops of the tin covered flat roofed buildings skirting the length of Franklin Street and glared down upon the oppressed who traveled in groups from bar to bar quietly protesting the occupation with cut-offs and tank-tops. On this night however, the soldiers of the heat were in retreat and their grasp loosened. A soft breeze rustled the first fallen leaves across cool pavement under my feet was I walked. The streets were soon to be reclaimed and those who diligently maintained life and culture performing during the hottest of days on sweaty out door stages and sticky narrow rock clubs now celebrated out loud with smiles and new found energy. My night was spent with such folk, at The Cave in Chapel Hill where alt country songstress Anna Rose Beck gave redux of her July performance at a sweltering Nightlight and soulful Southern Rock young sons Jordan & the Sphinx emerged from shelter to pick up their smoldering guitars and perform a controlled burn on stage.
Jordan & the Sphinx embody blue collar rock and roll. This is a husband and wife fronted band and together they work hours which I doubt either have, or will ever, count. For seven days a week they punch out late from work only to wearily pick up guitars and punch out rock and roll even later. Playing shows, hosting shows, running sound at shows, going to shows... no matter how tired, they earn their life back after dark and revel with its creatures. At front, Jordan Dupree is a vastly underrated entity. The only thing better than the sweetly formed crunch of distortion from his Peavy tube amp is his deft and skilled maneuvers on his vintage six string. Thursday night's set however, was a stripped down acoustic and percussion performance. Jordan on the guitar, Robert Cantrell slapping the cajón, and Adrienne Christina was shaking a tambourine, laying down Motown-esque R&B harmonies, and for one killer moment....ripping hearts out with a harmonica. The sparse arrangements gave Jordan & the Sphinx opportunity to showcase their best instrument; Jordan. He is vocally set, no need to change a thing. Gravelly yet piercingly clear, commanding range yet happy staying close to home. His louds are soft and his softs are emotional. He is an eyes closed singer...its being drawn from within.
Up second was Anna Rose Beck who is both fun and mysterious to watch. Her arrival to the gigging circuit of the alt country Americana scenes Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh, NC was hastey. Her transition from a senior at Duke having just picked up guitar and plucking it sparingly at open mic, too head lining her own cd release party was the course of a short year and a half, time which consistently moved her forwarded and has resulted thus far in creation of a well known and appreciated brand. There is mystery to observe in Anna Rose Beck's lyrics also. Born in the twilight years of the decadent eighties, her cheeks still glow with girlish youth under the lights of the stage, but her lyrics sing of experiences matured well beyond her years. Mysterious also in her confidence. So comfortable in her approach to a microphone and so underscoring with her hushy middle soprano intensity that you will seek explanation for how one so fair can reach so far.
With youth in one hand and car keys in the other her approach to what ever is next is being sought with just as much fervor. West to Ashville, east to Greenville, and points as far south as Georga have been recent drives for solo appearances. Midway through the set Anna also made mention that she was flying out to Austin in the A.M.
Speaking of the devil...Thursday's eye opening headliner, Monarchs, is on tour out of Austin and breezed through with a fresh and exciting indie rock-a-billy meets vintage swing mash up sound that I fancied is probably what's cool in Austin right now...and if so then they are probably the band which made it that way. Monarchs is fronted by the magnetic Celeste Griffin, a working man's Jenny Lewis...just as talented but likely will work harder just to proove her salt in smaller clubs. This is not to say that Monarchs are a poor man's Rilo Kiley however, if they finish out this tour with the same dazzle and spark displayed Thursday night, then they could be moving onto that block...might be moving into that house.
This is how the streets were taken back from the Summer heat Thursday night. We emerged from The Cave to a vacant chill and walked freely through the darkness up Franklin Street to find the day's last toast. Victory was celebrated at The Station and the mercury was still dropping as we drifted homeward well after last call. --Carrboro Ninja
click to stream:
Monarchs "Arm's Length"
Jordan & the Sphinx "Too Bad, So Sad"
Anna Rose Beck "Begin to Sing"
Jordan & the Sphinx
Anna Rose Beck
faces in the crowd
Chris Jones (left) being his normal cool self with Slingshot Cash band mate Jon Ackley
The Tornado pumping cool outside air into The Cave
Anna Rose Beck violinist Omar Ruiz-Lopez poses with Christina Kestler (left) and Jessica Stein just minutes before midnight and his b-day which was observed at The Station after the show.