The last review I wrote was back in December 2016. Since then I’ve seen many concerts but haven’t written them up. Why? I’m not sure. Continuing depression since the November election and the then upcoming inauguration? Probably. Difficulty sitting and writing – that constant nagging voice that what I write is never good enough? Probably. The feeling that all I was doing was going through the motions and just transcribing concerts instead of writing about the experience? Probably. Knowing that there were still concerts from summer 2016 that I have to write up (and I will – I need to do it for myself) and just thinking about that paralyzing me? Probably.
Going to see music is easy. Writing about it is hard. And the further away I am from the actual experience the more difficult it is to recreate the experience for the reader and the more the write up sounds like a transcription.
Back in January, rtb and I, joined by Mrs. Devereaux, went to see one of our favorite artists, Justin Townes Earle at one of our favorite venues City Winery. The opening act was a perfect complement to Justin – Carsie Blanton is Americana and country with that old-timey sound and she has a funny and warm personality. Even her guitar playing (on an old acoustic Gibson) reminded me of Justin in some ways. Her voice is sweet. She started with “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?” and then went into her own stuff, which was witty and fun. New Orleans is now her home and she described it as both creepy and sexy and a good inspiration for songs. Once a guy used this pick-up line on her in a bar – “Honey, one day you’re gonna die so you might as well have fun while you can” – so she wrote a song around that line. Some of her songs were “Money in the Bank,” “Vim & Vigor,” and “Baby Can Dance.” “Fat & Happy” is a revenge song that includes a kazoo solo. You gotta love a kazoo solo.
I am always happy to see Justin sober and happy. This was a solo outing with just him on an acoustic guitar. Unfortunately, it wasn’t his acoustic guitar (he had to borrow one) because Delta lost all his things. As always, his playing was phenomenal. Justin manages to play melody with a backing rhythm all at the same time. He cracked jokes and told us that his wife said he doesn’t play enough of the older songs so we heard some old favorites along with the new songs. He’s still all legs in his jeans and he still walks in circles a lot and still will slow down and speed up as he’s playing so there’s never a steady beat. We heard a great story about Chuck Berry (most of the details have left me) – that he rolls into town, goes into the club and walks right up to the promoter to get his payment in cash, walks onstage (the first time he’s playing with that particular pick-up band), tells them everything will be in A, and then he plays everything in G. One of the covers was a Malcolm Holcombe song. Justin talked about seeing Holcombe for the first time at the Living Room and being blown away by this crazy man who was spitting and rocking on stage. My experience seeing Holcombe was the same and when Justin asked if anyone had heard of him both rtb and I yelled out an excited “Yes!” which surprised Justin. At one point, he was talking about car songs and then forgot what he was going to do, started another song, then remembered and came back to the new song about cars (“Champagne Corolla”). Another song was about trying to get a girl into a car and drive to Memphis – Justin likes Bruce Springsteen because he’s always trying to get a girl into a car. I was reminded how Springsteen inspired Steve Earle to write Guitar Town. Father and son have more in common than they might think. “Bad Gasoline” is always a highlight but this time Justin just killed the shit out of it. Before “White Gardenias,” Justin said when he gravitated towards Billie Holiday and Chet Baker his father said, “Uh-oh.” It was another incredible night with Justin. And I can never see him enough.
Memphis in the Rain
Black Eyed Suzy
Ain’t Glad I’m Leaving
(song about trying to get girl into car)
They Killed John Henry
Who Carried You (Malcolm Holcombe cover)
Kids in the Street
So Different Blues (Mance Lipscomb cover)
One More Night in Brooklyn
My Starter Won’t Start (Bad Gasoline) (Lightnin’ Hopkins cover)
Harlem River Blues
Close Up the Honky Tonks (Buck Owens cover)
By Carene Lydia Lopez