Category Archives: songwriting

Blatantly Pornographic: A.C. Newman and Five Other People at the Black Cat

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Why not introduce the band, Carl? Reviewed for Post Rock.

A. C. Newman at the Black Cat, Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Setlist

01 There Are Maybe Ten or Twelve
02 Miracle Drug
03 Like a Hitman, Like a Dancer
04 Prophets
05 Secretarial
06 The Heartbreak Rides
07 The Cloud Prayer
08 The Palace at 4 a.m.
09 All of My Days and All of My Days Off
10 Young Atlantis
11 Drink to Me, Babe, Then
12 The Collected Works
13 The Changeling (Get Guility)
14 Submarines of Stockholm
15 On the Table

ENCORE:

16 Come Crash
17 The Town Halo

Live Last Night: Lucinda Williams

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Any cover of an AC/DC tune is inevitably going to struggle not to taste like nonalcoholic beer or fat-free ice cream, but Lucinda came as close as anyone could to pulling it off. Reviewed for Post Rock.

Lucinda Williams and Buick 6 at the 9:30 Club, Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Setlist

01 People Talkin’
02 Ventura
03 Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
04 Circles and X’s
05 Pineola
06 Drunken Angel
07 Side of the Road
08 Everything Has Changed
09 Something About What Happens When We Talk
10 Overtime
11 Tears of Joy
12 Are You Down
13 Real Love
14 Essence
15 Come On
16 Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings
17 Honey Bee
18 Joy
19 Righteously

ENCORE:

20 Angel (Jimi Hendrix; performed by Lucinda alone)
21 Little Rock Star
22 It’s a Long Way to the Top (AC/DC)

The Band

Chet Lister – guitar, lap steel, keys, vocals
Butch Norton – drums
Eric Skimmerhorn – guitar
David Sutton – bass, vocals
Lucinda Williams – lead vocals, guitar

Live Last Night: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit at the 9:30 Club

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He’s good. Really good. Too good to stay in the Drive-By Truckers and sing four songs per night.
Reviewed for Post Rock.

The Setlist

01 Brand New Kind of Actress
02 Decoration Day
03 Seven-Mile Island
04 Chicago Promenade
05 The Last Song I Will Write
06 Never Gonna Change
07 Goddamn Lonely Love
08 Soldiers Get Strange
09 Dress Blues
10 Psycho Killer (Talking Heads)
11 Danko / Manuel
12 Try

ENCORE
13 Outfit
14 Hurricanes and Hand Grenades
15 The Assassin (Patterson Hood)
16 Coda

The Band

Derry deBorja — keyboards

Brownan Lollar — guitar, vocals

Jimbo Hart — bass, vocals

Chad Gamble — drums

Jason Isbell — vocals, guitar

Live Last Night: Three Girls and Their Buddy

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Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller

Reviewed for the Paper of Record. Great music, just not enough of it, especially at $110 per ticket!

Three Girls and Their Buddy: Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, and Buddy Miller, February 3, 2009

The Setlist

01 Belle Star (EH)
02 Truth No. 2 (PG)
03 Twilight (SC)
04 All My Tears (BM)
05 How She Could Sing the Wildwood Flower (EH)
06 I’m gonna miss you when you go (new PG torch song)
07 Fill Me Up (SC)
08 Poison Love (BM)
09 The Other Side of Life (EH)
10 Love Throw a Line [PG]
11 That Don’t Worry Me Now [SC]
12 Shelter Me [BM]
13 Old Five and Dimers Like Me [EH]
14 Up to the Mountain [PG]
15 Keep Your Distance [SC]
16 Wide River to Cross [LH]
17 Abraham, Martin and John [EH]
18 As soon as this over [PG a capella song]
19 Crazy [SC]
20 Chalk [BM]

21 We Shall All Be Reunited

Hayes Carll at the RnR Hotel

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Reviewed for the Paper of Record.

The Setlist:

01 Drunken Poet’s Dream
02 Wild as a Turkey
03 Beaumont
04 I Got a Gig
05 Faulker Street
06 Rivertown
07 Little Rock
08 Arkansas Blues
09 Good Friends
10 Bad Liver and a Broken Heart
11 Girl Downtown
12 Chickens
13 She Left Me for Jesus
14 I Don’t Wanna Grow Up
15 (new Christmas song written “just the other day”)
16 Highway 87
17 Down the Road Tonight

ENCORE:
18 Long Way Home
19 Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long
20 A Lover Like You

Old 97’s Rock Obama in Balmer

Real quick — one of my favorite bands, Old 97’s, played a special gig at SONAR in Baltimore last night to benefit the Obama campaign in what was referred to all night as “the crucial swing state of Ohio.” I’d never been to SONAR before, but I liked the club a lot, and its entire staff was working for free last night, along with the talent. The merch and the concessions were all donated, too. Whether you bought one of the $20 T-shirts or the $10 event poster signed by all four 97s or just a beer for $4.50 (the same ones you pay $6 for in D.C.), every penny you pried from your wallet was, we were told, to go straight to Obama’s Ohio machine. 97s frontman Rhett Miller and bassist/second singer Murry Hammond each performed a solo acoustic set in the Talking Head Lounge (SONAR’s equivalent of the Black Cat’s backstage) for people who sprang for the $100 tickets. The tix for just the Old 97s gig in the main room were $25. Two Balmer bands opened the mainstage gig, Desert Boys and Caleb Stine and The Brakemen. Neither of them were bad at all. Stine sounds eerily like Jay Farrar, but Uncle Tupelo-era Farrar, so that was no bad thing.

It was a fun evening, though I wish the club had been more than half-full. The 97s just played a sold-out show at the 9:30 here in the District six weeks ago, so that plus the fact that it was a Monday night might have depressed the turnout a bit. Their set was on the short side for them, at a mere 20 songs, but that was forgiveable given that Murry and Rhett had each performed a solo set beforehand, and anyway, the band’s actual performance absolutely smoked.

For me, though, the evening’s clear highlight was the interview Murry gave me about his fine new solo album, I Don’t Know Where I’m Going but I’m on My Way, and about the origins and history of the 97s. We spoke for about 20 minutes before his solo set, and then he actually came and found me after he and Rhett were finished so I could ask him the rest of my questions. Hell of a nice guy, he. I’ll be posting the interview on DCist probably late next week, in advance of Murry’s solo gig at IOTA on Monday, Sept. 22. I’ll see y’alls there.

Old 97’s at SONAR, Monday, Sept. 8, 2008

The Setlist

01 The Fool

02 Barrier Reef

03 The One

04 Buick City Complex

05 No Baby I

06 Mama Tried

07 Indefinitely

08 Early Morning

09 St. Ignatius Alone So Far

10 Question

11 Color of a Lonely Heart Is Blue

12 Dance with Me

13 Hands Off

14 My Two Feet

15 W. Tx Teardrops

16 Rollerskate Skinny

17 The Easy Way

ENCORE:

18 Salome

19 Murder (Or a Heart Attack)

20 Timebomb

The Band

Philip Peeples — drums

Ken Bethea — guitar

Murry Hammond — bass, vocals

Rhett Miller — vocals, guitar

What the World Needs Now

I suppose there’s no point in even trying to deny that I have become the Paper of Record’s go-to guy for geriatric pop. I don’t mind, really. And if you can’t appreciate the composing gifts of an ace like Burt Bacharach, that’s your fault!

My review of Burt’s Strathmore concert appears in today’s Paper of Record; here’s a slightly longer version.

Lovers of avant-garde cinema will doubtless recall that when Austin Powers was released from his three-decade cryogenic freeze in 1997, the personal effects he reclaimed included only one LP: Burt Bacharach Plays His Hits.* Naturally! As he demonstrated in an elegant set at the Music Center at Strathmore Sunday night, whether it’s a 30-year hibernation you’re facing or merely a punishing DC summer heatwave, Burt knows just what’s needed to cool you down, Baby.

Sporting a sharp black suit (but no tie — ties are for squares), the newly octogenarian songwriter got a standing ovation before he’d played a note. Settling at the grand piano from which he would command an ensemble of seven players and three singers, he marshaled a single portentous chorus of his signature song, “What the World Needs Now,” before standing to lay out the agenda: A veneration of him, basically. “The music you’re going to hear was all written by the same person,” he said, beaming. And while an excess of chintzy keyboard washes kept the evening from attaining transcendent status (he’s supposed to be an ace arranger, too, right?) , it was a groovy romp through a peerless pop songbook all the same.

You don’t survive five decades in show business without some humility, and indeed none of Bacharach’s frequent citations of his successes and innovations came off as vain. After Josie James belted out “Anyone Who Had a Heart” (not quite Dusty Springfield, but she’s good), Burt pointed out that the song changes time signatures every bar. “I didn’t know any better,” he chuckled. (Don’t believe it.)

Medleys were the order of the day: It’s the only way he could begin to pack a representative sampling of his career into a planned 90-minute set that swelled to 110, Bacharach said, “because I feel it just so much.” An audience singalong made “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” the most fondly received of his movie themes (from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) but Burt appeared equally delighted to play loopiest of them, “Beware of the Blob” (from, er, The Blob). He mouthed the words, and occasionally rose from his piano bench when playing with particular brio, but left the singing — with a few tentative late-show exceptions — to the two women and one man seated on stools stage-left. The ladies, Donna Taylor and Josie James, were great. The dude, er, seems to have watched a lot of “American Idol.”

After 45 carefree minutes, Burt got serious, introducing a pair from his Grammy winning 2005 album, At This Time, his first foray into lyric-writing. The results were surprisingly political for a man caricatured (in this very review, in fact) as such a pillar of easygoing gentility. Singer John Pagano’s performance of “Who Are These People” notably omitted the F-bomb of the recorded version sung by Elvis Costello. Burt was toning it down for the well-heeled Strathmore crowd, right? Wrong. After the tune ended, Burt quipped, “Maybe that’ll become Scott McClellan’s favorite song.” Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Burt Bacharach: provocateur.

*Actually, I’m pretty sure that album in Austin Powers is called Burt Bacharach Sings His Hits, and that we even see a shot of the cover with that title. But as near as I can tell, Burt Bacharach Sings His Hits is not a real album; while Plays His Hits is. Maybe we all just learned something about Mike Myers’s sense of humor. I mean, Burt was never famed for his singing, right? And yet simply as a title, Sings is somehow funnier than Plays.