SG Goodman (Photo by Ryan Hartley)
SG Goodman and I have something in common: We both studied philosophy in college. I like to get in a good zinger when I can in these, so, if you’re reading this SG, here goes: What does Zeno take in his coffee? Half and a quarter and an eighth….
Goodman had recent jokes of her own at Songbyrd Music House, which mainly involved repeating her own name as many times as she could. It was a funny bit, with just the right mix of sarcasm and sincere salesmanship. A native of Hickman, Kentucky, her music takes on Southern culture and stereotypes with a unique perspective, intelligence and compassion, channeled through her perspective as a queer woman.
Kathleen Edwards (Photo courtesy High Road Touring)
At The Birchmere recently, Kathleen Edwards struggled to deny that one gig can make a career. Twenty years ago this month, she released her debut album, Failer, in her native Canada. That was six months prior to its American release on an independent label based in Austin, Rounder Records. A few months after that release in 2003, she appeared on Letterman, with his bandleader, Paul Schafer sitting in with her and her crew as they played “Six O’ Clock News.”
Alejandro Escovedo (Photo courtesy Prevent Cancer Foundation)
Alejando Escovedo has been playing music for a long time — longer than I’ve been alive. He recently told the audience at The Hamilton Live that he first came to DC in 1978 as part of the punk band The Nuns. They played the Atlantis with The Fleshtones. The club had an apartment — which he emphasized was terrible — and, after the show, Patti Smith came to visit.
When a veteran performer knows an intimate venue and comes with a plan, an audience can get an incredible show. That was the case Saturday evening, as Alejandro performed songs and delved into the stories behind them. The highlight of the show came when he and his band left the stage and went into the crowd to perform “I Wish I Was Your Mother” and “I Was Drunk” totally acoustic, no mics, just instruments and voices. It was Alejandro on guitar, with his bandmates on fiddle and tambourine. The former song, he mentioned, was one he wrote to take part in Austin song swaps.
Julia Jacklin (Photo by Nick Mcck)
Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin walked onstage at the 9:30 Club recently to Celine Dion singing “My Heart Will Go On.” “Just having a bit of fun,” she told the audience, who had come to see the native of the Blue Mountains’ first North American tour since before the Covid pandemic hit. The joke, of course, is that deep emotional conflicts and introspection in Jacklin’s lyrics contrast so powerfully with the cheap emotional string-pulling of a love theme engineered for the blockbuster Titanic.
Patty Griffin (Photo by Michael Wilson)
Neko Case and Patty Griffin have long admired each other’s work, but hadn’t shared a stage before a recent double bill at Wolf Trap. Griffin, who played first, let the audience know how excited she was to see Case. Case, for her part, talked about coming up in the ’90s and said, “Forget about Townes Van Zandt, I wanted to know about Patty Griffin.”
That comment might be a dig at journalists’ attempts to pin Case’s influences, a game which is typically not found amusing by the artists themselves.
Emmylou Harris (Photo by Mark Seliger)
DC can claim a special place in Americana music. It’s the point of origin for both Emmylou Harris, who’s been dubbed the “queen of Americana,” as well as Mary Chapin Carpenter.
In each of their recent sets at Wolf Trap, they made a point of acknowledging the venue as a sort of home base. Harris said, “We owe the Washington, DC, area a lot, because that’s where we cut our teeth,” and she talked about attending elementary school in nearby Dumfries, Virginia. Carpenter spoke of her struggles working temp jobs and playing solo acoustic gigs in the city’s small clubs all those decades ago.
The Decemberists perform at Wolf Trap on Aug. 24, 2022. (Photos by Jason Nicholson)
“Never applaud a guy putting on a harmonica,” The Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy joked as he prepared for “Down By The Water” near the end of their set at Wolf Trap recently. It was the indie-meets-folk-rock band’s first time at the venue, which Meloy repeatedly referred to as “The Trap.” Reflecting on this verbal tic, he pondered, “Does anyone call it ‘The Trap?'”
To answer his question, I don’t know I’ve ever heard it said out loud. I’ve definitely thought of both the larger national park and the music venue itself as ‘The Trap,’ but it’s not something I’ve said.
Melissa Carper (Photo by Aisha Golliher)
I can relate to Melissa Carper. My partner lives out in Rockville, Maryland, and her apartment is among much green space, and there are many animals around. We often stop to watch rabbits or dear. On Sunday, when we came back from brunch at Silver Diner, a fawn was just off to the side of parking lot, munching on leaves, displaying no fear or anxiety of us humans. For all the craziness and the edge in our personalities, we are soft, gentle souls; on her dating site profile, my partner said the job she would do for no pay was taking care of an orphaned elephant.
Melissa Carper is another weirdo with a heart of gold — and a thoroughly wonderful one, judging from her recent appearance at Pearl Street Warehouse. “Would You Like To Get Some Goats,” a song that appeared in the setlist, wasn’t actually about her dream — it’s about a ex-girlfriends’ dream. Goats, Melissa said during the show, are “a little high maintenance.” She does want to live on a farm of her own some day. For now, she lives on someone else’s farm, which she says is “okay.”
The Fabulous Thunderbirds (Photo courtesy of the band)
Kim Wilson, the face of Austin-based Texas blues outfit The Fabulous Thunderbirds, made his way into the crowd at The Birchmere recently carrying a mic. Kim has spent a lifetime in bars, juke joints, and music halls, and he’s seen and done it all. When he realized the mic wasn’t live, there was only the slightest moment as he made the mental adjustment to sing with his unaided voice, wading through the crowd, placing a hand on a shoulder here and there, connecting with fans, many of whom have followed the band for decades.
Elvis Costello (Photo by Mark Seliger)
At the end of his recent set with The Imposters at Wolf Trap, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Elvis Costello was joined by the man he called his hero, Nick Lowe, for the last two songs. Elvis wrote “Indoor Fireworks,” but Lowe was responsible for the show’s last number, “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding).”